Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Haruki Murakami: Racing to Checkpoint Charlie – my memories of the Berlin Wall

Japanese writer Haruki Murakami
Escape from reality … Haruki Murakami. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod for the Guardian
It has been a quarter of a century now since the Berlin Wall that separated East and West Berlin came down. The first time I visited Berlin was in 1983, and back then the city was still divided into East and West by that looming wall. Travellers could go over into East Berlin, but they had to pass through a number of checkpoints, and were required to return to West Berlin before the clock struck midnight. Just like Cinderella at the ball.

Along with my wife and a friend I went to see a performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute at the East Berlin Opera House. The performance, and the atmosphere, were wonderful. But as one act followed the next, the clock ticked inevitably closer to midnight. I remember racing to Checkpoint Charlie on the way back. We made it just in time, but it was a close call. Of all the performances of The Magic Flute I’ve seen, that had to be the most thrilling.

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