‘Whatever else it is autobiography is not non-fiction’
(Timothy Dow Adams, Modern Fiction Studies, 40)
Welcome to Karin’s second FreeSpace on ArtiPeeps in which she is going to be exploring the relationship between autobiography and fiction through her own autobiographical story ‘Fragments of Inheritance’. Within her three slots on ArtiPeeps she will be offering up, in sequence, a part of her story along with an audio reflection of her response to the particular fragment that we have featured. This week it’s Fragment 2. Karin lived through a very particular part of European history (WWII) and her work engages with very significant subject matter that is universally meaningful and individually personal. We hope you enjoy Karin’s exploration.
Fragments of Inheritance
Now she returned to Leipzig after an absence of 34 years. She is on her way to visit a friend to whom she only had written or sent parcels at Christmas-time, because that was all she could do. The car turned a corner, here she was: Karl-Liebknecht-Srasse, 91, Leipzig, Germany, we are one country again. One country. East-Germany had seized to exist, but the houses and the ruins told a different story. Hitler’s legacy was still visible here and she recalled the horrors of war, the Holocaust, the destruction of men, women and children of all races, beliefs and talents, whose lives she mourned.
This was not a country of which she could be proud.
She greeted her friend with a full heart. She talked, but she was burning to see the centre of the city again. She wanted to discover her childhood at will. She wanted to meet the long-buried other. She walked along the streets, where she knew she had experienced this architecture before, saw the trams rattling along, ‘kling’, ‘kling’. She does not take a tram, she savours the walk, she fathoms the atmosphere, slowly reaching the centre of her birthplace. She stands bemused on the Karl-Marx-Platz, the clock is on the hour, sombre bells suddenly sound, hit her ear: the bell-ringers strike the hour. Back, back, backwards I go. I stood here before! I have heard these bells long ago. Yes, when I was little, just seven years old, 1944. I remember this song, this melody of bells. I glide backwards into my past. It was war then, when peoples purple blood burst, bells weep, where she learned the meaning of ‘Angst’.
And there she was once again amidst a familiar sound-scape and heavy inheritance, facing her fears still living and breathing in the Now, still vivid, visceral…
…and all the memories and circumstance melted through once again…
Cellars of Fear
This 4. December 1944, NIGHT, sounds of sirens, get the children, house shaking, lights fade, people running into cellars, trying to save their lives.
I choke because of smoke in the cellar, the cellar an awesome place, huge pipes run through it, modern technology – a central heating system, it could burst.
It is utter darkness, will I get out of this cauldron of misery seven years old, having lost a just war against Hitler when I was born in 1937. Evil starting under the guise of progress in 1939.
I am still speechless now in 1995, thinking of cruelty, the holocaust, suffering that need not be.
My memories of war are horrific: stifling smoke in the cellar, my granny-aged, my baby-sister in pram not conceiving this lunacy or innocence conceiving lunacy, my mother trying to rescue some possessions from our home above burning. An old man – not fit for fighting in the war came to our cellar. He took me into his arms, carried me covered with a wet sack through the burning streets of Leipzig. All streets around us burning houses, full of lives trying to survive. Flying burning beams fell beside our distracted heads seeking safety in a street blocks away which did not burn yet. No thought of my mother, sister, grandmother, just being saved for some saner place in this burning inferno. My mother, baby-sister, grandmother were saved the same way.
All I can remember are cellars of fear, but escaping into what? What kind of life could there be after that.
Yes, what life? This burning inferno was deeply buried into her subconscious. But now she must live forwards. A sun-beam struck her, today there was a blue, kind sky above her, the dominant sky of the Fens of East-Anglia, where she now lived.
I was born on the 4th of November 1937, just one day before Gun-powder Day! So, I celebrated my entrance with a BANG, yet far away from England then, in fact, in Leipzig, Germany. After the end of the Second World War, Leipzig in Saxony became part of East-Germany, which I left, illegally, in 1953. My family and I settled in West-Berlin, where I went to High-School, when finished there I left Berlin for Cambridge, England. I was a student of English for a while, took a BA Honours Degree in European Thought and Literature and English History at Anglia Polytechnic University, where I also took a MA in Women’s Studies with a Dissertation on German History. I became a teacher of the German Language,Literature and History during my working life. I have now retired from teaching and find myself writing, reading and enjoying life to the full.
As yet Karin does not have a website, but you can make contact with Karin via ArtiPeeps through the comment box on this post or contact form on the ‘What’s On’ Page.
Karin will be returning with Fragment 3 of ‘Fragments of Inheritance’ on Tuesday 17th December.
* FreeSpace offers any creative or group from any discipline 3 post slots on ArtiPeeps which can be taken in sequence or in a cluster for showcasing, self-expression or projects (encouraged). If you are interested in taking up a FreeSpace slot in our next run of work please do get in contact via the comment box or contact form on the ‘What’s On Page‘ You’d be welcomed.