No Man's Land

By Michael Califra

Historical fiction | Paperback, eBook


1989: Richard, an expatriate American, is working a profitable yet "pointless" job selling software for a small U.S. firm in West Berlin. Among his companions are Katarina Weber, a married mother whose hedonistic escapades help distract Richard from the emptiness of his existence; Knut Heino, an indecent seminary student who considers work the "consequence of original sin" and aims to avoid it by entering the priesthood; and Klaus, a former East German border guard who fled to freedom over the Berlin Wall but could never adjust to life in the West. Stranded in the isolated enclave of West Berlin without the means to leave, Klaus asks Richard for a simple favor that requires an excursion into the East German capital. There he meets Traudi Franzke, a young nurse addicted to the communist ideals inherited at an early age from her father. The ensuing relationship between Richard and Traudi, separated from reality by the notorious Berlin Wall, exposes beliefs long since betrayed but clung to, nevertheless. Throughout that momentous year, Richard straddles the two distinct worlds of East and West Berlin until events send them careening toward a collision, completing a journey from an age of ideologies to the "end of history." A ribald romp through a pivotal moment in time, an intimate portrait of a revolution, a searing indictment of the human condition, No Man's Land is as resonant today as when it was written more than twenty years ago. In brisk, vivid prose, Califra masterfully captures "Wendezeit" Berlin: the arrogant excesses and self-indulgence of the democratic West "flaunting" its wealth, and the dysfunction, frustration and repression in the totalitarian East, as they existed side by side in one city on the cusp of dramatic change.


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1989: Richard, an expatriate American, is working a profitable yet "pointless" job selling software for a small U.S. firm in West Berlin. Among his companions are Katarina Weber, a married mother whose hedonistic escapades help distract Richard from the emptiness of his existence; Knut Heino, an indecent seminary student who considers work the "consequence of original sin" and aims to avoid it by entering the priesthood; and Klaus, a former East German border guard who fled to freedom over the Berlin Wall but could never adjust to life in the West. Stranded in the isolated enclave of West Berlin without the means to leave, Klaus asks Richard for a simple favor that requires an excursion into the East German capital. There he meets Traudi Franzke, a young nurse addicted to the communist ide...


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Michael Califra lived and worked in Germany, mostly in Berlin, from 1986 to 1998 where he wrote the novel, "No Man's Land." When the Berlin Wall fell, and Germany and Berlin were reunified, it soon became clear that the city he knew would be quickly erased, just as the Berlin of the Kaiser had been overtaken by Weimar Berlin, which was then been wiped away by Hitler's capital, only to be replaced yet again by Cold War cities of East and West Berlin. Wanting to document the place he knew would soon dissolve into history was the motivation behind writing his novel. The author has also executive produced feature films starring such Hollywood talent as Rosario Dawson, Cuba Gooding Jr., Paul Rudd and Winona Ryder. He is a graduate of New York University.


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Michael Califra lived and worked in Germany, mostly in Berlin, from 1986 to 1998 where he wrote the novel, "No Man's Land." When the Berlin Wall fell, and Germany and Berlin were reunified, it soon became clear that the city he knew would be quickly erased, just as the Berlin of the Kaiser had been overtaken by Weimar Berlin, which was then been wiped away by Hitler's capital, only to be replaced ...


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