Thursday, 29 October 2009

November Thrills and Spills

November is not quite the cruelest month in Berlin, as February is worse - the dull winter seems to have been going on forever, the pavements are encrusted with grit and brown snow, and since coal heating has gone out of fashion even the comforting smell has all but disappeared. But November's pretty bad as months go - you still feel inclined to shrug off those pre-Christmas displays as humbug, it rains non-stop and there's nothing on the telly.

To counteract this depressing atmosphere, the Germans invented the 9th of November. Or rather, they reinvented it, as it already existed as the date of their last major pogrom in 1938, before murdering Jews was rationalised. Of course commemorating that was kind of a cheerless enterprise, so instead they knocked down the big wall they'd built through the middle of the capital - and Bob's your uncle, a nice new occasion for fireworks and speeches. Not unlike Guy Fawkes' Day, in fact, but without burning effigies of Catholics.

But as the literary industry loves nothing more than an anniversary, we can in fact rejoice along with the Germans at the fall of the Iron Curtain twenty years ago. For November sees a veritable feast of publications marking the date - or just plain taking the opportunity to shower us with German writing while a few more people might be interested than otherwise.

Already out there is gangway #39, with original English pieces and a sprinkling of translations marking twenty years since the Berlin Wall collapsed. Then November's Words Without Borders will be a special on contemporary German writing. no man's land issue #4 should be up there any day now too, our annual extravaganza of fine German writing not strictly marking the anniversary but not dodging the issue either.

And two fantastic books come out in early November, starting with my personal baby City-Lit Berlin - a "wonderful anthology" according to The Guardian. A couple of days later comes Words Without Borders' The Wall in My Head, a collection of writing and art with a slightly broader remit which I'm eagerly awaiting too.

So although it's not quite the right time of year to get snowed in with a book and an attractive member of the opposite sex - at least not in Berlin - you could always plead a rain allergy and barricade the doors for a few days of undisturbed reading.

Update: Should you feel inclined to leave the house after all, there are a good few events coming up too. The no man's land launch (see below) next Tuesday, City-Lit Berlin launches on the 19th in Berlin and the 27th in London - and see trade mag Buchreport for a list of November literary festivals around Germany and Austria.

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