Over the course of seventy minutes, the effects of an Allied raid on an unnamed German city in July 1944 are recounted in horrifying detail. As American planes discharge their bombs over the city, far below, in the midst of the inferno, an elderly couple trapped in their appartment try to live out their last moments with dignity. Elsewhere, a man searches desparately for his son, only to run into a troop of drunken soldiers. And as hundreds of civilians wait in an air-raid shelter, an American pilot drifts gently down on his parachute, unaware that he is about to join them...Payback was one of the first German novels to describe the Allies' bombardment of Germany during the Second World War. Based on Gert Ledig's experiences of German air raids in 1944, and first published in 1956, it paints a savage and unflinching picture of the realities of warfare for ordinary men and women.
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(198mm x 126mm x 13mm)
Publisher: Granta Books
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UK Kirkus Review »
Gert Ledig was invalided out of the war in 1942, and lived out the remainder of the war as a civilian. His experiences of being mercilessly bombed from the air gave him a fresh perspective of the war, and became indelibly etched onto his mind. In Payback, he uses those experiences to expose the suffering of ordinary citizens. The book focuses on a single hour of unimaginable horror and carnage, caused by Allied bombing of an unnamed German city. In the aftermath, a man desperately tries to find his wife and son, a young woman is raped among the rubble, a priest burns to death, and an American pilot parachutes to safety, only to be subjected to a humiliating attack in an animal-like act of revenge. Ledig's emotive language and morbid preoccupation with gruesome injury and death force the reader's mind away from the heroic face of war, with its images of courage, loyalty and achievement; instead, he paints a bleak picture of the harsher realities, and the helplessness, loneliness and despair of the innocent victims. He wanted his readers to feel the effects of the war, not just to absorb it as history; to care about its victims, not to view them as just a set of statistics, to be tucked away into our subconscious. First published in 1955, Payback was subsequently neglected until its reissue in Germany in 1999, which led to a new appreciation of Ledig's work. It is not easy reading, but makes a valuable contribution to the social documentation of the Second World War. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Gert Ledig
Gert Ledig (1921-1999) was born in Leipzig, and grew up in Vienna. At the age of 18 he volunteered for the army, and was wounded at the battle of Leningrad in 1942. He later reworked his experiences in his novel The Stalin Organ (1955). Sent back home, he trained as a ship building engineer, and was caught in several air raids - an experience that never left him, and which led to the writing of Payback (1956). Its reissue in 1999 in Germany led to the author's much publicised rediscovery there.