The Wall and Oth­er Stories

Jurek Beck­er
  • Review
By – August 1, 2014

The Wall and Oth­er Sto­ries is a new collec­tion of sto­ries by Ger­man author Jurek Beck­er (19371997), best known for his nov­el Jakob the Liar. These six sto­ries have nev­er been trans­lat­ed into Eng­lish before or pub­lished togeth­er. Most of the sto­ries take place dur­ing the Holo­caust or in Com­mu­nist East Ger­many after World War II. Also includ­ed is a short bio­graph­i­cal intro­duc­tion writ­ten by Becker’s wid­ow, Chris­tine Becker. 

The main sto­ry, The Wall,” takes place when a fam­i­ly is moved from their home in a ghet­to to a tran­sit camp dur­ing the Holo­caust. Two boys decide to climb the wall surround­ing the ghet­to at night and go back to their for­mer home to retrieve some of their favorite pos­ses­sions. Even­tu­al­ly the boys scram­ble over the wall, injur­ing them­selves, search their homes, and real­ize that they can­not get back over the wall the same way. In The Tale of the Sick Princess,” a dying princess asks for the one gift that could cure her, a cloud.” My favorite sto­ry was The Most Pop­u­lar Fam­i­ly Sto­ry,” which recounts the one favorite fam­i­ly sto­ry of Uncle Gideon: leav­ing Lublin on a big busi­ness trip to Lon­don. Uncle Gideon, who had nev­er trav­elled past Krakow before, tries to make his way through Lon­don, feel­ing like a fish out of water. Every­one and every­thing seems strange — the peo­ple, the hotels, the food… Sud­den­ly, he is halt­ed by the ques­tion of how is he sup­posed to sur­vive a week in Lon­don with­out food?” Beck­er reach­es deep down in his child­hood mem­o­ries to cre­ate sto­ries filled with aston­ish­ing dia­logue and imag­i­na­tive prose.

Relat­ed content:

  • Short Sto­ries Read­ing List
  • Trans­la­tions and Trans­la­tors Read­ing List
  • Dis­si­dent Gar­dens by Jonathan Lethem
  • Gary Katz received an MA in Eng­lish from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Nebras­ka-Oma­ha. He is the library admin­is­tra­tor for the Krip­ke Jew­ish Fed­er­a­tion Library in Oma­ha, Nebras­ka, one of the largest Judaica libraries in the Unit­ed States.

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