Anti-climaxes and adrenaline

September 2nd, 2014

Screen shot 2014-09-02 at 10.18.41 AMLife past 45 starts getting to be one big anti-climax. Everything gets a little saggy as gravity kicks in, and on the horizon there is just one long string of breakfasts to be eaten. Or at least this is how I explain the strange lack of euphoria I feel at getting my German citizenship. What was I expecting? A letter from Angela Merkel? A fanfare of trumpets as I walked down the steps of Berzirksamt Pankow?

It started all so auspiciously. I was given a time and a date to go pick up my Citizenship Certificate – I was even asked if 8.00 wasn’t a little too early, which must be such a rare utterance in German Behörde that I wondered if Frau D. wasn’t being a little sarcastic. But if she was, there was no trace of it on her beaming face as she came out of room 119 to greet me at punkt acht Uhr. We went into her office, she whipped out a green certificate, my Einbürgerungsnachweis of which there is only one, this one, and no other, which can never, ever be copied or reproduced so God forbid I lose it. Then she asked me to stand up and walked around the table towards me, so quickly and purposefully that I thought for one moment that the Einbürgerungsritual was going to involve a Socialist kiss in Honecker-Brezhnev style. But no. She merely held onto my green one-and-only-in-the-whole-world certificate and asked me to repeat after her that I knew the laws of the land in Germany and would do my utmost not to break them. I repeated her words, thinking that technically, they weren’t true – I don’t know all the laws of the country – and wondering whether I was already committing an offence in my barely 2-minute-old existence as a German. In any case, once that was over, she squeezed my hand fiercely and wished me a happy life, or words to that effect. And I left. Read the rest of this entry »

Fiction Canteen # 4 // Open Mike

June 21st, 2014

Fiction_CanteenRoll up with a text – poetry or fiction – on the 9th July at the Alte Kantine Wedding and you will have a chance to read or “test-drive” your text in front of a live audience. A very enthusiastic and gentle audience, of course. We would prefer to keep readings to 5 minutes per person. A number of invited readers will be taking part, who will be announced shortly before the event. But please, come along and bring a text, or a good listening attitude!

We will be watching the semi-finals of the World Cup together afterwards on the big screen from 22.00 onwards.

Between hope and fear

June 9th, 2014

Screen shot 2014-06-09 at 9.38.29 AMLet me take you on a brief excursion into Spinozist theory, before I get the actual point of this blog post. I’m proofreading a series of texts at the moment that are based on affect theory and in particular, Spinoza. There is a discussion that explains how our true feelings may contradict our “reflectively held beliefs.” Our bodies – there is no longer the Cartesian dualism between mind and body in Spinoza’s world – tell us what we truly think, long before our minds catch up, by way of largely uncontrolled reflexes. Spinoza categorizes feelings into two camps: in the one there is “hope and its constant companion, fear,” according to Spinoza these are “passive affects.” In the other camp are “joy and freedom,” so-called “active affects.” Through “nobility and tenacity,” elsewhere described as “strength of character,” he posits the idea that we can move from one to the other – from the passive to the active.

So far so good? Yes, but so what? Well, here’s what.

Last Tuesday evening, I went to Gary Younge’s far-ranging and thought-provoking talk on “Equality and Inequality in Obama’s Era” at the Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung, and the journalist, Anjana Shrivastava, picked out exactly those two words in her introduction: hope and fear. Very briefly, the essence of what she said was: African Americans have moved through an experience of fear (pre-Civil Rights movement) to hope (seeing the first black American in office as President.) Immediately, I was thrown back into my day’s work and thought: hold on, isn’t hope essentially passive? How does hope alone help change or transform people’s lives for the better? True, it’s better than fear, but what about the experience of “joy and freedom”?

Because these are the facts: young black male Americans are statistically more likely to end up in prison nowadays than in 1963, and the figures for fatal shootings of black kids are more or less the same as when Obama took over. Unemployment figures have gone up among blacks since November 2008, and being black means you are more likely to be poor – the wealth gap between blacks and white has grown since Obama was elected. Yet despite all this, Gary said that African Americans feel more empowered, more hopeful, since Obama took office. Obama and his intact family serve as role models for many of the African American working classes – the point being that the black middle classes in the US not only see Obama as a role model but also are not faring too badly under his administration. It’s not so much that the President has implemented concrete policies that have improved the lives of African Americans: it is the sheer fact that he is the President that opens up the imagination of many young people: to hope. Read the rest of this entry »

Sam schläft…ich könnte ihn jetzt töten

May 19th, 2014

 

Screen shot 2014-05-19 at 6.31.01 PMNoch keine Gänsehaut? Dann lest hier weiter – mit Soundeffekte!:

http://bit.ly/Tmlf0k

 

things I know so far

May 19th, 2014

Screen shot 2014-05-19 at 6.47.51 PMsome bruises never heal
shitty jobs can kill you, slowly
some decisions change your life
at the time you will never know for sure what the right decision is
later you will never know for sure what the right decision was
silence is a kind of answer too
love for your children is unlike any other love: you are consumed in a different way
faith is a good thing when it means trust or roots
regret is the single most debilitating emotion, except for guilt
people do change, if only your perception of them
the goodies are never for free
some things are better to accept than fight: it gets them over and done with quicker
some things are better to fight than accept: you will have more respect for yourself afterwards
when people say you’re crazy, they are just playing for time until they find a better argument

