Multicultural Germany Class: “The Bridge of the Golden Horn”

This post is part of a series in which students reflect on their discussions in the UC Berkeley undergraduate seminar “Multicultural Germany.” This week’s summary is by Teddy Lee

The Bridge of the Golden Horn (original title: Die Brücke vom Goldenen Horn) by Emine Sevgi Özdamar is a novel that portrays a young immigrant’s perseverance to surpass her cultural and linguistic seclusion. It resembles the author’s own life. The author writes about the political and sexual experiences of a young immigrant coming to the student movement scene in Germany and Turkey during the 1960s. In order to proclaim her independence she leaves her life in Istanbul and accepts to work in a factory in Berlin.

I found this novel interesting because the autobiographical novel is written from the perspective of a young Turkish woman who appears to be interested from all aspects of life. The story persuades the reader without being emotional or depressed. Throughout the novel the author uses energetic and expressive compositions and also utilizes her own experiences as an example for her book. Another part that stood out to me was the sexual awakening of the young immigrant herself. She assumed that her virginity was a barrier to that arousal. Her autobiographical writing goes beyond the dimension of one’s life. She stands on the side of those who suffer the consequences of power and politics. It definitely gives an exciting insight into the time of the 1960s in Berlin. Below I have summarized an important section from the first half of the novel, in which the narrator is living at a hostel for guest workers in Berlin:

A young Turkish woman appeared at the hostel. Her name was Angel, she was very small, had a soft voice and spoke very slowly. Along with Angel, the narrator pays a visit to Martha. Martha was a German radio valve employee despite her size. She had a huge head, blonde hair and a big bust. The communist hostel warden kept a great companion named Ataman. Ataman owned a pair of glasses that apparently made his eyes look three times as big. During one stormy night, they encounter an old man, who falls down hard onto the pavement. They decide to lend him a hand. He is described as an individual who wears glasses that made his eyes look tiny in size. To show his appreciation he invites them over to his apartment for a bottle of schnapps. As the night progressed, Ataman and Angel make love behind the scene and the old man becomes annoyed with his watch and flings it out of the window onto the street. The undamaged watch was still lying in the snow. After night had fallen, the party came to an end and the watch was still lying in the snow. Ataman rapidly snatches the watch and puts it in his pocket. He, later hands it over to Angel.

Since Angel had lost her virginity, the wife of the communist hostel warden assists her to locate an apartment for 90 marks in Kreuzberg. She often sat in the room of the communist hostel warden because Ataman was regularly present there. He loved the communist hostel warden. They resembled each other and both loved the German author Bertolt Brecht. They were obsessed with Brecht and spoke his lines by heart. The communist hostel warden had compassion for writing plays.

Four girls loved the rear of their communist hostel warden and Ataman. They asked if they could join them and follow them to the pub. Once inside the pub, four young German men appear to be interested in the four girls. One boy, who is characterized by being a Capitalist, was built thin. The other boy, who is portrayed as a Communist, was heavily built. The heavier boy writes down one of the girls’ address and visits her the very next day. The girl comes down and greets the boy. They decide to take a long walk to the pub on a rainy day without saying a word to each other. Once they arrive at the pub, the other three boys are sitting at a table. Later that day the narrator leaves with the thin boy. Inside his house, the boys assault her when one of the boys burns her back with a cigarette butt. She does manage to escape without any more harm and walks back to the hostel. At the hostel, she immediately runs into the restroom to check on her back. A brown wound appeared as a result. She waits for Rezzan and everyone else to come back. Ataman’s head was bleeding from a protest carried out by German students demonstrating against the Vietnam War. The students stormed a building, which carried an American flag. The police show up and struck them with truncheons against their heads. Ataman was one of the victims by the attack. One Saturday morning, the communist hostel warden calls out the three girls with others as well. On this day  they were about to elect a chairman. The chairman was well known by the communist hostel warden and he pushes hard to get him elected. The opponent was a young man described as a good-looking individual along with his two other buddies. He was also known as “Mobil One” because of his father’s business relations with the oil company in Istanbul. He eventually wins the election to become chairman.

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