Zoo Station: The Story of Christiane F.

by Christiane F, Christina Cartwright

In 1978 Christiane F. testified against a man who had traded heroin for sex with teenage girls at Berlin’s notorious Zoo Station. In the course of that trial, Christiane F. became connected with two journalists, and over time they helped to turn her story—which begins with a dysfunctional but otherwise fairly normal childhood—into an acclaimed bestseller. Christiane F.’s rapid descent into heroin abuse and prostitution is shocking, but the boredom, the longing for acceptance, the thrilling risks, and even the musical obsessions that fill out the rest of Christiane’s existence will be familiar to every reader. Christiane F.’s Berlin is a strange and often terrifying place, but it’s also a place that remains closer than we might think….

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN-13/ EAN: 9781936976225
  • ISBN-10: 1936976226
  • Pages: 368
  • Publication Date: 01/02/2013
  • Carton Quantity: 24

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About the Book
About the Authors
Excerpts
Reviews
  • About the Book

    In 1978 Christiane F. testified against a man who had traded heroin for sex with teenage girls at Berlin’s notorious Zoo Station. In the course of that trial, Christiane F. became connected with two journalists, and over time they helped to turn her story—which begins with a dysfunctional but otherwise fairly normal childhood—into an acclaimed bestseller. Christiane F.’s rapid descent into heroin abuse and prostitution is shocking, but the boredom, the longing for acceptance, the thrilling risks, and even the musical obsessions that fill out the rest of Christiane’s existence will be familiar to every reader. Christiane F.’s Berlin is a strange and often terrifying place, but it’s also a place that remains closer than we might think….

  • About the Author
  • Excerpts
    Before I was addicted to heroin, I was afraid of everything: of my father, and then later of my mom’s boyfriend; of my shitty school and the teachers there; of landlords, traffic cops, and even subway ticket checkers. Now I felt untouchable. I wasn’t even scared of the undercover cops that sometimes prowled around the station. At that point I’d gotten through every police raid without so much as a scratch.

    Back then I was hanging around with some other users—junkies, really—who I thought were somehow really in control of their habit. Atze and Lufo were like that. Atze was my first boyfriend. The only guy I’d a close relationship with before Detlef; I was crazy about him. In 1976, Lufo—like Atze and Detlef—was part of our pot-smoking clique in the Sound. Atze and Lufo got hooked on dope right before I did. Now they lived in an apartment together, and it looked like they’d hit the big time: it had a French bed, a matching couch and recliner set, and wall-to-wall carpeting. Lufo even had a totally legit, minimum-wage job at Schwarzkopf’s.

    Both of them claimed that they’d never been physically addicted to heroin and could sometimes go for weeks or even months without shooting up. I believed them, but at the same time they were always high whenever I hung out with them. Atze and Lufo were my idols. At the time I was worried about sinking back to the condition I was in before my first withdrawal. I thought that if Detlef and I could be as cool with our heroin as Atze and Lufo were, then we could also live in an apartment with a French bed, matching couch and recliner sets, and wall-to-wall carpeting.

    Neither of them was as aggressive as the other junkies, and and Atze had a really cool girlfriend too—Simone, who didn’t shoot up at all. I thought it was awesome that they were so in love and accepting of each other even though one of them was a user and the other one wasn’t. I liked spending time at their place, and sometimes, when I’d had a fight with Detlef, I slept on Lufo’s couch.

    But one night I came home, and since I was in a good mood and felt like things were going pretty well overall, I stopped in the living room to sit down with my mom—but right away she got up and went to get the paper without saying a word. I could sense what was coming next. She always handed me the paper like that when there was a report about a heroin death. I hated it. I didn’t want to read whatever she wanted to show me.

    But I read the obituary anyway: "Glassblower’s apprentice Andreas W. (17) wanted to get off drugs. His 16-year-old girlfriend, a nursing student, wanted to help him: but to no avail. The young man died of an overdose in an apartment in Tiergarten, which his father had furnished for the young couple for several thousand marks."

    The story didn’t sink in right away, because I didn’t want to believe it. But all of the elements were there: apartment, glassblower’s apprentice, girlfriend, Andreas W…. it was Andreas Wiczorek, our friend Atze!

    At first all I could think was: "shit." My throat was dry and I felt like I was going to puke. I couldn’t understand how Atze could have overdosed. Atze, of all people—the popular guy, who knew exactly how to handle his heroin. I didn’t want to let my mom see how upset it all made me. She had no idea that I was using again. So I took the paper and went to my room.

