In a personal essay at Catapult, Adrian Daub (a prolific Longreads contibutor) weaves together memories of his childhood in West Germany under a sky constanly beset by ominous objects and memories. From the sonic booms of American military planes to the threat of nuclear fallout from Chernobyl, he describes the inescapable presence of invisible threats — the stuff of which more or less all childhoods are made, but with the particular weight of German rain, German fairy tales (both modern and old), and German history.

It was this experience that drew me to the children’s book author Gudrun Pausewang, who dominated our bookshelves and our minds in those years with a grimness and joylessness that today strikes me as particularly German. In 1982 Pausewang published The Last Children of Schevenborn (published as Fallout in English), a young adult book about a group of friends separated from their families…

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