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Hitchhiking: Twelve German Tales.

Wayne Kvam is to be congratulated on his excellent translation of this collection of stories by a young writer from the former German Democratic Republic. Kvam renders Eckart's concise and very colloquial prose into equivalently conversational English, supplementing his translations with occasional cultural and historical notes, thus making the challenges of everyday life of peripheral but representative citizens of the socialist republic known and understandable to the American reader.

The first-person narration in all but three of Eckart's stories lends them authenticity and intensity. In these accounts by and or about senior citizens, apprentices, construction workers, female students, and street sweepers Eckart presents socialist taboo subjects such as travel restrictions, sexual discrimination, shortages of consumer goods, inadequate public services, blatant political propaganda, and the existence of a privileged class of GDR citizens. The firstperson narrator always provides an intimate and detailed perspective of the people and environment described in the story.

Only two of the narratives in Hitchhiking actually portray an interpersonal exchange which takes place as the result of a "free ride." The subtitle of the German original, Stories and Experiences from the GDR, which Kvam has chosen to omit, is a more precise description of the contents of the narratives. These are not "German" stories but specifically East German stories, portraying a uniquely East German experience. As such they provide an authentic and insightful introduction for the reader unfamiliar with GDR life and its recent literary tradition. The seasoned reader of GDR prose will relish Eckart's stories that enhance the GDR tradition of authentic and socially critical writing.
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Author:Hoffman-Jeep, Lynda
Publication:The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 1993
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