At an artists’ collective near the Polish border about an hour from Berlin, I’d been taking a break from translating texts into English, a task I once enjoyed but was beginning to resent, as I was beginning to feel invisible—or was it burnt out?—in any case, I was glad to get away for a few days: it was my first vacation since I-don’t-know-when, and I’d begun to feel my soul was spent. Over lunch on my last day there, a woman from Seoul who went by the nickname Hae—a transliteration of the word “sun” in Korean, she said—asked what the word in German was for “soul.” Actually, the woman sitting next to her asked, but the woman sitting next to Hae came from Spain and was shy about her English, so when she directed the question at me I heard the word as “sol”—we’d spent the week speaking both Spanish and English—and said, in reply, “Sonne.”
All posts tagged: Germany
By BEINA XU
I live in the wrong colonial quarter of Berlin.
My neighborhood is called Afrikanisches Viertel, and my flat is on Guinea Street. There’s Kongostraße, Togostraße, Kamerunerstraße, Transvaalstraße, Sansibarstraße, Otawistraße—I could go on, but you could also just Google Germany’s colonial conquest of Africa.
Untitled (Letter to Rügen)
Translated from the German by CRISTINA BURACK
Letter appears below in both English and German.
Translator’s Note: I did not come across this text; rather, it came across me, arriving in my postbox in an orange envelope, complete with wax seal. It was part of a project called LitBrief-19, which was organized last spring by the Literaturhaus Bonn, in Germany, as a way to keep the literary community together despite the pandemic.
Every month, a writer pens an original letter that gets mailed out to subscribers. While I’ve enjoyed every letter, Gunther Geltinger’s text particularly moved me. It was both very specific to his beloved Rügen, a large German island in the Baltic Sea, and yet very universal in its emotions: how it expresses the unique personal relationship people can have with a place that plays an integral role in their identity, how the pandemic has upended our ability to be in such places, and how, despite a rapidly changing world environment, such places as experienced remain formative for life. It is an intimate text, and it’s packed with thoughtfulness, nostalgia, poetry, humor and a reassuring sense of being rooted in a place that is physical, geographical and above all else, emotional.
October XX, 2020
How should I start this letter? Using “Dear Sir,” “Dear Madam,” or “My sweet dear” to address you doesn’t do you justice. You’re not dear, and you’re hardly ever sweet. Your grammatical gender is neutral, but “the island,” die Insel, is feminine, and a friend of mine who recently visited me and expected a lighthouse surrounded by dunes, overlooking the sea in four directions, she even called you a continent. The fields of flint rock bordered by the moors struck her as being from another hemisphere; on the Zicker Mountains she felt as if she were in Scotland; and the Kreptitz Cliff, with its windblown hawthorn bushes and allure for amber seekers, reminded her of a secluded coast in New Zealand, where she’s never been. When I told her about an acquaintance who lives on the southern tip of the island and has never been to Gellort, the northernmost point, where my mobile service provider sends me a text message welcoming me to Sweden, she said: Well, it’s not like you would expect a Tunisian to have seen the Cape of Good Hope. My friend would probably understand why I am writing to you and would advise me to post the letter in a bottle. Someone on some other island, somewhere else in the world, would fish it out of the sea and think it was for them.
The Wall: A Short Story Excerpt
By MERON HADERO
Meron Hadero is a finalist for The Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing.
Original version published in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern Issue 52, finalist for the 2019 Caine Prize for African Writing
When I met Herr Weill, I was a lanky 10-year-old, a fish out of water in –, Iowa, a small college town surrounded by fields in every direction. My family had moved to the US a few weeks earlier from Ethiopia via Berlin, so I knew no English, but was fluent in Amharic and German. I’d speak those sometimes to strangers or just mumble under my breath to say what was on my mind, never getting an answer until the day I met Herr Weill.
By SEAN GILL
Inside Berlin’s Deutsches Historisches Museum, there is a quiet passageway which serves as a spatial juncture between the Nazi era and the Soviet one. There is only one exhibit in this place: an enormous metal globe, encircled by wooden framing and encased in glass. Its lands are tinted municipal yellow-brown, its seas faded cyan. This particular globe may once have belonged to Ribbentrop, Goebbels, or perhaps Hitler himself. This is not a shock; Hitler’s actual desk rests in the preceding room, about forty meters behind you. You have therefore already experienced such a flood of icy association; an anxious dread similar to when you behold a steep precipice, or pass by a policeman toting an automatic weapon.
Ask a Local: Anzhelina Polonskaya, Frankfurt, Germany
With ANZHELINA POLONSKAYA
Your name: Anzhelina Polonskaya
Current city or town: Frankfurt
How long have you lived here: 2 years
Three words to describe the climate: windy in winter
Best time of year to visit?: spring, summer
1) The most striking physical features of this city/town are. . . The skylines and the River Main. Frankfurt was destroyed during the second war, and the skylines give a “fresh air” to the city. Of course, I cannot compare the city to New York or Chicago, but I think the modern architecture makes Frankfurt unique, if we are talking about Germany in general, and fits in general the composition of the city. Everything is around the River Main: holidays, boats, sports, cafes and walkways.
Ask a Local: Christopher Kloeble, Berlin, Germany
With CHRISTOPHER KLOEBLE
Your name: Christopher Kloeble
Current city or town: Berlin
How long have you lived here: 8 years
Review: “When Memory Comes” and “Where Memory Leads”
Books By Saul Friedländer
Reviewed by JENNIFER EPSTEIN
Sunday Night in Mauerpark
By NOOR QASIM
I wake up from my three-hour nap because of a text from my brother.
I’ll be there in five!
After reading some texts and checking Facebook, I summon the strength to pull myself off the mattress, leaving the sheets damp with sweat behind me, and approach the red-framed mirror on the bright yellow wall of our hostel room. The nap had been good and deep but my head feels swollen with the heat and the grogginess of an interrupted sleep cycle. My eye-makeup is slightly smudged, which makes sense considering I’d applied it five minutes before I passed out. It didn’t have time to dry.
By GEOFF KRONIK
I was in Hamburg for a language course, and all week the syntactical floodwaters of German grammar had been rising. By Thursday night I was drowning in homework and would need Friday morning, before my afternoon class, to stay afloat.
Then the friend I was staying with, a German lawyer, suggested I join him in court the next morning. I could attend a session with him, see the German system, meet a German judge. An appealing prospect that alas would leave no time for homework.