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The Wall Jumper: A Berlin Story

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  1,150 ratings  ·  106 reviews
"Schneider's characters, like Kundera's, are sentient and sophisticated figures at a time when the constraints of Communist rule persist but its energy has entirely vanished."—Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times Book Review

When the Berlin Wall was still the most tangible representation of the Cold War, Peter Schneider made this political and ideological symbol into something p
Paperback, 144 pages
Published November 1st 1998 by University of Chicago Press (first published 1982)
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Suzie The Wall surrounded the entire West Berlin part from all sides. So it crosses over into West Berlin (1), flies over and out to East Berlin (2), then t…moreThe Wall surrounded the entire West Berlin part from all sides. So it crosses over into West Berlin (1), flies over and out to East Berlin (2), then turns back and crosses into West Berlin again - now from the other direction (3).(less)

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Steven Godin

Reading this, I immediately cast my mind back to Anna Funder's fascinating book Stasiland, which I read a few years ago. That was written long after the fall of the wall, whereas Schneider's 1982 short novel came at time when it was very much a case of the east and west divide. Interestingly, and I didn't know this, is that even now after more than three decades there are still signs of Berlin's two halves when seen from space. (The city's lights - orange in the east, white in the west).
Sadly, a
Oct 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is tempting to think of the DDR as a completely closed off system, the Wall having achieved its maximum purpose: keeping everyone and everything out and letting no one and nothing in. If only this were true perhaps the absurdity of the situation, a Wall in the middle of a city and of a country, breaking it in two, would be less obvious.

This 1982 book by Peter Schneider sets out to show the absurdity of the situation Germans lived in from 1961 to 1989. Through a series of stories, which might
Abeer Abdullah
Sep 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of my favourite books this year, when I picked it up it was totally new to me I knew nothing about the author and had never heard of the book. the best feeling is to be totally overwhelmed by a book you expected nothing of. Regardless of your politics or what you chose to interpret from this novel, its an extremely complex and nuanced portrayal of so many questions and aspects of being a person, engaging with other people, engaging with identity, and engaging with a state. You get the feelin ...more
I’ve never been great at writing reviews because my opinion of the book will usually change so many times whilst I’m reading it that by the end, I either know I liked it or didn’t, but would have forgotten the finer details. But in this case, I don’t _want_ to forget the finer details. So I am writing this as I read the book because there are some things I know I’ll forget.

Firstly, I initially found this book awful, that’s got to be said. I think the combination of having to read it for school,
Neil Fulwood
Jan 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel of the Berlin Wall and the divided city it bisected draws its power from being written in an almost bland journalistic style, as if it were reportage rather than fiction. It’s also unexpectedly funny. “Where does the state end and the self begin?” Schneider’s narrator wonders towards the end; the novel seeks not to answer the question but invite the reader to get to grips with it.
Margaret Madden
Mar 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
3.5 stars
Some beautiful prose and memorable moments, but was a struggle to read. Would have hated this as a school child, but as an adult I can see how it is considered a classic.
Jun 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: normandy
complex, intriguing, weighty: an important look into the ideologies of the people of the DDR and the GDR and the "walls inside their heads" ...more
Andrew Chidzey
I picked this book up at Waterstones on Piccadilly Circus prior to an impending trip to Berlin. Having completed 5 days in the city visiting the Wall and famous sites such as the Stasi Museum it was timely for me to read this on my return flight from Berlin London. Peter Schneider was born in Lübeck, Germany 1940 and this novel - first published when the wall was still standing in 1982 - is particularly poignant and challenges the reader to consider how the Wall impacts on individuals. By offeri ...more
Jun 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, germany
A short novel set in Berlin during the early 1980s, a significant amount of time before the wall came down. The unnamed narrator is a writer, collecting stories about people who have crossed over from East to West Berlin, like himself, and vice versa, and their lives as both Germans and people living in different states and under different political regimes. Mostly the stories are told with some humor, and in some way this makes readers question the popularly held ideas of what daily life was li ...more
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have to admit: I did not have great expectations about this book. Generally, prescribed books leave a sour taste (even if only due to their mandatory nature) and political essays don't spark my imagination... But The Wall Jumper is just the right combination of political commentary, literary creativity, and contextual immersion to showcase amazing quotes and their universal relevance.

