Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In Berlin, Authors Find Their Voice

Left - The Literaturhaus in Charlottenburg. Mark Simon pic for NYT.

By NICHOLAS KULISH writing in The New York Times
Published: March 29, 2009

ON one of those long December nights in Berlin that make the days feel like no more than mere intermissions, the steady drizzle and slippery cobblestones should have kept anyone even entertaining the notion of stepping outside into such misery at home under a blanket. Yet there they were, a crowd of young people in sneakers and hoodies, over 100 strong to watch the group known as Chaussee der Enthusiasten, or Avenue of the Enthusiasts, give their weekly reading from their latest works.

Some of the pieces were carefully crafted vignettes, others handwritten, free-associating riffs on the day’s headlines, daredevil feats of literature without a net. Two of the young men, Jochen Schmidt and Stephan Zeisig, bantered on stage like an East Berlin version of “A Prairie Home Companion,” concluding every sentence with “wahr?” which means “true,” and is the capstone of most thoughts expressed in Berliner dialect and a challenge rather than a question, you know?

They talked about trying to seem “oppositionell” when they were just coming of age in the days before the Wall fell, not out of conviction but because they had heard that female Stasi agents slept with regime opponents to get at their secrets. The crowd laughed.

“Oh, come on,” heckled a fellow writer and Enthusiast, Kirsten Fuchs, as she waited for her turn. “Last week you were talking about having a crush on your Pioneer leader,” referring to East Germany’s indoctrinating version of a scout leader. The crowd howled. The reading continued.
Just another night out in Berlin.

Full story at NYT

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