It’s been so long since I’ve posted anything, but I have had so much to do lately that I barely have had time to do my work, let alone anything extra curricular. But as the title would insinuate; I am in Berlin!!! This is the third week of my German Intensive course (out of four) and it is very hard, but I am starting to see very encouraging glimpses of hope in the horizon. It’s been so long since I have studied German grammar, and as those who try to learn it would agree with me, it is not really the easiest language to learn. The course is from 9 am to 3 pm every day (and then there are the Hausaufgaben), so I have little time to see the city – nonetheless, I make it a personal goal to see parts of Berlin every week, even if it is just a cup of coffee in a Kreuzberg café. Like they say, you can’t learn the language if you don’t use it in public (or I say…).
One of the lovely members of Beinglorious was in Berlin at the start of my course (for the umptheenth time :)) and we made a coffee date. She was very kind about my many uhh’s and aaahh’s and eeeeh’s, stuttering and butchering my way through sentences in German (she is German, just to clarify the situation), but I actually think it helped a lot – it’s only when you verbalise what you learn throughout the day in a stuffy classroom that you are aware of what you are saying and in what situation. We came past a second-hand bookshop and of course had to stop a couple of hours, browsing.
There was a lot of good literature in there, and I bought a couple of books, one of which was Ovid’s Love Books. We had a segment of his literature in one of the earliest semesters at uni. From what I can remember I found it very brazen, something I didn’t expect, and I am looking forward to reading it in German.
In other news, I am now the proud owner of my very own e-book reader!! Yessir, bobsky, hubby came to visit me in Berlin with a nice red packaged present containing an e-reader. He of all people can appreciate an affection for electronica, and so he thought it was only suitable, since I had been rambling on and off about e-readers the last 2 years, but never actually owned one, that I got one for myself 🙂 Unfortunately, I don’t have time to read in it so much these days, but I am betting on it being the best 3-hour wait in the terminal and 1-hour flight back home ever! There are already over 500 books on it, so the only trouble I will have is to make up my mind which one to start on… Unfortunately, there is as of yet almost no literature in German on it. Where does one buy German literature for one’s e-reader?
Yesterday I went into town after uni (just to not go straight home and hit the books) and I of course ended up in a bookstore – endresult: 4 books, 2 postcards and a bookmark. Since I have become more aware of the massive (and in many cases, unnescessary) meat consumption, and Jonathan Safran Foer at the International Author’s Stage in Copenhagen made such an impact on me, I had to buy his book – I’ve heard it’s not that rah-rah, but then again, I could be surprised. And of course since I am in Germany I picked up Uwe Tellkamp’s ‘Der Turm’ that was much hypened in literary circles back home. Rafik Schami’s book I bought because I want to get some sort of feel for Germany’s Migrantenliteratur – not a lot of that going on in Denmark, apart from Manu Sareen’s children’s books, and a couple of short stories in the 2007 Anthology of Forfatterskolen, I am having trouble coming up with what else is there, so I am speculating that it really is a blank spot in Danish literature. The last one I bought is Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. It is set in Bush-era and Hurricane Katrina time, and it questions the political and social structure of the US, when a Syrian-American man is arrested and held imprisoned for 23 days without proper legal process in the aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans.
Anywhoo, enough of this, I am going to do some weekend sightseeing: stops along the way include Marga Schöllers Bücherstube, Käthe Kollowitz Museum, Zara (not really a sightseeing/cultural point, but if I come across one, I go into one), Dalí at Potsdamer Platz and, if I have time, a quick stop at the 15. Internationale Berliner Bierfestival on Karl-Marx-Allee.
Hubby and I went shopping the day before yesterday and my feet are still aching after the trip. But now the bookcase is five books and one periodical richer. I don’t know how it is that I am not surgically fixed to the many good second-hand bookstores in Copenhagen, but I must count my lucky stars that I don’t live in the city, otherwise I would spare no expense and make no excuses whenever I walked by one of those homely smelling shops that are lacing the city center. Well, I would probably not go broke, since the last items I bought were a whopping DKK 5,- a piece, but due to this low prize hubby had to entice, scold, command and drag me out of the shop, fingers clawing at every protruding shelf and book in sight.
I am constantly amazed at the volumes and themes that fill these shelves – some are interesting and other’s make you wonder why on earth this made it through printing. On one of the shelves a 20 volume encyclopaedia in beautiful leather binding occupied most of the space with topics spanning from cattle breeding to the Hapsburg family tree. Outdated and almost redundant in these days of online information searches, for sure; but not without its charm and oh, the fragrance! However, on this particular day, I went for the small, but meaningful choices.
The faculty of humanities in Denmark has been under attack on several fronts these last years, one of which has been what the students are, or more importantly are not learning – with no shortage of indignation by various criers who cannot get over the fact that this or that branch of humanities does not know the great insert-name-here. That in combination with the canon of culture that was imposed upon the land some years ago led my eyes towards the little blue book from 1955 with the nice free birds fleeing the cover (ornithologists or twitchers may use the comment field to enlighten us non-bird people as to what sorts these creatures are). Titled “The book of literature”, works are selected, as stated in the introduction, to show the “riches we have in our classic literature” and to make “you into a reader” with works spanning from ballads to the early 1920s. And so Kingo, Johannes Ewald, Oehlenschläger, Grundtvig, H.C. Andersen and Johannes V. Jensen are shoo-in’s for the collection. What is interesting is that it is completely devoid of female participation. Whether it is for lack of trying or for the simple reason that maybe women pre-1920s don’t write, the editor’s do not say. And what exactly their definition of ‘reader’ is, is also not stated. But I am guessing that it is what you become if you read these texts.
Just before I was hauled out of the bookstore I managed to grab onto a periodical that screamed ’80s’ at me. Turned out to be quite an amusing piece of reading called HUG! no. 32, whose theme was “At the mercy of the big city” from 1981. It’s very fascinating to browse through since so much focus to this day is on the city, both architecturally and culturally speaking. There is even a 2-year interdisciplinary uni-education called 4cities that focuses on urban studies using Brussels, Copenhagen, Vienna and Madrid as a backdrop. Back in the periodical, one contribution is focused on the futuristic Copenhagen in the year 2000 with suggestions spanning from banning cars and, of course, a broad wish amongst the younger generation for the founding of the now much scolded and torn-down Youth House (which was realised a year later, in 1982). Then as now Danes’ fascination with Berlin is distinctive, which becomes obvious as I read the periodical. There is a short story and a feature on the city culture of West-Berlin by Carsten Jensen (who is also editor of HUG), a couple of subculture pieces (punk and skinheads) and a translation of Ulla Meinecke’s “Überdosis Großstadt”.
All in all I was quite satisfied with my loot and in the time to come I hope to do much more book(s)hopping in various second-hand bookshops – ironically, in the nearest future this will be done in Berlin 🙂 If you have any good tips on Berlin bookshops I cannot go without seeing do comment.
Other related bookshop posts
Received a new book in the mail today. I have said it before, I will say it again; the mail rules!! (except when it consists of bills and fast food ads). It’s like getting gifts every now and then, especially since I have the memory of a gold-fish, I always forget I’ve ordered something, and when it arrives I all like, ‘huh… heyyyyyy… nice!’
Anyway, the book is an anonymous diary by a woman in Berlin 1945 at the time when the Russian army entered the city. I am promised a brutal chaos of rape, pillage and women yet again getting the raw end of a bad deal.
Can’t wait to sink my teeth into this one, even though I might have to set it on the back burner for a little while and finish my exams first. Since it is in German, it might take a while.