There is one literary work that captured me as a teenager and has never left me since. I feel part of the story. I lived this book in a village on the German-German border, seemingly abandoned by a world which had decided in 1945 to create a political division of my country. How was it, I have been asked many times, to grow up 500 yards from the Iron Curtain? We kids knew no different.
We admired the mighty American tanks that came through the village every day. Sometimes, when we celebrated harvest with a great festival, the Americans brought their tanks and we were allowed to climb on them. Once they even brought a helicopter. The people in my village talked about a past we kids could not imagine; about my great uncle being murdered by a communist; about the time when city people scavenged for food on our fields after harvest; about Hitler youth challenging American tanks which promptly shot up the village; about a village less than a mile away that we had never seen; about not being at the very edge of the western world but in the middle of Germany; about the time when the four lane "ghost" autobahn behind our house continued on to a city called Dresden (Great for riding bicycles, though).
A new generation now lives in the village. Kids listen to the elders with astonished faces about a time, when a border with self-shooting machines, dog runs, watch towers with Vopo and Russian soldiers cut the world in half, 500 yards from our houses. Not to mention American tanks and jeeps coming through the village every day.
All I know about this generation, and mine, and the one before, and the one before that is that we had the same names, lived in the same farms, had strange outsiders coming through, and had no impact on the larger world. The First World War started 100 years ago. The Weimar Republic came and went. Famine came and went. The Nazis came and went. The Second World War came and went. The Americans, the Russians all came and went. The border came and went. The village and its people are still there. I lived in one generation of 100 Years of Solitude. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I will miss you but I will never forget that you opened my mind to how I fit into an ever changing world that I cannot control, that is full of magic and wonder, and that doesn't change if you really look close enough, and that's why I study history.