Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Wall by Peter Sis

The Wall by Peter Sis is a story about a child that was born in the Czechoslovakia and grew up behind the Iron curtain, it is the story of a child growing up in a climate of fear and suspicion where everything and everyone was suspect of crimes against the communist state. The story slowly builds up as cracks form in the wall until it implodes during the short reign of Dubcek leader of the Democratic Republic and the leader of the communism with a human face movement during which time Czechoslovakia attempted to walk the tight rope of appeasing the Soviets while opening up internally; and they did until the Soviets had enough and crushed the Prague Spring under the Brezhnev doctrine.
Primarily what the book lacks is words, picture illustrate most portions of the story with little text provided for better or worse. The pictures do create an interesting snapshot of what life was like through the eyes of a child growing up behind the wall which is Sis's primary aim.

The story is even with the lack of words endearing if short and lacking in detail. Overall I would have to say that this book is a snapshot, one piece in the puzzle that forms a vast array of post-communist literature and art that has been created looking back at the communist world.

The book has major flaws which I have already mentioned such as the lack of writing within it which it counteracts slightly with a somewhat strong picture based narrative. The other flaw is that much like the stories of other expatriates is that it looks at everything and anything associated with times behind the wall as negative with the exception of a few colorful personal experiences and paints the communist world in stark contrast with the west. However as shown by many pieces of art and literature from non expatriates the fall of the wall and its effects had mixed results for parts of the population one of the most significant illustration of this is the film Goodbye Lenin! about the story of the dissolution of East Germany.

Overall I would say it is a cute little short story that could be used within a wider study on the cold war for children and motivating them to learn about history. However that being said it should be read within a larger framework for the reader to take anything away from it.

Link to the full film Goodbye Lenin! a related and important work that could be taken in accompaniment with this text.

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