Daniela Krien’s debut novel Someday We’ll Tell Each Other Everything (German title: Irgendwann werden wir uns alles erzählen) was a success in Germany and has already been translated into 15 languages, one of which English. That’s why I thought I’d like to see for myself if it’s really that good. I’m not sure the book won me over as a whole, but I liked a lot of the elements and the end packs a real punch.
The narrator Maria is a young woman of 16 who is living with her boyfriend Johannes on his family’s farm. It’s 1990 and the Berlin wall has just fallen. The novel begins shortly before the reunification of Germany. What makes the story interesting is that it’s set in Eastern Germany and that we see the end of the former Democratic Republic through the eyes of the people who lived there. The author grew up in the country, in the former DDR, so she knows what she’s writing about.
It’s odd that Maria is living with her boyfriend’s family and not with her own but we learn later that the mother has been left and that Maria can’t stand her sadness anymore. It’s far livelier on the Brendel’s farm. But even though it’s livelier, there are tensions as well, and just like in her own family, there are family secrets.
Maria and Johannes are still going to school but Maria stays at home most of the time, hiding somewhere, reading Dostoevsky. She’s often sad as well, prone to mood swings, but she is a keen observer and a kind girl. She want’s to help and make her stay worthwhile for everyone.
Not far from the Brendel’s farm is the farm of the Henners. Henner is a forty-year old guy, a brute, as they say, a man whose wife couldn’t stand his company anymore and who has left him. He’s said to be violent and drinks like a fish. He comes to the Brendel farm occasionally because they have a small farm shop. Maria watches him and Marianne, Johannes’ mother. Marianne seems to have a bit of a crush on him. Maria herself is fascinated and before long, without thinking of the consequences, she’s having an affair with him.
Their love affair is one of those dark maelstrom passions. They try to fight it but to no avail. Maria feels extremely guilty, but at the same time she cannot let go. What they share is too deep. It’s passionate, violent, but it’s also more than that. Henner opens up, tells her his life story.
At first their affair is all about sex but later they are content to just read Dostoevsky and Trakl together. Henner even tries to get sober.
They way this is told is quite appealing. The beginning is strange but after a while, you feel sucked in and read more and more quickly.
I have never read a novel about the end of the former Democratic Republic from the point of view of someone who lived “over there”. I really liked how Daniela Krien captured this. Just imagine: one day the authorities decide that your country will not exist anymore. Even though it might be for the better, it would still be a shock. There are many small details which show that and they are well rendered.
I was surprised that Maria was allowed to live with her boyfriend’s parents and that they shared a room and a bed, but then I remembered that the attitude towards sexuality is said to have been much more liberal in the former Democratic Republic. I watched a talk show on German TV a few years ago with athletes from the ex-DDR and they mentioned that for them one of the strangest things was how sex was handled in Germany. They said they preferred partenrs who came from the former Democratic Republic because they were more liberated. Judging from this novel it certainly seems as if there had been quite a difference.
The title is a Dostoevsky quote taken from the Brothers Karamazov. The book contains a few quotes from Dostoevsky, others are taken from Hamsun. Henner repeatedly quotes Trakl’s poem Song in the Night. Trakl is an Austrian poet. His poems are beautiful but gloomy.
If you like dark love stories you’d like Someday We’ll Tell Each Other Everything. You might equally like it if you have an interest in country life or life in the former Democratic Republic of Germany. The style is quite simple, most sentences are short. It’s not subtle but it works. The whole story is carried by the narrative voice, which I found haunting. The end alone makes it worth to read the book.
28 thoughts on “Daniela Krien: Someday We’ll Tell Each Other Everything – Irgendwann werden wir uns alles erzählen (2011)”
Geez, now I’m wondering how it ends. I’m a little surprised by the liberal sexual views, I would have thought it would be different.
I’m sure you do. 🙂
Very liberal, I agree, but I remember how does athletes said they preferred to have partners from the ex-DDR because it was less complicated sexually.
Btw – yes, your were in the spam folder.
Beautiful review, Caroline. This looks like a beautiful book because of its insights into life in the DDR. I think I will love those passages where Maria and Henner read and discuss Dostoevsky and Trakl – I love passages where the main characters of a story read a book together or discuss it. Thanks for writing about Trakl. I haven’t heard of him before. It was nice to discover a new poet. I will try to read his poem ‘Song in the Night’ at the link you have given, soon. I am looking forward to finding out what happens at the end – you have made it sound very fascinating. Thanks for this wonderful review.
