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Book Title: De l'autre coté|
The author of the book: Simon Schwartz
Date of issue: May 4th 2011
ISBN 13: 9782848654348
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 8.73 MB
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Reader ratings: 3.4
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*Received from Netgalley for review.
I love a good comics memoir, and this is one of the good ones. Granted, I have more than the usual interest in Germany. I'm part German, closely enough that my Grandma had relatives who wrote to her (in German, of course) from East Germany. I'm just barely old enough to remember when the Berlin Wall came down, and realizing that the target audience for this book probably knows little or nothing at all about it, so I'm happy that a book like this exists. There is a timeline, which is incredibly helpful at making sense of a fairly complicated political reality. But that isn't really the main point of this book. Facts and timelines are all well and good, but the past really comes alive in the experiences of an individual.
That's where Schwartz's stroy is important, even if it isn't the most dramatic or exciting one possible. Born in East Germany, he and his parents emigrated to West Germany, legally, when he was very young. So no, there's no daring border crossing, no elaborate tales of hardship. This probably has much to do with the fact that Schwartz is telling his parents' story more than his own. He can relate their experiences, but it's very much the experiences of someone else, which comes with a slight remove from the immediate emotions. Still, he does a good job of relaying the very real fear and desperation his parents felt as they were trying to emigrate.
There's also the extended family dynamics. Both Schwartz's maternal and paternal grandparents lived in East Germany even after he and his parents went West. His mother could send him to see her parents (and she must have loved them very much, to send her son to see them with the fear that he wouldn't be allowed to leave East Germany again), but his paternal grandparents cut his father off after he decided to leave, and it was years before they saw each other again. Schwartz could have made this rather more dramatic than he did, but it's the coldness of his relationship with his paternal grandparents that's so heartbreaking. It's a terrible thing, when parents decide they'd rather be right than love their children.
The art is black and white, somewhat simplistic. It seems that these graphic novel memoirs almost always have relatively simple black and white art. This isn't a complaint. To me, it feels like the right fit for a project like this. Especially when the execution is spot on, as it is here. Schwartz is definitely a talented artist, especially on the backgrounds.
This is definitely not the most dramatic, or even the most representative story that could be told about East Germany. But it is an honest one, and it's told well.
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Read information about the authorSimon Schwartz was born in Erfurt in 1982 and grew up in the Kruezburg neighborhood of Berlin. In 2004, he relocated to Hamburg to study illustration at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences. Five years later, he had completed his debut graphic novel.
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