Living in the Plattenbau — A Post-Communist Fairy Tale

A certain Herr G. who lives in Berlin, Germany, in a building called a ‘Plattenbau‘ on Leipziger Straße, collects very short stories at random. He’s content, this Herr G., more or less, his moods are changing with the weather, which is a good thing really because the weather is mostly grim. One of the salient points of any city is the constancy of the weather conditions as far as humanly possible. The city is a controlled environment, and within the city the Plattenbau is its most controlled, regular, clearly structured part. Socialist governments embraced the Plattenbau as a sign of equality and prosperity. But equality when administered architecturally smacks of an anthill. And prosperity is always only as good as the next pauper. But Herr G., though he knows that he’s been bamboozled by the bigwigs, prefers to adopt a postmodern view of the Plattenbau monstrosities. Together with others, who cannot afford to leave the neighborhood, he has written to the mayor requesting the installation of a badge. He’s not particular about the message written on the badge, but he and his fellow conspirators are adamant that the message should leave no doubt that it is an honor, both historically and politically, for any citizen to live here. Just in case the mayor’s office should not follow their suggestion, Herr G. has prepared a blog that he also calls “Plattenbau”. If all else fails, it will prove that it is possible to live in one of these and still be cool.  When his sister Marguerite, who married a Spanish painter and lives on a sunny island in the Mediterranean, raises her Paloma-Picasso-like eyebrows at his relentless attempts to justify his remaining in this “socialist realist museum”, he makes a fist under the table. In the center of the city, he says, they’ve moved the statues of Marx and Engels so that, when the reconstruction of the city palace will be finished years from now, the founding fathers will have to look at the resurrection of Royalism. Perched on Herr G.’s tiny balcony, they proceed to speak about the weather, always the place where contradictory minds meet best. They agree that there’s never been a better time to survey the future than now. And Marguerite, looking around, enjoying the high views, concedes that the builders of this place were probably trying to do their best.


marx engels[Deutsche Übersetzung]. The immediate background for this posting is the end of the “One Thousand Shipwrecked Penguins” project, which I started at the end of 2010. Why does this seem such a long time ago? In any case, while the Penguins seem to have run their course (perhaps they were rescued from the island where they’d been shipwrecked), there’s now a new name for the blog that they started: “Plattenbau“. This little story contains some of the background for this odd title. The moving of the statues of Marx and Engels as well as their relative position to a (so far only planned) reconstruction of King Frederick’s city Palace, are both true (the Wikipedia entry on the location is out of date). How Marx and Engels and Frederick feel about all this, I do not know. But the new place for the statues is in fact a better place for them: a little out-of-the-way, with less responsibility for the course of history. 

One thought on “Living in the Plattenbau — A Post-Communist Fairy Tale

  1. Pingback: Blog Carnival 5: A VIEW FROM HERE | An Aotearoa Affair

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