New York, NY (Top40 Charts)
Writer and award-winning German-language translator Tim Mohr has announced the release of his first book, Burning Down the House: Punk Rock, Revolution, and the Fall of the Berlin Wall, out September
11, 2018 via Algonguin Books. Telling the little-known story of a group of East German kids who rebelled and helped set the world on fire, Mohr takes readers on a fascinating trip through the 1980s. Rejecting the dismal, pre-ordained futures the dictatorship tried to impose on them, these teenagers embraced punk-the aesthetic, the music, the liberating feeling of collective anarchy-and defied the state and its security apparatus. Banding together, they faced down surveillance, police violence, blacklisting from schools and jobs, and even imprisonment as they fought to create and control their own individual futures.
Beginning in earnest in the late 1970s, a handful of young people who had lived in the shadow of the Berlin Wall their entire lives caught snatches of punk music on forbidden British military radio broadcasts and began to question authority, daring to dress differently and make music that was dangerously critical of the government. Living inside the borders of East Germany but outside the system, they were hassled in the streets relentlessly pursued by the Stasi-the notorious East German secret police-but would not be deterred in their pursuit of punk. The movement grew in size and ferocity throughout the 1980s, evolving from a minor headache for the authorities into a full-on existential crisis. They raged against the system, out loud, publicly, writes Mohr, emboldening other dissidents and helping initiate the street protests that finally brought down the Wall in 1989. Although the future remained in limbo at that point, one thing was certain-the punks had played an indispensable role in regime change.
Mohr, who arrived in Berlin in 1992 and discovered a netherworld of dark and dirty clubs in derelict buildings, learned the secret history of punk rock under the dictatorship from those who had lived it, and he fell in love with the world they had created in the aftermath of the fall of the Wall. Burning Down the Haus is ten years in the making, as Mohr interviewed dozens of key players and researched Stasi files-finding in the process that what had seemed to be just a fascinating story was actually eerily relevant in today's world. The story of this DIY revolution represents a sort of blueprint for resisting authoritarianism.
Writing with a keen eye for observation and the narrative grace of a novelist, Mohr resurrects this all-but-forgotten story with insight and cinematic urgency. Timely and resonant, Burning Down The Haus is a fiery testament to the power of youthful protest in the face of oppression.