“Erinnerungen eines Davongekommenen. Die Autobiographie” by Ralph Giordano
Published in 2007 by Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 554 pages

A while back I bought this book for my commute – it was on sale at the book shop in the train station, and his book “Die zweite Schuld” is in our shelf and on my to-read-list for a very long time. It took me a while to finish it – reading it during the commute just did not work out, and so I started it again during our vacation where I finished it within a few days. It is a beautifully written book, and sometimes I would read passages aloud due to his wonderful writing style.

Giordano writes about his life, separating it into seven chapters and labeling them numerically. In “Das Vorleben” we learn about his family history, his grandparents, his Sicilian father and his mother. In “Das erste Leben” he writes about his childhood in Hamburg during 1923-1934. Due to their Jewish heritage, his family is persecuted by the Nazis but able to survive by hiding (“Das zweite Leben (1934-1945)”). In the following chapters he writes about him being a communist but growing estranged from the communist party (“Das dritte Leben (1945-1961)”), his work as a journalist (“Das vierte Leben (1961-1982)”) both for the WDR and as a freelancer (“Das fünfte Leben (1982-2007)”). He concludes his autobiography with “Ein Epigramm”.

The first three sentences:

“Bezeichnenderweise begann mein Leben mit einem Malheur, von dem es schon am Tag meiner Geburt fast beendet worden wäre – ich drohte zu ersticken.
Es war der späte Nachmittag des 20. März 1923, in der Heitmannstraße des Hamburger Stadtteils Barmbek.
Retterin wurde die Großmutter mütterlicherseits, Selma Lehmkuhl, geborene Seligmann.”