A True Life Love Story…

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by Helene Hanff

Featuring –  Susan Schwartz, Joerg Witzsch, Kirsten Schulze


The American writer, Helene Hanff, was famous for saying that she never read fiction because she could “never get interested in things that didn’t happen to people who never lived.” The book that she is most famous for is a true storyand it happened the her.

 84 CHARING CROSS ROAD is a charming classic true life love story full of warmth, humour and humanity about a transatlantic business correspondence that developed into a close friendship. Helene Hanff, a freelance writer living in New York City, and Frank Doel, a used-book dealer in London at 84, Charing Cross Road corresponded for over two decades – from Britain’s post-war austerity to the height of the Swinging Sixties. Though never actually meeting and separated both geographically and culturally, they share a winsome, sentimental friendship based on their common love for books. Their relationship, captured so acutely in these letters, is one that has touched the hearts of thousands of readers around the world.

Helene Hanff was the quintessential New Yorker and a prolific writer. She worked in publicists’ offices while writing one play after another. Her plays were admired by some of Broadway’s leading producers but somehow none of them ever made it to the stage. When network television production geared up in New York City in the early 1950s, Hanff found a new career writing and editing scripts for many early television dramas.

Due to financial difficulties and an aversion to travel, she put off visiting her London friends until too late; Doel died from peritonitis from a burst appendix in 1968, and the bookshop eventually closed. Hanff did finally visit Charing Cross Road and the empty but still-standing shop in the summer of 1971 and this trip was a highlight of her life.

Helen Hanff never married. Her relationship with Frank Doel, warm as it was, was entirely literary. She was never shy about her fondness for cigarettes and martinis, but nevertheless lived to be 80, dying of diabetes in 1997.

In New York City, the apartment building where she lived at 305 E. 72nd Street has been named “Charing Cross House” in her honor; where a bronze plaque next to the front door commemorates her residence and authorship of the book. In London, a bronze plaque on the site of the original building commemorates the bookshop at 84, Charing Cross Road.


March 5 at 20:00 hrs in MERLIN

March 22 at 20:00 hrs in THEATER AM OLGAECK

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