I enjoyed success too early, married the wrong man, and hung out with the wrong people; too many men have liked me, and I’ve liked too many men.
Frank and refreshing, Brigitte Reimann’s collected diaries provide a candid account of life in socialist Germany. With an upbeat tempo and amusing tone, I Have No Regrets contains detailed accounts of the author’s love affairs, daily life, writing, and reflections. Like the heroines in her stories, Reimann was impetuous and outspoken, addressing issues and sensibilities otherwise repressed in the era of the German Democratic Republic. She followed the state’s call for artists to leave their ivory towers and engage with the people, moving to the new town of Hoyerswerda to work part-time at a nearby industrial plant and run writing classes for the workers. Her diaries and letters provide a fascinating parallel to her fictional writing. By turns shocking, passionate, unflinching, and bitter—but above all life-affirming—they offer an unparalleled insight into what life was like during the first decades of the GDR.
It All Tastes of Farewell is a frank account of one woman’s life and loves in 1960s East Germany. As a writer, Brigitte Reimann could not help but tell a compelling story, and that is born out here in her diaries, which are gripping as any novel. She recorded only what mattered: telling details, emotional truths, and political realities. Never written for publication and first published in full in German only after the fall of the Berlin Wall, these diaries offer a unique record of what it felt like to live in a country that no longer exists, was represented for years largely through Cold War propaganda, and is still portrayed in fairy-tale Stasi dramas. Here we get a sense of lived experience, as if Doris Lessing or Edna O’Brien had been allowed in with their notebooks. This volume continues where her earlier book of diaries, I Have No Regrets, left off, in 1964. It sees Reimann grow wistful and at times bitter, as her love life, her professional life, and her health all suffer. Yet throughout she retains a lively appetite for new experiences and a dedication to writing. Finally she finds security in a surprising new love, and although she died soon after this volume ends, the novel she was writing was to become a much-read cult hit after her death.
A remarkable document from a time and place that we still struggle to see clearly, It All Tastes of Farewell is unforgettable, a last gift from an essential writer.