This is not the type of book to make you attached to characters and I expected nothing more on that front. It
Belinda Carvalho
It's October and this is a fitting book to celebrate German reunification. Adored this doc-realist style novel, written in the early eighties. It manages to be completely of it's time but like the best books has an underlying message that still rings true today, the idea of where does the state end and the individual begin? The idea of breaking down the psychological wall between the two different Germany's.
Historically, it's fascinating. I presume the vignettes the narrator tells us are inspire
Apr 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
An interesting book because it reads like a memoir but is actually fiction. But I felt like it gives a really good view into the mental wall that existing between East and West Germans.
Jul 17, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a good book that casts an oblique glance on the Berlin Wall and conditions either side at a time when the fabled structure only had a few more years to exist. It’s erudite, well written and translated and balanced but I’ll admit to a problem I am developing with short books – I tend to be thinking about finishing them almost as soon as I have started them and find it hard to resist the tendency to skim read (my attention for this book was encroached upon by a number of other short term t ...more
Jon Margetts
May 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Schneider's novella, The Wall Jumper is an odd blend of Scheherazade-esque short stories, essays and philosophical musings on the nature of the Berlin Wall and its impact upon the citizens living on either side. Schneider evocatively illustrates the contrast between the liberal, jazz-loving denizens of West Berlin, residing in the counter-culture of Kreuzberg, and their eastern counterparts cocooned within the overarching GDR.

I enjoyed how Schneider depicted the ambivalence of each community. H
Feb 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
It was fitting to read this book about a divided Berlin of the 1980s just as I arrived in "Europe's last divided city" Nicosia, my new home for the next 4 years. One of the few, and reportedly one of the best, accounts of life in Berlin at that time, this book is above all a clever account of what it feels like psychologically to live in a divided city, where almost every street ends in a dead end.

Schneider portrays an intriguing array of characters who each cope with the pain of division in a d
Jun 29, 2016 rated it liked it
The subject matter is dated in that it discusses life in Berlin before the fall of the Wall in 1989. However, if you're curious about German history or German identity, I think this is a interesting exploration of how people viewed - and lived within - a divided state. As you can glean from the title, the bulk of the stories are about people trying to jump the wall.

I really enjoyed Schneider's writing - it's clear, concise and thoughtful. Fair warning, though: If you come into this expecting a
Shannon Vanderstreaten
“Where does the state end and the self begin?” I am absolutely in love with Berlin as a city and the history of the wall, but I found it hard to focus on this book. I think I would have benefitted from more of a structure than just some friends telling stories (I didn’t understand who the characters were.) I really struggled to get through it.

Nonetheless, there are some great themes in this book which I always find fascinating: how the state shapes you as a person, the ways in which you internal
[The West German narrator and his East German friend:] "It isn't our first fight of this kind. We listen to a news broadcast together, look at a picture in the paper, witness an incident and get two different messages out of the same thing. The quarrel begins when I take what I see at face value; Robert has been trained to read between the lines. Where I perceive merely an event, maybe an accident, Robert perceives a plan he has to decipher. A friend who in my view is shy, in Robert's view is on ...more
Isobel Ramsden
Nov 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book published in 1982 is set in Berlin in the 1980s and takes the form of a series of anecdotes about 'wall jumpers', i.e. people who crossed from East Berlin to West Berlin and vice versa. Some of these people ended up in exile against their will, some left voluntarily and some hop back and forth illicitly. Each of the stories helps illustrate how different life was on either side - the deprivation and state control in Communist East Berlin as opposed to the affluence and freedom in West ...more
Damien Travel
Jun 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Peter Schneider wrote « The Wall Jumper (The Mauerspringer) » in 1982, when the Berlin Wall, erected in 1961 was still standing. Through a series of short tableaux, he sketches the picture of a divided city. The narrator is a writer from the West who travels to the East, at first almost by accident, and then more often as he gets interested by the life on the other side of the Wall. He befriends people from East Berlin, Robert and Lena who passed to the West and Pommerer who remained in the East ...more
Dec 20, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020
The writing style took a little while to get into, due to it being an unnamed narrator with the book taking the form of anecdotes which is just gone straight into. It took me quite a while to realise who was in the East and who was in the West and I got the sense you were expected to know the locations of the settings within Germany because nothing of the background is really explained. I do think I’d have been more lost had I not studied it because I do think there were assumptions of some
Also not a history book, though if you want to learn how the wall felt for Berliners, read it. He's a lefty but the abuses of the East German government make communism hard to support. He also is able to criticize the triumphal and hollow capitalism of the West Berlin government. Schneider is an outsider, a West German who moved to Berlin because it was cheap and cool and found himself interested in the stories of East Germans because of a girlfriend. But he's also a deeply unreliable narrator o ...more
As a novel this book, originally published in 1982, didn’t really work (for me). As a meditation on how partition affects cultures and minds, it’s much more successful. People on both sides of the Berlin Wall, the narrator says, “resemble their governments much more than they care to admit,” and “it will take us longer to tear down the Wall in our heads than any wrecking company will need for the Wall we can see.”

