Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
Johnson creates a sense of place in Jerichow that transcends the town’s present problems. For example, the residents’ language does not change overnight, and the novel’s original German text contains many remarks in the local Mecklenburg dialect. Similarly, the efficient East German secret police agent Herr Rohlfs uses topographic maps from the discredited fascist German Reich because the “gracefully undulating landscape” remains the same. The fertile region was populated by Germanic settlers a millennium earlier, and waves of people have passed through since then, leaving “round graves, long graves, conic graves.” Jakob himself arrived there as a refugee from Pomerania.
Cresspahl’s house. Home of the widowed cabinet maker Heinrich Cresspahl. The long one-story house is located at Ziegeleiweg 3-4, at the quarry “behind the old, burned-out tile kilns across from a fenced-in park around the villa of the Soviet Headquarters.” It resembles a house that Johnson lived near when he attended school in Güstrow, Mecklenburg, after World War II.
After the war, Cresspahl divided his house into two apartments to accommodate Jakob and his mother when they were refugees. Their half is now registered as a railroader’s apartment. Jakob carved the letters “CRESSPAHL HARDWOOD INLAYS” over the workshop door for Cresspahl. The expansive house, garden, and workshop have been Cresspahl’s for years; its living-room ceiling is gray with age, and he has no thought of leaving. In the turbulent postwar period, his home represents reassuring continuity. Cresspahl is quietly self-sufficient. He tends the garden, collects firewood for his stove, and likes sitting in his leather armchair smoking his pipe. A seventeenth century map of the coast hangs on the wall. Even Cresspahl’s cat has a long Jerichow lineage.
Railway yards. Government railroad facility in a fictitious port city on the Elbe River where Jakob works until he is struck by a train and killed. The railway yards have their own atmosphere, “heavy sooty air between the groaning engines.” When fog from the river rolls in, visibility is reduced and the tracks are slippery. From his locked observation tower, Jakob communicates with other dispatchers over the microphone and tries to keep the trains on schedule. The rundown state of the railway makes precision impossible. Tracks torn up by the Red Army’s wartime invasion have not been replaced, the trains are old, and there is a shortage of coal.
*Federal Republic of Germany. Commonly known as West Germany, a capitalist country whose fast pace of life is illustrated by Gesine Cresspahl’s demonstration of how they play autobahn: You pass me, I pass you. Jakob finds it offensive that the jukebox in the bar still plays the “Badenweiler March,” a Nazi song, and is shocked that the Bundesbahn runs express trains with only one employee aboard