THE SHORT END OF THE SONNENALLEE by Thomas Brussig
Translated by Jonathan Franzen and Jenny Watson
If you think it sucks living on the wrong side of the tracks, spare a thought for Micha and his friends. When Germany was divided after the war, the Sonnenallee - a grand parade that stretches for miles - was effectively circumcised by the Russians, with their little nub incorporated into the GDR. Thirty years on, and these kids live in the shadow of the wall, with only the dead zone separating them from freedom. Still, they make the most of it, revelling in small rebellions, trying to get their hands on contraband, hoping to hook up with the cutest girl in class.
Thomas Brussig’s modern classic of late Communist-era Germany is, for the most part, charming and delightful, bringing some much needed brightness and colour to a setting we mostly see in murkier shades of grey. It’s hard not to root for Micha in his quest for just one kiss from Miriam, or Frizz’s dream of getting his hands on an original pressing of Exile on Main Street. Brussig pulls the comic slingshot taut, letting go to maximum effect in the last couple of chapters. There, the laughs come thick and fast, but they’re bittersweet.
The Short End of the Sonnenallee by Thomas Brussig (Tr. Jonathan Franzen and Jenny Watson)
Harper Collins, 2023