    I hadn’t seen Atze for a long time, but now I was reading about what had happened to him over the last few days. According to the paper, he’d already been shooting up way too much during the previous week, and had eventually landed in the hospital. His girlfriend Simone slashed her wrists right after that, but both of them survived. Then, the day before Atze died, he went to the police and ratted on all the dealers that he knew, even two girls who were just known as "the twins", and who always had first-class heroin. Then he wrote a suicide note, which the paper reprinted in full: "I’m ending my life because an addict only brings anger, anxiety, bitterness, and despair to his friends and family. He drags everyone else down with him. Please send my thanks to my parents and grandmother. I’m an absolute zero. A junkie lives his life at the bottom of the shit pile. Why do so many young people—who enter this world so full of life and hope—fall into this kind of self-destruction? I hope that my life can at least serve as a warning to everyone who will at some point ask themselves the question: well, should I try it, just this once? Don’t be an idiot; look at me. Simone, now you don’t have to worry about me anymore. Take care."

    I lay on my bed and thought: that was your first boyfriend, and now he’s in a coffin. I couldn’t even cry. I was totally numb.

    When I hit the scene the next afternoon, no one was grieving for Atze. It makes sense: nobody cries on the street. But on the other hand some people were definitely pretty pissed at Atze. He’d ratted on good dealers who sold first-class junk, and now they were all sitting in jail. Also, Atze still owed a lot of people a lot of money.

    The craziest thing about this whole story is that a week after Atze died his girlfriend Simone, who’d never used before and always tried to convince him to get off the stuff, started shooting up. And then a few weeks after that she quit her internship in the nursing program and started working on the streets. Lufo died from an overdose about a year later, in January, 1978.

    Atze’s death completely obliterated an impossible dream that we all shared: the dream of the cool junkie, who’s able to handle his heroin. Instead, everyone in Atze’s old crowd began to fear and mistrust each other. Before, when there weren’t enough needles to go around and we were shooting up, everybody wanted to be first. Now all of a sudden, everybody wanted to be second. Nobody talked about how scared they were, but everyone was worried that the stuff would be too pure, too strong, or that it would be cut with strychnine or some other poison. You could die from an overdose, but you could also die from shit that was too pure or too dirty.

    So once again everything was all fucked up. It was just like Atze said, in his suicide note. In the meantime, I was making life hell for my mom. I came home whenever I wanted, just like before, but whenever I got back my mom would still be up, no matter what time it was. The first thing she would do as soon as she knew I was back was take some Valium so that she could finally get some sleep. I think the Valium is the only reason she made it through that period.

    I was getting more and more worried that I was going to end up like Atze. But I’d find little things to cling to every now and then—things that would give me some hope for the future. Even at school. There was one teacher that for some reason I really liked: Mr. Mücke. In his class we’d have to act out certain situations from a normal adult life. So we’d pretend to have a job interview, for instance. One of us would have to be the employer, and the other one would have to play the role of job applicant. When I played the job applicant, I wouldn’t let the employer get a word in edgewise. Instead, I turned the tables on him, so that he felt intimidated and quickly backed down. I thought that maybe I could learn to assert myself like that in real life too.

    We also went to the career services office with Mr. Mücke. But that meant that we also had to watch an Allied Forces’ military parade. The boys were really into it, and they couldn’t shut up about the tanks and all their technology. I had the opposite reaction, because the tanks made a hellish, head-splitting...

  • Reviews
    “An eloquent memoir of teen drug abuse from 1970s Berlin retains a contemporary feel in a new translation. . . . Disturbing but compelling.” – Kirkus Reviews
     
    "A powerful memoir first published 35 years ago in Germany (a U.S. edition and film adaptation soon followed) shows no sign of tarnish in Cartwright’s mesmerizing and urgent new translation. The story of Christiane F., a heroin-addicted teenager living in 1970s Berlin, begins with her family’s move from the country to a fractured and confusing existence in the Berlin projects. Christiane’s bleak circumstances (her father is physically abusive, her mother permissive and absent, her teachers cold and uncaring) lead the 12-year-old to experiment with drugs. She begins with pot and alcohol—rapidly moving on to pills, acid, and finally heroin—finding excitement and intense companionship with a group of David Bowie–worshipping teenagers who populate the city’s underground club scene. Eventually, Christiane resorts to working alongside her boyfriend as a prostitute at the Bahnhof Zoo train station to support her addiction." – Publishers Weekly
     
    "Drug memoirs have long been a reliable mix of cautionary content, salacious detail, and voyeuristic thrill, and this new translation of Christiane F., first published in 1978 and something of a cult classic, delivers on every front" – Booklist

    “An amazing story. . . . Her story is so intriguing, and all the more so for being true. Pictures in the middle of the book helped place faces with the names, making it even better. Though definitely not for the younger crowd . . . . high school students . . . will definitely enjoy this memoir.” – School Library Journal Teen
     

     
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