FIRST LINES from Not I: Memoirs of a German Childhood

Read first lines from:

Not I: Memoirs of a German Childhood by Joachim Fest.

Translated from the German by Martin Chalmers and edited by Herbert A. Arnold.

How Everything Came Together

The task I have set for myself is called recollection. The majority of the occurrences and experiences of my life have—as with everyone—faded from memory, because memory is ceaselessly engaged in casting out one thing and putting something else in its place or superimposing new insights. The process in unending. If I look back over the whole time, a flood of pictures presses forward, jumbled up and random. Whenever something happened, no idea was associated with it, and only years later was I able to discover the hidden watermark in the documents of life and perhaps interpret it.

But even then images intervene, especially when it comes to the early years: the house with the wild undergrowth at the sides (later, to our sorrow, removed thanks to our parents’ sense of orderliness); catching crayfish in the River Havell our much-loved nursemaid Franziska, who one day had to return to her home in the Lausits; the trucks which raced down the streets with a bright flag, packed with bawling men in uniform; the excursions to Sanssouci or Lake Gransee, where our father told us a story about a Prussian queen, until we began to get bored with it. All unforgotten. And once we children had reachd the age of ten, we were taken on Sunday in summer—when the band was playing and the aristocrats’ two-wheeled carriages were standing in front of the emperor’s pavilion—to the racetrack…

© Rowohlt Verlag GmbH, 2006

Translation copyright © Martin Chalmers, 2012

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