Saturday, 5 February 2011


Berlin is famous for being a bit of a scruffy kind of place. A city where you can venture out to the shops with your pyjamas under your coat and no make-up on, and nobody will look askance. There's a good side to that - there are times when you just really need caffeine and there's no time to take a shower and wash and blow-dry and apply lip gloss. But then there's a bad side as well, which is that when you do want to dress up you tend to stand out like a sore thumb - an utterly gorgeous and glamorous sore thumb, but an injured digit nonetheless.

So I enjoy the occasional foray into distant territory - and on Thursday that was Hamburg! Home of the wondrous festival by the slightly embarrassing name of Ham.Lit. Or as they put it, a concentrated shot of the most exciting young German literature and music right now, on one night and under one roof. Fifteen "young" writers and two sets of music. What better opportunity, I asked myself, to get totally glammed up with my Hamburg girlfriends Isa and the West-Eastern Diva? So there we all were, the belles of the ballroom, only of course we'd forgotten that the place is completely underlit. So our pulchritude went unnoticed.

No matter. For in the dark cavern of a former WWII bunker, we saw some great readings. My personal line-up went like this: Mariana Leky (read beautifully despite a bad back and a rather strenuous moderator), Kathrin Seddig (my absolute highlight; I shall be reading her book Runterkommen), Peggy Mädler (who did very well for what was apparently her first reading, and did rather intrigue me), Hannes Köhler (distracting facial hair, nice piece of writing set in Berlin), and then a guy called Tino Hanekamp. Tino Hanekamp kindly stepped in at the last minute because someone else was ill. And he's also got a book coming out soon.
There are times when I say, "Believe the hype!" This is not one of them. But at least it gave us all something to bitch about afterwards. I'm told Thomas Pletzinger and Jochen Schmidt were excellent too.

Then there was music, of the listen carefully to the lyrics kind. Sadly, I don't like listening carefully to lyrics, so we went somewhere else where people appreciated our fabulous get-up.

Ham.Lit is a great little festival, very tightly organised and with an excellent selection of writers to choose from. If you're interested in emerging German writers, it's a perfect opportunity to get a taste of the latest stuff on offer. But don't worry about what you wear - pyjamas under your coat will do just fine.

No comments: