Now a normal nation, rid of old demons and old guilt, once split but now whole, Germany has at last become a country like any other. Is it sheer coincidence that the bad consciences that dredge up the past are often writers?


Christoph Hein, Wladimir Kaminer, Emine Sevgi Özdamar, Bernhard Schlink: four powerhouses in German literature demonstrate how history takes shape, how 20th-century German history becomes incarnate, eloquent, stimulating and inspiring for these writers from such diverse backgrounds.


All four are known for their popular yet sophisticated works. Each one tackles several chapters of German history with unique perspective. Their own lives make them living archives. Bernhard Schlink, in his life and work, grapples with the stain of Nazism. Christoph Hein examines the century’s divisive East/West blocs. While Emine Sevgi Özdamar’s subject of predilection is Turkish immigration in the 1960s and 70s, Wladimir Kaminer’s focus is on the arrival of Russian Jews at the end of the Communist era.