Berlin, Life in Berlin, Literature, people, things to do

English bookshops in Neukölln

Guest post by Álvaro Sendra González 

A lot of things have changed in Neukölln in the last five years, for good and bad, and a new international community is growing in the former “problem neighbourhood”. Suddenly those dark streets with empty casinos and betting offices were taken over by cafés, restaurants, vintage-shops, and art galleries, and many locals who couldn’t afford their apartments anymore had to leave.

Books in Neukölln

Part of this new-Neukölln encompasses numerous independent bookshops that have recently opened their doors in an era dominated by multinational companies with “creative“ tax strategies. I’ve always believed that books unite us; bookshops are meeting-places for book lovers, be they newcomers or locals. Because many of us newcomers can read English better than German, I made this list of six English-speaking bookshops in Neukölln:

Berlin Book Nook
This cosy place offers a broad selection of second-hand books, mostly fiction, humanities and art.  Gardening and cooking fans will also find joy here. Children are always welcome, since they have a wide range of books for readers aged 2 and up. Thursdays is the Book Nook Late Night, when they open till 10pm!

Pflügerstraße 63, theberlinbooknook.de

Buchbund
Even though this is a mostly Polish-German bookshop, their English selection is very well curated. Here you’ll find new books, mostly literature, including many translations of sadly overlooked Polish authors, as well as other literature from around the world. Buchbund is a good place to buy philosophy and history books, or to just sit and enjoy a cup of good coffee in the best company (a book).

Sanderstraße 8, buchbund.de

Buchhafen
The newest bookshop in Neukölln is a great destination for international book lovers looking for new books in Turkish, German and English, while enjoying a delicious cup of coffee. They specialise in anglophone literature, and their theory section (philosophy, politics, social sciences, humanities etc) is remarkable. Don’t miss the room in the back, which houses second-hand books.

Okerstraße 1, buchhafen-berlin.de

Curious Fox
Probably the best English bookshop in Neukölln. Their broad selection will satisfy pretty much everyone: fiction, poetry, new and second-hand, graphic novels. Especially remarkable is their crime, sci-fi and fantasy selection, and also their children’s books corner. Like them on Facebook to keep up with the many readings, poetry-evenings, quiz nights and other activities they organize.

Flughafen Str. 22, curiousfoxbooks.com

Pequod Books
This very organised, clean bookshop sells second-hand books in more than 25 different languages, hand-picked by the owner’s taste (actually by me, the author of the list you’re reading. Hi mum!), among them some 1000 books in English: mostly fiction, but also children books, humanities, theory, art… If you’re looking for books written by Paolo Coelho or some football player this might not be your place.

Selchower Straße 33, pequodbooks.de

Topics
And last but not least, the most interesting bookshop of the six: a concept bookshop. Here the books are not organised from A to Z like in other places, but by topic. Instead of shelves, they have boxes, each of which has a topic: drugs, post-modern westerns, conspiracies, love triangles, black literature… A great place to discover new authors.

Weserstraße 166, topics-berlin.com

Advertisements
Berlin, Language, Life in Berlin

Learn German the Berlin Way

I always say there are two types of expats in Berlin; the language people – those who have a real interest in German, have studied it at university or work as translators – and the rest of us.

The rest of us take the occasional course, figure out the language as best we can and muddle along constantly fuddled by the dative and TeKaMoLo. At some point, our learning stops, and this happens at level B2.

B2 is the optimal point at which we can say everything we need to say and use the language in a way that doesn’t involve reading Goethe. Don’t get me wrong, we all feel bad about this, but let’s face it, part of the blame falls on what Mark Twain wrote an entire essay on: The Awful German Language.

But here’s a solution: Krimi in Berlin.

 

Krimi in Berlin v.2 cover

This mini e-book is long enough to challenge B2 German learners, but short and exciting enough to keep you engaged. It is comes with an audio track and explains key phrases, but doesn’t feel textbook tedious.

It starts, as all krimis should, with a dramatic shooting. Blood turns the wooden Berlin floors red. Merc, a hilariously Berlin type – leftie, vegan, hacker – has just been shot. As her friend Hercule takes this in, we pick up some colloquial German phrases, like Trick auf Lager (a trick up one’s sleeve), null Komma nix (very fast) and in der Scheiße sitzen (to be up shit creek without a paddle). These little phrases are useful and fascinating to learn as we figure out how and why Merc was shot, and wonder whether everything will turn out alright in the end.

A snappy, entertaining read.

