Gudrun Pausewang (1928–) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Sidelights
Born 1928, in Wichstadtl, Bohemia, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic); father a diplomat; immigrated to West Germany, c. 1948; Education: Trained as a teacher in Germany. Hobbies and other interests: Travel, gardening.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Ravensburger Buchverlag Otto Maier GmbH, Postbox 1860, 88188 Ravensburg, Germany.
Author, 1959–. Also worked as a teacher in South America, 1956–63, and Germany, 1963–68.
La vach qui Lit prize, 1981, for Ich habe Hunger, Ich habe Durst; Deutschen Jugendliteraturpreis, 1988, and Kurd Laßwitz Preis, 1998, both for Die Wolk; Gustav-Heinemann-Friedenspreis; Buxtehuder Bulle, 1997, for Die Not der Familie Caldera; numerous other awards.
Rio Amargo, 1959.
Der Weg nach Tongay, 1965.
Plaza Fortuna, 1966.
Bolivianische Hochzeit, 1968.
Hinterm Haus der Wassermann, 1972.
Aufstieg und Untergang der Insel Defina, 1973.
Und dann kommt Emilio, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1974.
Kunibert und Killewamba, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1976.
Die Not der Familie Caldera, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1977, reprinted, 1997.
Auf einem langen Weg, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1978, reprinted, 1996.
Der Streik der Dienstmädchen, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1979, reprinted, 2000.
Rosenkawiesen: Alternatives Leben von 50 Jahren, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1980.
Ich habe Hunger, Ich habe Durst, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1981, reprinted, 1998.
Die Prinzessin springt ins Heu, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1982.
Die letzten Kinder von Schewenborn, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1983, translated by Norman M. Watt as The Last Children of Schevenborn, Western Producer Prairie Books (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada), 1988, published as The Last Children, Mac-Rae, 1989.
Wer hat Angst vor Räuber Grapsch, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1983.
Etwas lässt sich doch bewirken, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1984.
Friedens: Geschichten (stories; includes Frieden kommt nicht von allein), Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1985.
Pepe Amado, 1986.
Ein wilder Winter für Räuber Grapsch, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1986.
Ein Eigenheim für Räuber Grapsch, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1987.
Ich gebe Nicht Auf, 1987.
Die Wolke, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1987, reprinted, Süddeutsche, 2005, translated by Patricia Crampton as Fall-Out, edited with introduction, notes, and vocabulary by Susan Tebbutt, Manchester University Press (Manchester, England), 1992, Viking (New York, NY), 1994.
Die Kinder in der Erde, illustrated by Annengert Fuchshuber, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1988.
Kreuz und qür übers Meer, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1988.
Fern von der Rosinkawiese, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1989.
Geliebte Rosinkawiese, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1990.
Das Tor zum Garten der Zambranos, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1991.
Es ist doch alles grün, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1991.
Das große Buch vom Räber Grapsch, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1992.
Eine Reise im August, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1992, translated by Patricia Crampton as The Final Journey, Viking (New York, NY), 1998.
Der Schlund, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1993.
Der Weihnachtsmann im Kittchen, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1995.
Der Glücksbringer, 1995.
Die Verräterin, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1995, translated by Rachel Ward as Traitor, Random House (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2004.
Adi, Jugend eines Diktators, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1997.
Ich geb dir noch eine Chance, Gott!, illustrated by Uschi Schneider, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1997.
Ich habe einen Freund in Leningrad, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1998, published as Warum eigentlich nicht, c. 1998.
Hörst de den Fluss, Elin?, Nagel & Kimche (Zürich, Switzerland), 1998.
Hinterm Haus der Wassermann, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1998.
1996–1997 Germanistikstudium, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 1998.
Barfuss durch die grösse Städt, illustrated by Verena Ballhaus, Nagel & Kimche (Zürich, Switzerland), 1999.
Die letzten Kinder von Schewenborn oder … sieht so unsere Zunkunft aus?, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 2003.
Du darfst nicht schreien, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 2003.
Der Spinatvampir, illustrated by Markus Grolik, Sauerländer (Düsseldorf, Germany), 2003.
Ich war dabei. Geschichten gene das Vergessen, Sauerländer (Düsseldorf, Germany), 2004.
Roller und Rosenkranz, Arena, 2004.
Überleben!, Ravensburger (Ravensburg, Germany), 2005.
Also author of many other books.
Several of Pausewang's books have been adapted for film.
German writer Gudrun Pausewang is a prolific author of books for children, young adults, and adult readers. Familiar with many of the world's social ills through her own experiences during World War II and her travels throughout South America and Asia, the Czech-born Pausewang often focuses on serious subjects, such as Third-world poverty, war, and the environmental threats posed by nuclear energy. While her books for young children are lighthearted, those for older readers tell more sobering tales. Three of her books translated for English-language readers center on grim events: The Final Journey and Traitor take place during the Holocaust while The Last Children of Schevenborn and Pausewang's most acclaimed and highly awarded novel, Die Wolke—translated as Fall-Out—focus on young protagonists coping with nuclear destruction.
The oldest of six siblings, Pausewang was born in 1928 in Wichstadtl, a town formerly part of East Bohemia that had by now united with Slovakia to form Czechoslovakia. After her father, a diplomat, was killed on the Russian front in 1943, her mother was forced to raise her children alone. At the end of World War II, seventeen-year-old Pausewang and her family fled communism and moved to West Germany, where she trained as a teacher. After teaching in Germany for a few years, from 1956 to 1963 she traveled to South America, living and teaching in Chile and Venezuela. Returning to Germany, she taught in Mainz-Kastel for four years, then returned with her husband, Peter Wilcke, to South America, this time living in Colombia, where her son was born. In 1972, when her son was two years old, Pausewang returned to Germany, where she has continued to make her home. She began her writing career in the 1950s, while working as a teacher.