Thanks, Vishy. I’m like you, I like it when characters discuss something in a book. 🙂
I thought it was interesting to read about the ex DDR and once to about the Stasi but just how it affected normal people.
I hope you will like it, should yu read it.
I haven’t read any books about someone who lived in East Germany after the Wall fell either, so would be very interested in this. I do like movies set in this time, like The Lives of Others, Goodbye Lenin, and Barbara.
I liked those movies very much. It’s so hard to imagine what it must have been like. But there are still people who miss it as well, who felt more sheltered then. I got the impression that’s a bit how the author must have experienced it. Many feel nostalgic or ostalgic, as they call it.
“Ostalgic” — that’s very good.
Yes, we sensed that too when we were in Berlin. What a tremendous change in the way of life.
We were also surprised at the difference in East and West Berlin. I guess we were expecting the East to be exactly like the West, which was unrealistic, but it had been 11 years.
I was never in the East but when you watch German TV or meet German people, you can always tell in whicb part they were born, if they are over 30.
The book sounds compelling. I just finished reading The Brothers Karamazov so the connections are particularly interesting.
That’s a coincidence. I’ve read a few books by Dostoevsky but The Brothers karamazov are still on my piles. I should finally read it. The book had some flaws but overall it was very good.
There’s something about books in which affairs take place on farms..This reminds me of another book but I can’t recall the title. Anyway, sounds interesting.
It is. It’s quite dark but compelling.
Have you seen The Legend of Rita?
No, I don’t think so.
I’m very interested in this novel. Because it’s been translated into English, I hope I can get a hold of it!!
An update–I can get it through the Book Depository. I just love getting a hold of German lit, and I’m especially interested in this one set in the GDR. My pocketbook is weeping. I wish it were easier to get international titles from the U.S. All of us here need to keep squacking about the situation.
Judith Thanks for writing about this title.
You’re welcome, I hope you will like it. I guess it’s difficult and expensive to get them and this has just ben publishe din English.
I hope you will review it. It has aspects I haven’t seen dealt with that often. It’s been a huge success in Germany. Critics and readers alike praised it.
Just saw your second comment.
I was in school when die Wiedervereinigung happened. I’ll never forget that word, we spent the next 5 years of German classes reading articles about this and analysing the situation. I got fed up with the topic.
Have you seen the film Goodbye Lenin?
Yes, I have.
I enjoyed that aspect of the book.
I’d not heard of this before but it sounds interesting–unfortunately it’s not been published in the US (how often do I say that……). I think what sounds most appealing to me is reading about life in the DDR (well, post-Wall). I lived in Austria in 1990-91 and traveled to Hungary, and Czechoslovakia (when it was still one country), and found it all quite fascinating. At the time I had penpals from all over and one came to visit me from CZ and one from Berlin (on the DDR side). Sadly I lost contact with all my former penfriends–it was interesting meeting them. Anyway I’ll have to look out for this one.
That’s why Judith comenetd it was expensive, because she has to order it from the UK. I always assume when it has been translated everyone can get it.
I think you’d like it. I was never in the DDR but like you have visited Czechoslovakia when it was still one country. It was very fascinating. I’ve been in Hungary much later. Too bad you lost contcat it would interesting to know how they adapted and if they even miss it.
I found the book particularly good at capturing what it meant right after it happened. How they could hardly belive it and that they felt a bit lost as well.
So…Maria had an affair and still live with her boyfriend?
…so not my kind of read.
But I am glad to know you seemed to like it.
She was going to break up with him, it wasn’t her intetion to betray anyone. Yeah, I liked it but I still agree – ot your kind of book. 🙂
I’ve just posted on this for German Lit Month and I think our reactions were fairly similar. I really liked the personal, intimate style of Maria’s narrative and completely agree with you on the ending. I’ll be very interested to see what this author does next, so much potential…
I’m glad you liked it. It’s dark but has so many interesting elements. The ending is powerful. She already has a new one out. Published this year. It’s a collection of short stories.I didn’t get a chance to read it yet. Readers seem to like it while the critics were not as keen.
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