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

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Berlin, Life in Berlin, Literature

Inkblot Berlin: Berlin Writers Read

This Friday, 29th January, I will be reading at Inkblot Berlin at the English Theatre. Come along…

Inkblot Berlin: Berlin Writers Read

Inkblot Berlin gives you the chance to hear the voices behind the words. Working writers from the city read their drama, poetry and prose.

Formed in the furnace of the writing scene in Berlin, Inkblot seeks to shine a light on what is happening in the writing groups and draughty garrets of this vibrant capital. For this inaugural event we present Mary Kelly, twice published playwright from Dublin, Madhvi Ramani a polymath who writes for children and adults and Ben Maddox, who turns his bitter gaze onto rural life.

Let us tell you our stories.

Inkblot Berlin is taking place at 8pm, Friday 29th January 2016, at the English Theatre Berlin (Fidicinstr. 40, 10965 Berlin).

Berlin, Language, Life in Berlin, Literature

Blind Dates with books in Berlin

If you live in Berlin and you like books, you’ll be as excited as I am about Book Flaneur – a novel way of introducing Berliners to books!

I spoke to Nadia and Piotr, the people behind this new community project, to find out more.

Tell us eberswalder_bookhow Book Flaneur works.

We love to call Bookflaneur the ultimate matchmaker for blind dates with books in Berlin. The idea is simple:

Step 1: We lovingly wrap a book

Step 2: We label it nicely to hint at the genre, feel or plot

Step 3: We map secret pick-up locations via Twitter and Google Maps

Step 4: We drop it off at a local business, bench in a park, U-Bahn station or anywhere else

Step 5: A book lover picks up their date

How did you come up with the idea?

Both of us have a soft spot for books. Nadia likes stocking bookshelves with books from flea markets and Piotr likes giving books away to friends and lovely strangers (we make a good team, don’t we?). So, it’s needless to say that we had an itch to do something with books for a long time.

Initially we were inspired by a small library project somewhere across the pond (Piotr stumbled upon this picture of wrapped books while aimlessly browsing the Internet). A couple of entrepreneurial librarians in Australia came up with a simple idea to recycle books by wrapping them up and giving away to speculating readers. This is how our idea was born.

After that, we tweaked the concept several times and added a little jeopardy: We tweet about future book dates using hashtags and post book excerpts on our website to hint at the genre or plot. We also enrich the book-dating experience with geotagging. In other words, we pin our next book-date location on Google Maps. You are very welcome to check it out on our website.

Are the books in English or German, or both?

The original idea was to send only English-speaking books on blind dates with Berliners. However, having listened to the voice of our little community, we have decided to change this. We no longer discriminate books based on language and we spread our book love in both English and German. (*pssst* Expect to see a German version of our website sometime soon in the chilly autumn months to come.)

blind_date

How many blind dates have you set up so far?

Blind dates with books? Four (and counting) in two weeks of our existence. There are many more to come.

Blind dates with people? None so far, but you never know.

Are there any books on your own shelves that you are wed to, and would never give away?

This might sound quirky but Nadia would never part with her collection of dictionaries  – several rather thick volumes of Oxford English dictionaries and a much more humble collection of German, Russian, Polish and Finnish ones. Whenever she moves to a new place, there is a spot on the shelf ready for a new dictionary filled with words of an unfamiliar language.

Now, Piotr discovered a real gem of a book some time ago and he is certain he will never forget the life lessons this book once taught him. Overwhelmed by the speech of an upbeat and terminally ill professor, Really Achieving your Childhood Dreams, Piotr rummaged through bookstores in his hometown to find his biography. The title of the book is The Last Lecture and the said academic who captivated the world with his cheerful and inspirational take on human life is Randy Pausch.

What do you hope Berliners will gain from the project?

A thrill of anticipation. We would like Berliners to get impatient about books. But, of course, patient enough to get through the week until the next blind date.

In addition, we aspire to mainstream the understanding that books are more than just their covers and can live in an ecosystem in which they have several ‘lives’.

Book Flaneur is a free, non-profit community project. Follow them via Twitter @bookflaneur, like, pin, share, subscribe, and upvote their website to help spread the word. You can also support them by suggesting local businesses and interesting places to drop off books, donating a fiver, books, or giving them a high-five.

art, Berlin, Germany, history, Language, Literature

Book Review: Remembrances of Copper Cream

Remembrances of Copper Cream CoverThis unique little book by Berliner Johannes CS Frank, (illustrations by Felix Scheinberger and translations by Florian Voß, Ron Winkler, Judi Hetzroni and Merav Salomon), combines prose and poetry, words and images, diverse voices and languages (with sections in Hebrew, English and German).

This might sound confusing, but the different elements flow together, washing over the reader to create a visceral experience.

