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Articles tagged "Berlin"

No Light in the Windows

Christmas was a weary old man when he entered the city. Puffy-eyed and heavy-legged, he dragged himself along, from street to street, from flat to flat. Our door must have been the last one on a long list, because when he finally got here, I slept through the presents and was comatose long before the oohing and aahing had faded away. There was nothing worth staying up for. I didn’t care about any of our relatives and because Dad wasn’t living here any more, half of them stayed...

from “A Garden in the North”

Dr. Heidegger, the adjunct lecturer, lived in a rented room on a back courtyard off the Friedrichstrasse, above a brothel, and one can say that he kept an open house. At the age of seventeen, with a high-school diploma in his pocket, Heidegger had fled the parental spinning mill in a valley in the Swabian Alps with only two goals in mind: to exchange that provincial fustiness for the big city, and to learn languages. First, however, he had to get himself exempted from military service...

Selam Berlin

Hi. My name is Hasan Kazan. In Berlin some people call me Hansi though my parents gave me the name Hasan Selim Khan. Oh yeah, my parents . . . They left Istanbul years ago and moved to West Berlin, the Kreuzberg district. That's where I was born. My parents believed in the West. To them, it meant progress, technology, and jobs. But as my brother Ediz and I grew up and actually started to come into contact with Western values, morals, and schools, my parents changed their minds....

Käte Frankenthal, an Activist Physician

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A Hard-boiled Story

He'd loused it up, that was for sure! As head of security he'd been in charge of the deal. The fact that the Russians' lead containers held not plutonium but a scribbled note saying, "Kiss my ass! You Nazi Hitlers are all as dumb as shit!" along with two chopped-off pig's balls was neither here nor there. After all, his own men's cases had contained toilet paper instead of cash. The entire deal had been a joke, although a joke with a deadly punchline for two of the...

German Dolls

"German Dolls" takes Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935) to Berlin. It is a text about memories--false and inaccurate, as memories always are--and how they interfere with the places we inhabit, the places we best know by getting lost in them (in the sense of choosing to vanish into them). Pessoa grew up in Durban and wrote his first poems in English. Apart from two trips from Portugal to South Africa, he rarely traveled, and so far as I know was never in Berlin. But his invention...

Rumors

Toward the end of the twentieth century, rumors about the cities spread. Some people spoke of their demise, others of a strange rebirth from out of the rubble. Clandestine groups would whisper secrets about cities that were still inhabitable, where it was possible to walk, see a bird, explore a museum, or take in the color of the sky. But places like that were few and far between. Gradually, people started talking about Berlin. Not in public, in newspapers, or in social gatherings. The...

An Interview with Wladimir Kaminer

Boris Fishman interviewed Wladimir Kaminer September 3, 2003. Boris Fishman: Did you start writing before emigrating to Germany? What did you do in the Soviet Union? Wladimir Kaminer: In the Soviet Union, I graduated from music school, with a concentration in music for theatre and television. I worked for a year, then went into the army, got out in 1989. By then, perestroika was in full swing, and many of my colleagues were rushing to take advantage of the increased freedom of...

from The Shadowboxer

For the last week it's been quiet in this side wing of what used to be a fashionable Jewish apartment block in Lehniner Strasse. We're the last two inhabitants, she and I. A wing full of gloomy Berlin rooms, shaped like squares with one corner chopped off, rooms with three outside walls, practically impossible to heat and the toilet's on the half-landing . . . It is highly improbable that this rundown building would simply be forgotten while all the others are gradually being...

Paris Lost

Our first official German document, which we got at police headquarters on the Alexanderplatz in 1990, was an East German residence permit. We didn't get any closer to our old dream: the right to travel freely. Right on the first page of the document it said: On departure from the German Democratic Republic, this permit must be surrendered to the appropriate civic authorities, or to the border control. Valid until 8/30/2000. We didn't have a big trip planned at first; back then,...

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