First published in Germany in 1983, The Last Children of Schevenborn follows the survivors of a nuclear attack and is narrated by a boy named Roland. Describing his experiences in graphic detail, the boy witnesses the decay of his community and way of life as his friends and family perish and he also begins to suffer from radiation sickness. Reflecting her only fear of nuclear dangers, Pausewang offers a stern warning for humanity. "Schevenborn is a terrible, frightening, haunting story, all too convincing," declared Canadian Review of Materials contributor Joan McGrath, while Books for Keeps critic David Bennett dubbed the novel a "bleak but gripping read."
Fall-Out is also a warning against the dangers of nuclear power; in this case, a power-plant accident is the source of the tragedy. Ironically, the novel was published in 1987, a year after the nuclear disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear facility in the Soviet Ukraine terrified Europe due to the short-term casualties and the fact that little was then known about the long-term effects of such an event. As the novel opens, an accident occurs at a reactor near the home of siblings Janna and Uli. With their parents absent, the children try to escape on their own. Tragedy heaps upon tragedy as Uli is killed by a car, and an ever-sicker Janna learns that the rest of her family died in the power-plant accident. In her novel, Pausewang contrasts the typical beliefs then held by many Europeans: Janna stays at the homes of two different aunts, one of whom encourages the girl to cover her now-bald head and pretend that everything is fine, while the other aunt, an activist, attempts to force people to recognize the dangers they face. By the end of the story Janna has become a spokesperson for her fellow victims, who call themselves the "Hibakusha" after those who died at Hiroshima.
Many reviewers commented on the grimness of Fall-Out, Roger Sutton pointing out in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books that the novel ends with "no real hope, false or otherwise." Calling Fall-Out a "realistic psychological novel" in a Voice for Youth Advocates review, Francine Canfield praised Pausewang's "crisp and assertive language," adding that the author "explores the unspoken horror of the unknown long-term effects of exposure to radiation without over-whelming the plot." Booklist reviewer Janice Del Negro also noted the author's ability to create a swift-moving plot, dubbing the book "a grim, unflinching, but fast-paced disaster tale with a strong message that does not overwhelm either the story or the characters."
First published in German as Reise im August, The Final Journey takes place on a train bound for a concentration camp during World War II. Pausewang's story focuses on eleven-year-old Alice, who is torn from her comfortable middle-class life and herded with her grandfather aboard a train bound for an unknown destination. During the arduous journey, Alice befriends a fellow traveler, but suffers tragedies when her grandfather dies due to the poor conditions aboard the train and her young friend is subsequently killed during an escape attempt. Pausewang describes with unrelenting accuracy the horrific conditions Alice endures during her trip as corpses begin to pile up in the cattle cars full of human passengers. While Horn Book contributor Roger Sutton called the book "unsubtle, even crude," he nonetheless acknowledged that Pausewang's graphic approach is appropriate in getting this important message across. "Relentless is certainly an understatement for this horrific, claustrophobic story," added Sutton, "but you have to put the word honest in there as well."
Pausewang once again gained an English-language readership when her 1995 novel Die Verräterin was translated and published as Traitor. The novel draws readers back to the Sudentenland, an area near the border of Czechoslovakia and Germany that, in 1944, has not yet been touched by the brutality of war. Anna is the middle sister in a loyal Nazi home; her older brother is fighting for the German Army on the Russian front while her younger brother, Felix, is an enthusiastic member of the Hitler Youth whose loyalty is unwavering despite German's imminent defeat. Anna's own feelings are mixed toward the war, however, and when she discovers an escaped and injured Russian prisoner of war in her family's barn, she is moved to help the half-dead man. Hiding the soldier in an abandoned bunker, she manages to bring him a steady supply of food despite the fact that her actions would result in her arrest if discovered. When Felix becomes suspicious, Anna is forced into further deception; meanwhile, she realizes the irony of her situation: the Russian advance that will allow the young Russian to return safely to his comrades will also put her town in the path of the war. Praising Traitor as "an incredibly moving book" WriteAway online contributor Bridget Carrington noted that the novel is valuable for questioning "the popular perception that all Germans were Nazis … and knew of the atrocities being committed in the name of the Fatherland."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, September 15, 1995, Janice Del Negro, review of Fall-Out, p. 154.
Books for Keeps, January, 1991, David Bennett, review of The Children of Schevenborn, p. 9.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September, 1995, Roger Sutton, review of Fall-Out, p. 23.
Canadian Review of Materials, January, 1989, Joan McGrath, review of The Children of Schevenborn, p. 19.
Horn Book, January-February, 1997, Roger Sutton, review of The Final Journey, p. 66.
Publishers Weekly, May 29, 1995, p. 86.
School Librarian, August, 1995, Jane Inglis, review of Fall-Out, pp. 118-119; winter, 2004, D. Telford, review of Traitor, p. 216.
Voice of Youth Advocates, October, 1995, Francine Canfield, review of Fall-Out, pp. 222-223.
WriteAway Web site, http://www.improbability.ultralab.net/writeaway/ (October 21, 2005), Bridget Carrington, review of Traitor.