The Man Who Toppled the Wall

Günter Schabowski was an unloved apparatchik of the East German government who brought down the Berlin Wall, inadvertently, during a rushed news conference on a new policy of tolerance for East Germans who were leaving the country in droves. He flubbed the announcement, threw the government into confusion — which opened border crossings in the Wall, which started a chain reaction that collapsed the entire Communist bloc — twenty-six years ago today. Schabowski died last week, on November 1, so this year’s Mauerfall anniversary should also be a tribute to the Cold War’s last accidental hero.

Michael Scott Moore is a literary journalist and a novelist, author of a comic novel about L.A., Too Much of Nothing, as well as a travel book about surfing, Sweetness and Blood, which was named a best book of 2010 by The Economist. He was kidnapped in 2012 on a reporting trip to Somalia and held hostage for two and a half years. The Desert and the Sea, a memoir about that ordeal, is out now from HarperCollins.

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Speaking Events

October 25, 2018

CIEE Berlin


Gneisenaustraße 27
10961 Berlin

Hinterhof, downstairs lecture room

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My review of Ingrid Betancourt's first novel, The Blue Line, is up at the Los Angeles Review of Books.

While I was in Somalia a man called Geoff Carter wrote about a picture of Indian men surfing on stand-up boards around 1800 off Chennai, which altered the known history of surfing a bit, even though the picture was hiding in plain sight at the Australian National Maritime Museum.

The men from the Naham 3 are all friends of mine — a crew of 26 sailors from southeast Asia who worked on a tuna long-liner flagged in Oman but owned by a company in Taiwan, which abandoned them after Somali pirates hijacked the ship in 2012.

A version of what happened in Somalia is available as a Long Read at The Guardian, and, in somewhat shorter form, for German readers, in Der Spiegel. It’s not even near complete. Enormous parts of the story have been left untold.



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