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  Love in the Time of GAKS

What a wonderful coincidence to find two novels that used the east - west border in the Rhoen region of Germany as their settings.  Both books place very human stories against the backdrop of the Cold War, life in the military and the border barrier system.  One story was written by a retired East German Border Troop officer, the other, by a young American woman. We offer the opening chapters of each to finally answer that question, “ just where are the great written stories telling about those days on the border? ” 

In the Summer

An East German, Edmund Aue, wrote Im Sommer sieht alles ganz anders aus,  In the Summer, You’ll See Things Entirely Differently , in 1979.  Both a love story and adventure story, the novel traces the growing maturity of young Lt. Peter Bendix of the Grenztruppen der DDR as he comes to terms with his first duty assignment on the border and the expectations of both his boss, Major Stedler and his very experienced Platoon Sergeant, SSG Heimann while trying to adjust to life with his fiancée, Kirsten, in the remote border town of Frankenrode.

As the plot unfolds, there will be confusion and conflict, laughter and tears, violent and sudden snowstorms, a squad lost in the blizzard, a girl lost in the blizzard … well you get the picture, and that only retells some of what goes on.  In reality, there is no town of Frankenrode, however, Aue makes clear that the setting is along the Bavarian - Thuringen border, high in the hills and this really does take us to our northwestern sector around Frankenheim.  Visualize a tiny Grenztruppen barracks located in terrain similar to Wildflecken. 

Published by the East German Army “ Pocket Book Series “,  the novel was never intended to be significant literature but rather to tell an interesting story in a setting that most East German citizens knew something about.  Neither overtly political or dominated by technical content related to the border, it is very much an account of sympathetic characters who thru their thoughts, words and actions are mostly successful in facing challenges well beyond the day – to – day.  In paperback format at 158 pages, Lt. Bendix learns much about himself and others and there is a happy, yet somewhat unexpected ending; it is very much the type of book to be enjoyed while waiting for the bus.

A note about the translation: The dialog and paragraph format are basically word - for - word although I did elaborate on some of the descriptive language;  Aue’s writing style was remarkably sparse.  I hope he might approve of this version.

Click here for the first three
chapters of In the Summer

Whispers Through the Fence

Currently in the final drafts, American author, Nancy Clements, placed her novel, Whispers Through the Fence , in Bad Kissingen, Daley Barracks and the near border area in 1985.  In the classic sense, this is a love triangle featuring a young woman who travels to Bad Kissingen to meet her boy friend from college days and in doing so, meets another young officer in the cavalry squadron.  As you might expect, both men have endearing and noble qualities as well as noticeable flaws.  The plot is driven by the conflicts and resolutions between the three and there is a surprising amount of cavalry / border detail to make this more than just another love story.  Don’t look for Lariat Advance or border trivia but it is nice to see some of the terms and names woven into the story to add more than a hint of validity to the background.

As the border mission as well as the US Army in Germany rapidly fades from memory and the men and women of Whispers , may look at the mirror now and see more than a touch of gray, it ‘s nice to see someone took the time to tell a story set in that wonderful Rhoen area and bothered to provide a lush and fact based cavalry background.

Click here for the first two chapters
Whispers Thru the Fence

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