I read Jan Böttcher's Nachglühen a little while ago and was incredibly impressed. So when I saw he was reading round the corner from me, I managed to forgo the sofa for one night and actually leave the house.
Unfortunately, it was the hottest day of the year here yesterday, and almost everyone else in Berlin had better things to do than go to a reading. So the atmosphere was strangely intimate, with just a huddle of people gathered under the whirling fans in the Brecht-Haus. But it's a lovely venue in the building where Brecht once lived, with an Austrian restaurant in the cellar. Incidentally, I used to know the trainee chef there, and he told me it was a late-night hangout for the pimps from nearby Oranienburger Straße, at least at the time. What would BB have said to that, I wonder?
There were no obvious pimps in the audience last night, though, only a bit of a know-it-all on the subject of Lower Saxony. Jan Böttcher played two of his folk-y songs that I still don't like much, and read two extracts from the novel, which reminded me again of just how good it is. He's a good performer, seeking eye contact and gesturing as he read, and again I was fascinated by how carefully weighed up every choice of word seems.
The talk with the critic Jörg Magenau centred on how he managed to write a book set in the GDR, although he comes from the West. I suppose you have to talk about something at these events, but it strikes me as a bit of a stupid question that critics often spend too much time on. How can a man write from a woman's point of view? How can a contemporary German writer set a book in medieval France? How can a writer who grew up in the West put himself into the mind of a suicide bomber? Research and imagination, that's how. Which was pretty much what Jan Böttcher answered too, only slightly more eloquently.
I left the venue and walked home, enjoying the last traces of a beautiful sunset. All the talk of taciturn north Germans prompted me to buy a Jever on the way, which I drank on the balcony as I thanked my lucky stars that I live in Berlin and not a village on the River Elbe.