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The Past Is a Cancelled Check 

Except when it's not

In the aftermath of World War II, borders were redrawn, and people were shifted from one country to another with little regard for their own desires. This process happened again during the Cold War, and once more with the fall of the Berlin Wall. All this turmoil around Germany is something the people try to put behind them (for obvious reasons), and yet this history of fluid nationality and upheaval is ironically the most certain, immutable part of the German identity in the twentieth century. Novelist Christoph Hein is fascinated by this dichotomy, and documents the past Germany seems committed to forgetting in his novels. In Settlement, translated by Philip Boehm (artistic director of St. Louis' Upstream Theatre Company), Hein tells the story of Bernhard Haber, a Pole transplanted to East Germany after the war and ostracized because he can't leave his homeland — his past — behind. Despite these hardships of birth and social status, Haber rises to prominence and wealth, and then witnesses his adopted country become a new nation after 40 years apart — and the process of reconciliation with the past must begin again. Boehm reads from Settlement with the help of actress Debbie Miller at 7 p.m. at Left Bank Books in the Central West End (399 North Euclid Avenue; 314-367-6731 or www.left-bank.com). Admission is free.
Mon., Feb. 23, 2009

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