Walls, real and imagined, form basis for author’s short stories

AN AUTHOR from Knaphill has written a book of short stories about the walls, real and theoretical, that divide people.

No One Has Any Intention of Building A Wall, by Ruth Brandt and published by Fly on the Wall Press,  refers to a comment made by Walter Ulbricht, the leader of East Germany, weeks before the Berlin Wall was built up overnight in August 1961, separating the Communist east and capitalist west.

THE WRITING’S ON THE WALL: Ruth Brandt, author of new short story collection “No One Has Any Intention of Building a Wall”

“It was very shocking to think that 16 years after the war ended, during which time east and west Germans had mixed, suddenly there was this separation of the two sides of Berlin, which went on until 1989 when the wall came down,” Ruth said.

She has had a long interest in Germany, partly because her great-grandfather was from Kiel in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein.

He came over to Britain at the end of the 19th century when you could travel quite freely, move to a new country, take your business with you and just set yourself up in a new country,” Ruth said.

“He left Germany at the time when there was all the militarisation in the build-up to the First World War and he did not like it.”

Ruth studied German at A-level and went on school exchanges to Hannover and later worked as an au pair in Stuttgart.

“I grew up at a time when there was the Iron Curtain. Europe was separated and it very much was a scary ‘other place’.

“I lived through the Cold War and all that division, to see it come out the other side to a relatively peaceful united Europe.

“The stories in the book are inspired by that history, that movement from what was and the question of whether we can we ever be one people.”

COVER STORY: Ruth Brandt’s recently published collection of short stories

Other stories in the book set against the backdrop of the Cold War include one set in Krakow, Poland, when there was a lot of Soviet influence on the way people lived.

One of the short stories, Letters from Prague, is about a present-day British couple visiting the Czech city, where one of them reveals dark secrets from the country’s Communist past.

Not all the stories refer to the Cold War. One is about a child refugee trying to get into Europe, while Lucky Underpants is about a romantic encounter that goes wrong.

“These are real or metaphorical walls created by society, literal walls like the Berlin Wall but also those internal walls that we put up. It’s about being placed on the outside. It is the general theme that pulls all the stories together,” Ruth said.

“They’re not all deadly serious and there is humour. They talk about serious subjects but not all in serious ways. You don’t want to preach at your readers, you want to engage them.”

 Ruth has lived in the Woking area for more than 30 years and has a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Kingston University. She teaches creative writing at West Dean College and was Writer in Residence at the Surrey Wildlife Trust and Polesden Lacey.

Ruth will be signing copies of No One Has Any Intention of Building A Wall at the Lionsheart Bookshop and Café in Woking town centre on Saturday 4 December from 4pm.

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