Berlin was the first foreign country I traveled to. Summer of 1985, I set off from Beijing, transferred in Paris then proceeded towards Berlin. At the time Berlin was still divided to east and west. After arriving to West Berlin, I asked a German where the Berlin wall was, her answer was simple: you’ll run into it if you continue to walk towards any one direction. We came to participate in the “Horizon Arts Festival,” it seems that the horizon really was imagination beyond the Berlin wall.
Berlin was built in 1237, it is a calamitous city. It was conquered by Napoleon from 1806-1808; 1933 Hitler rose to power; 1945 Berlin was invaded and exterminated into ruins, administered jointly by the United States of America, Soviet Union, Great Britain and France; in 1948, the Soviet Union carried out a blockade of West Berlin, the Western Allies organized airlifts to transport supplies in order to preserve the control of West Berlin; August 31st, 1961, Berlin wall emerged from the horizon, West Berlin became an isolated region; since then at least 239 people lost their lives while attempting to climb over the wall or to cross the river…
The Berlin Wall collapsed on November 9th, 1989. At that moment, the western media aimed all their cameras toward the celebration. Then I just left West Berlin, moved to Oslo, and was stunned in front of the television. It is said that a small number of German intellectuals, including Günter Grass, called on East Berliners to be cautious of the unification, besides being “annexed” by West Berlin, whether there is a more sensible way out, thus they became the target of attack. During that time the East Berliners’ preoccupation with the pursuit of West Berlin Mark soon acknowledge the brutality of that thing: rabbits turned to ferocious tigers, drove them into despair – industries of East Berlin became entirely bankrupted, unemployment rate remained unyieldingly high, all the inhabitants sunk to the “lower caste.”
I can still recall the feeling when I first read the novel The Divided Sky by the female writer Anna Seghers from East Germany long time ago, by no means limited to its political implications, to further examine it’s actually the split of humanity’s inner world.
Naturally I am split as well. Later I discreetly mentioned to my German friend that I still prefer the West Berlin before unification. To my surprise they all agreed. In those days it was the land of the artists and the poor, today it is ruled by politicians and businessmen; in those days the simple and tranquil way of life, has been replaced by a powerful capital’s ambition and clamor of commercialism. In the end, what I prefer is the special atmosphere of those days – the end of the world sensation, which was a kind of real metaphor for the state of mankind.