Transfiction comes out

May 12th, 2014

While the world publishing industry continues to latch onto the coattails of the crime fiction wave, we at Transfiction have always been a little more far-sighted: we don’t just embrace crime fiction, we also embrace transgenderism, albeit unwittingly. As I recently found out, transfiction, for some enlightened Americans, is a subgenre of writing that deals in transgender issues. But of course we knew that when we named ourselves Transfiction, er-herm. We did endless global research into the ramifications and connotations of our collective’s name. We knew all about the forthcoming popularity of ladies with beards. We almost called ourselves Conchicta Wurst but then she beat us to it. And it goes without saying that all our American friends in Berlin were kind enough to inform us of the double entendre in our name (thanks, guys). So this is our coming out: we will support Conchita and all like her, as well as transgender fiction.   Combing the internet for clues as to how we might have researched our name, it’s clear that not even all Austrians are informed about the implications of transfiction. A forthcoming volume from the University of Vienna, for example, will be called Transfiction with the intriguing subtitle “Research into the realities of translation fiction”. The blurb says: “Transfiction (should be) understood as an aestheticized imagination of translatorial action.” It does not mention whether the author has a beard. Israel too seems to have been bypassed by the wordplay: Tel Aviv University’s Translation Department last year called its conference “Beyond Transfiction: translators and their authors.” Although you have to admit, that’s a neat little role reversal, putting the translators before their authors; almost as audacious as putting a sequinned dress together with facial hair. And I know there are those of you out there that hate metaphors for translation, but what are literary translators if not transvestites of the word? As Daniel Hahn’s recent essay points out, a translator writes a book “backwards, in high heels.”

Writers’ and Translators’ Reading at OMI

April 11th, 2014

Screen shot 2014-06-10 at 12.03.46 PMIn the highly unlikely event that you will be in the vicinity and read this post on Facebook or the blog, I will be reading in Hudson, NY at the Marianne Courville Gallery tomorrow evening at 5.30pm. As I’m working on Brigitte Reimann’s diaries here for 3 weeks, I’ll be reading some excerpts. The wonderful Bettina Abarbanell will also be reading  as well as the other writers staying here. And if we’re lucky, Tess Lewis and Shelley Frisch will stay on after lunch and listen. Oh, and Gerdy’ll be there too.

Looking for help with our Fiction Canteen events

March 20th, 2014

Screen shot 2014-03-20 at 4.47.41 PMAre you interested in listening to a wide range of events in English and German on translation and literature? Could you help out out for a few hours in the evening every few months?

We are looking for a team member to run the bar during our Fiction Canteen events on a voluntary basis. Our events normally run from 19.30 – 23.00, once every three months or as the need arises. Our next event will be the Asymptote magazine’s spring edition launch on 3 April in the alte Kantine Wedding. (Uferstraße 8-11, 13357 Berlin, in the Uferstudios).

We would like someone who can be relied on and would have fun lending a hand. Normal bar duties involved – serving drinks, arranging some chairs, helping to gather glasses after the event.

Please contact Lucy on jones(at)transfiction.eu

Thank you!

P.S. We don’t have Dyff’s but we do have “Fucking Hell” – Helles from a village in Austria called… Fucking.

Snooping: literally and literarily

February 6th, 2014

photoLast night I went to an event about ‘snooping’. Isabel Cole and Sebastian Christ are mikrotext’s two winter programme authors; they were presented by Nikola Richter last night at the Betahaus in Kreuzberg.

Isabel Cole is a translator: in fact she and I have both translated Annemarie Schwarzenbach’s books for Seagull, and her touch is both light and incredibly poetic as a translator. It was no surprise for me to find out that she also writes, and her new ebook with mikrotext, Ungesichertes Gelände, written originally in German, is smart in both its format and content, a novella in letter form. The premise is that a woman ‘in the future’ is writing a series of love letters that touch on themes of surveillance, paranoia and the aftermath of 9/11. It’s the format that doesn’t let you stop reflecting on the content: why are we reading these private letters and why are they full of paranoia about being spied on? One audience member wondered at times if she were reading real love letters. Yet the letters make a broader point: they were born of Isabel’s interest in psychological mechanisms that exist in all of us to ‘snoop’ on others, or even be snooped on, to be the centre of attention. The protagonist (a first-person female narrator) contemplates all the things that she could do with her penknife to an air hostess in gory detail. The standard questions about who has packed her luggage, and whether she has any sharp objects in her bags at an airport security desk, take on a suggestibility; they seem to incite the protagonist, give her ideas. She is spurred to imagine the blade sweeping across the steward’s neck, and the corkscrew entering her eyeball. Those trying to protect us – our security guards – seem to be inciting to murder. Read the rest of this entry »

Fiction Canteen # 3 // Speak & Spell

January 27th, 2014

Fiction_CanteenWhat was your favourite book of 2013 and why? Or have you written something yourself and want to read it to a wider audience? Each person at The Fiction Canteen’s next event, “Speak & Spell”, will have 5 minutes to read an excerpt from an excellent text and tell us something about the writer (who may be you). To round off, we’ll have a spelling bee. The excerpts and the spelling bee will be in English and German. Hosted by Scott Martingell aka McJabber at the alte Kantine Wedding. Doors open at 19.30.