Ian McEwan’s introduction does a fine job of placing the book in time and highlight
Jennifer Avila
‘It will take us longer to tear down the Wall in our heads than any wrecking company will need for the Wall we can see.’ (119)

Not a lot ‘happens’ in this narrative, which is more of a weaving together of vignettes of people on both sides of the Berlin Wall, told by a singular narrator. But it’s definitely compelling reading—very evocative of a time and a place and still a reminder of the outcome of eternal political folly.
Nov 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read this in honor of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Schneider is writing of a time before the wall came down, portraying lives and attitudes on both sides of that divide. Interesting, thoughtful, sprinkled with wry humor, and ultimately quite poignant. Prescient of Schneider to recognize that, even once the physical barrier came down, "die Wall im Kopf" would remain for a long time. ...more
Aug 29, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thanks to Hitch for the recommendation. It took me a while to grasp the often flitting of narrative between the story itself and the stories being told within the story. But I liked it’s style of merging story and essay. As I live in Berlin and have cycled across the borders up and down the country, and cycled the length of the Berlin Wall; this story felt extra pertinent. One day I will read it in its original German. Maybe.
Oct 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A very interesting time capsule about a city and country socially overhauled by war. This was originally published in 1982, the wall came down in 1988 or 89 I believe. So the author's perspective might have been that this would be forever, or at least an unknown future. A really great fiction for anyone a fan of history. ...more
Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is really interesting because of the unique perspective it offers on the Berlin Wall. Not only was the idea good and complex, but the voice was refreshing, too-- very laid back, funny even. This book is a unique combo of good things. Never would have guessed!
Bronwen Griffiths
Sep 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It's funny and thoughtful. What makes it shine for me is the politics within it - how the people in the east and west each perceive their communist and capitalist states. How each side is deluded in its own way. Still pertinent today. ...more
Savannah Whittemore
The imagined stories used by the author allow for insight into how the wall was present both physically and in the minds of those in the East. His relationship with his family is shown visiting the east and how his cousin would not even show his presence. The book was well written and deep.
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Peter Schneider is a German novelist. His novel Lenz, published in 1973, had become a cult text for the Left, capturing the feelings of those disappointed by the failure of their utopian revolt. Since then, Peter Schneider has written novels, short stories and film scripts, that often deal with the fate of members of his generation. Other works deal with the situation of Berlin before and after Ge ...more

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“Interrogato sui motivi dei salti non veniva fuori che questo: «Quando nell'appartamento c'è troppo silenzio e fuori è grigio, nebbia e non succede niente, allora penso: dai, salta ancora una volta il muro!»” 1 likes
“Partecipai per la prima volta allo sconvolgimento, alla deformazione di sentimenti che questo confine provoca in una famiglia. Dai saluti iniziali fino al commiato: ogni gesto mi sembrò stranamente ingigantito, carico di speranze o taciti rimproveri, inibito dal rispetto per l’eventuale irripetibilità dell’avvenimento. Anche volendo, non sarebbe stato possibile rimanere fino al mattino seguente, lo Stato aveva fissato il bacio dell’addio per la mezzanotte: ogni precipitoso ‘a presto’ sarebbe stato cinismo.” 1 likes
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