Krimi in Berlin v.2 is available now on Amazon, and is currently free for a limited time.

art, Berlin, Life in Berlin, theatre

Impro Embassy at Ratibor Theatre

Impro Embassy is a fresh and funny English-language show at Ratibor Theatre that takes place the first Thursday of every month.

Impro Embassy, Ratibor TheatreI went to last Thursday’s performance entitled City Beats. The show featured professional improv actors from different countries – Helena Lindegen (Improvisationsteater, Stockholm), Luisa Schnittert (Die Gorillas, Berlin), David Arcuri (Teatribu, Milan), along with music by Rudy Redl (Die Gorillas, Berlin) and Mike Russell (Black Heritage, Washington D.C) – working together in a unique constellation.

Each player took turns in providing a prompt, either from the audience, a video, song, or a personal tidbit inspired by their city to get the action going. What resulted was a series of entertaining, sometimes surreal, always surprising sketches that took us on a whirlwind journey from a rap performance on the streets of Washington D.C. to breakfast with a suicidal Swedish family.

Mother:     I’ll wake the boys. Larsen! Andersen! Nielsen!
Daughter:  Why did you name us all with surnames? It’s so difficult…

Other sketches included a noirish love story featuring a cat called Snowball, a woman addicted to dressing up as a lizard and scaring Berlin clubbers on their way home in the early hours, and a contemporary movement performance illustrating the life and death of a snowman.

Detective:  I’m looking for this cat.
Woman:     Yes, he is here.
Detective:  That was easier than I thought. This is the first place I have visited.
Woman:     Well, this is the only cat hotel in Poland…It was a good idea.

The actors worked hard to find a tone and sense of narrative in each sketch, aided by the musicians who intuitively provided a score. The creative process was fascinating to watch – affirming the importance of play and rolling with an idea until it turns into a gem – and the evening sparkled.

The most telling piece was one in which each actor spoke only in their native language (Swedish, German and Italian). Through the confusion, they eventually managed to connect with each other and create an engaging, comprehensive story. For me, this is typical Berlin; that on a rainy night in Kreuzberg, people from different places can come together and collaborate despite their differences, to create a special, one-off experience.

The next Impro Embassy entitled Click will be at 20.30, Thursday 5th February 2015 at Ratibor Theater (Cuvrystr. 20a, 10997 Berlin, nearest U-Bahn Schlesisches Tor).

Berlin, Language, Life in Berlin, Literature

Translation Idol

Far better than Pop Idol, Translation Idol is a regular Berlin event in which contestants battle it out to provide the best translation of a German text in English. The winners get…erm, nothing much really, but it’s an illuminating exercise.

The competition is organised by No Mans Land, the magazine of German literature in translation, and the fourth one took place at Dialogue Books  last night. Participants had to translate a particularly challenging section from Verena Rossbacher’s forthcoming novel schlachten. Ein Alphabet der Indizien. (you can see the excerpt at Love German Books)

It’s  interesting to see the multiple ways in which something can be expressed. Take, for example, “aber alle aalglatt und perfekt poliert und wie gut ausgebuttert und dass er abrutscht darauf,”  which was translated in various ways from “but all are as slippery as an eel and perfectly polished and buttered and he slips and slides over them” (Anne Posten), and “but everywhere is slippery, perfectly polished and oiled, so that he skids and falls” (Joseph Given) to “but everyone’s slippery as eels and perfectly polished and like greased piglets and his grip slips” (Bradley Schmidt, who is from Kansas, where they have greased pig contests – if you don’t believe me, you can see one here) and “but they’re a’ like Teflon, all polished tae perfection, they’re like slipp’ry wee sprats, so he slides right off em'” (Hugh Fraser, whose translation into Scottish dialect, strangely, made the most sense to me.)

Or “schnaufenden Projektor,” which was translated to “puffing projector,” “gasping projector,” “snivelling projector,” and, most commonly, “wheezing projector”.

Listening to the same text being read over and over again with slight variations illuminated it from different angles – a more intense version of re-reading a book. In the end, Tom Morrison won the Poet’s Prize (which was chosen by the author, who also attended and gave a reading at the event) and Bradley Schmidt won the Audience Vote.

Most of the participants were regulars and professional translators, and, strangely, men (8 out of the 10 contestants to be precise). Can that be an accurate representation of the male-female ratio in the translating business?!

If you’re interested in the topic, Translating Berlin is an entertaining blog by a (female!) American translator living in the city.