Book Reviews

Book ‘Warning’: Als Wir Träumten

So this is the novel I started last week and was deeply disappointed by: Clemens Meyer’s Als Wir Träumten (While We Were Dreaming, 2007). Ordering German books to the UK can be quite expensive because of the postage, so I spent a total of 14 whole English Pounds and gave up after exactly 37 pages. This is why I can’t in clear conscience call this a review. It’s more of an advisory sticker.

I was really looking forward to starting this 518-page whopper: It seemed to tick all the boxes: It’s GDR-related, semi-autobiographical and in plain prose. I’ve been spending a-LOT of time rambling about GDR literature and translation recently on my MA course so I bought this in the hope of doing a reader’s report or assignment on it in the new year. Clemens Meyer has been fairly hyped recently in Germany, winning the Leipzig Book Fair Prize and the Bremen Prize for Literature as well as being shortlisted for the German Book Prize. I don’t get the hype, though.

Okay, maybe I’m just not the kind of person to enjoy this book. I didn’t know much about it when I bought it. Maybe the boxer on the front should have given it away- but it comes off from the first few pages as bluntly ‘laddish’, macho and kind of pointless. In the first chapter describes vandalism and bar fights seemingly for the hell of it, and the second chapter was so full of the words ‘Brüste’ (breasts/boobs) I just gave up. I would LOVE to post a picture highlighting all the occurrences of ‘Brüste’ in the most egregious two-page spread I could find from this chapter, but I would like to sell the book on Amazon as ‘used: like new’ at some point, so you’ll just have to believe me. The sparse female characters are either passive and weak, or reduced to boobs on legs. I’m so beyond this.

I’m not sure if this work has already been translated into English. I know some of his work has. I tried googling around but kept getting swamped by the film adaptation under the name ‘While we were Dreaming’

By annaputsover

Translator and English tutor

4 replies on “Book ‘Warning’: Als Wir Träumten”

Hi! Have you tried it yet? It does feel like it’s definitely just aimed at guys and the language around women is really frustrating- I have another of his books (Die Stille Trabanten) which I’m going to try soon and I hope it’s decent because I spent another £15 on it 😭😂

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No, I’ve just seen its in the Stofftasche I put together to take to my friend in Stuttgart in March, a trip which was cancelled, so I decided it wasn’t for me. I’m interested in your interest in GDR authors- is that an older generation who lived through the GDR like Christa Wolf or a more recent generation whose childhood may have started in the GDR and then became adults in a reunified Germany like Jenny Erpenbeck?


He’s part of a younger generation of GDR authors. He was born in 1977, so he remembers the GDR but at the same time he was only 12 or 13, just like Jana Hensel.
I’m interested in both ends of the spectrum. I don’t particularly like Christa Wolf because her style is very fuzzy, subjective and ambiguous and I’m not such a huge fan of feeling confused for most of the book.
I really enjoyed Maxim Leo’s memoirs and I love the documentary feel, like a geneologist but with a political flavour because his family encompassed all attitudes towards the GDR.
Jana Hensel’s work is very simply written but I appreciate it for what it is- a voice against Western hegemony in its conspicuous drive towards an apolitical memory of childhood.
Christoph Hein is another great GDR author and one of the oldest generations – he was born in 1945. He’s still alive today and has some great semi-autobiographical work out, the one I most recently read and wrote about for an assignment being ‘Glückskind mit Vater’.


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