The book is a series of impressions of Israel, evoking the heat and illusions of the desert, the hustle and bustle of Tel Aviv, the people and places of Jerusalem, the violence, the religion, the wall.

The copper cream of the title colours the scraggly ink sketches depicting electricity lines, men of religion and soldiers.

Remembrances of Copper Cream

It’s an interesting collaboration; the author grew up in England and Germany and lives in a city that is also haunted by war and the division of a wall…

Remembrances of Copper Cream (German title: Erinnerungen an Kupfercreme) is out now, published by FIXPOETRY. An exhibition of the art work can be seen at the ACUD Gallery, Veteranenstraße 21, 10119 Berlin-Mitte, until 17th June 2012.

Berlin, Life in Berlin, Literature

Photos from Not In Kansas

Last night’s reading was a success; Cafe Hilde was packed, our audience was rapt from beginning to end, no one threw tomatoes at us, and everyone had a fantastic time…

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Berlin, Life in Berlin, Literature

Not In Kansas: An Evening of Literature in English

This promises to be a good evening: Writers read out a diverse range of literature in English (did I mention I’m organising it?)

Come along!

Visit our Facebook Event Page

Literature

International Literature Festival Berlin

Radio Eins interviews Pankaj Mishra
Radio Eins interviews Pankaj Mishra

The International Literature Festival Berlin is well underway, with lots of interesting events going on around the city. This year there is special focus on the Asia-Pacific, with events covering topics from Reporting from Conflict Zones and Criticism of Islam, to Katherine Mansfield and Rabindranath Tagore.

Participants include Pankaj Mishra (you can listen to the brief interview he gave to Radio Eins here), Louis de Bernières and Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa. There is also a special section of events dedicated to International Children’s and Youth Literature.

On Sunday evening, C.K. Stead talked about what has to be one of my favorite novels My Name was Judas, in which Judas, now an old man living a peaceful life surrounded by his family, tells the story of his time with Jesus.

Priya Basil, C.K. Stead and Friedhelm Ptok at the International Literature Festival Berlin, 2011
Priya Basil, C.K. Stead and Friedhelm Ptok at the International Literature Festival Berlin, 2011

Stead, New Zealand’s foremost literary critic, poet, novelist and writer, revealed that the novel began with a comment he made to his wife whilst writing about Katherine Mansfield, in whose life D.H. Lawrence featured, that trying to write about Lawrence was ‘like writing about God.” After making this utterance, he started thinking about how one would actually write about God. Different problems and solutions occurred to him, and the novel formed in his mind.

Not being a believer himself and having no relation to the characters involved, Stead wondered whether he was the right person to tell this story. He overcame this obstacle by making Judas close in character to himself. Instead of an evil betrayer, Stead’s Judas is an intelligent, skeptical man, who always has his childhood friend Jesus’s best interests at heart.

His portrayal of Jesus is similarly novel – it is almost as if the personality traits of the two characters have been reversed in this re-telling. Jesus is bright, charismatic, manipulative and sometimes fundamentalist. Stead tried to reconcile what he saw as two different Jesuses in the Bible – one loving and the other vengeful – through the application of a time frame, so that Jesus starts out with a message of love and progressively becomes more extreme. Stead further humanises Jesus through the difficult and often comic relationship between him and his mother.

The discussion covered the role of langauge, story-telling and the nature of belief. Stead read from one of the most dramatic sections of the book, which takes place just after the crucifixion, followed by a wonderfully read translation by actor Friedhelm Ptok. He also read a couple of the poems that end each chapter and revealed a little trick that I had failed to notice; every one of the stanzas has thirteen syllables.

Although the book is available in multiple languages, it has not for some reason been translated into German. Despite this, there was a good turnout – about 40 people in a venue that was a little too spacious.

By stark contrast, about a hundred people squeezed into the tiny space at Dialogue Bookshop for Conflict and Writing: How do we tell stories after a crisis? on Monday evening. Granta editor John Freeman chaired the discussion with authors Nam Le , Madeleine Thien and Berlin’s own Priya Basil.

Nam Le read from his award-winning debut short-story collection The Boat, Madeleine Thien from her novel about the Cambodian genocide Dogs at the Perimeter, and Priya Basil from her novel Ishq and Mushq, a love story set against the backdrop of India’s Patition.

The authors talked about their experiences and thoughts relating to writing about conflict, the language of conflict, the role and importance of literature dealing with conflict and of course, 9/11…I can’t reproduce the entire discussion here, but the most interesting part of it for me revolved around Don DeLillo’s thoughts, made years before 9/11, when he said, “I used to think it was possible for a novelist to alter the inner life of the culture. Now bomb-makers and gunmen have taken that territory. They make raids on human consciousness”.

The International Literature Festival Berlin is on until Saturday 17th September 2011.