FLIGHT OF ASHES by Monika Maron


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An East German writer's account of a journalist's struggle to write and publish an exposÉ about conditions in a filthy industrial city. Josefa Nadler is a reporter for Illustrated Week in East Berlin. She's impetuous, idealistic, the divorced mother of a kindergarten-aged son. Sent on assignment to the city of B., she's astounded to see a ""yellow grey poisonous fog"" in the air, fumes that ""could serve as road signs,"" and a decrepit old power plant that keeps the town smothered by soot. A new plant, running on cleaner gas, is being built after years of delay, but, Josefa is horrified to learn, it's been decreed that the old plant will be kept going. Initially tom between the story she knows is expected of her and one that expresses her horror at this earthly hell, she finally gives in to her outrage and writes a scathing piece. One editor after another up the chain of command, all the way to the smarmy and dangerous comrade-in-chief, praises her work but buries the story--and probably her career--in an avalanche of empty rhetoric. This insider's view of the politics of publishing in a Workers' State is of obvious interest; but as a psychological portrait, the novel is less successful: as the battle drags on in the office, Josefa skips meetings, swills sleeping pills and retreats into increasingly incoherent fantasy--all in all, a single dimensional decline and fall. And a quiet mid-chapter switch from first to third person halfway through adds little to our sense of Josefa's psychological undoing. A brooding and bleak look at a culture of censorship.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1986
Publisher: Readers International--dist. by Persea