Gert Ledig | Granta

Gert Ledig

Gert Ledig (1921-99) was born in Leipzig and grew up in Vienna. At the age of eighteen he volunteered for the army and was wounded at the battle of Leningrad in 1942. He drew on his experiences for his novel The Stalin Organ. Sent back home, he trained as a ship-building engineer and was caught in several air raids, which led him to write Payback. Its reissue in 1999 in Germany led to the author’s much publicized rediscovery there.



Gert Ledig

Translated by Shaun Whiteside

The effects of an Allied air raid, over seventy minutes, 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 apartment try to live out their last moments with dignity. Elsewhere, a man searches desperately 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.