Thursday 31 October 2013

Halloween Reading from Sarah Khan

Looking for something to read when you turn the lights down tonight and pretend not to be at home? I have two suggestions, both by the Berlin-based writer Sarah Khan.

If you read in English, go to Asymptote Journal for her piece "Séance with the Stasi", translated by Jane Yager. It's taken from her non-fiction collection Gespenster von Berlin and tells the story of Anne from Magdeburg, a woman with an affinity to ghosts, especially in combination with red wine. I found it made for odd reading because I've actually met Anne and didn't know she styled herself a seer. Whether you're as cynical as I am or not though, it's interesting to read Khan's take on Berlin history.

If you read German and can stomach a little bizarre humour, go to Mikrotext and buy her e-book Der Horrorpilz. It's a story somewhere between fun and horror with a very imaginative plot: the young Victor Gips inherits a bookshop but it seems someone is out to get him - is it the secret service, his most annoying customer, his ex-girlfriend with her hallucinogenic sex aids - or is it something altogether more disturbing? And what's with the odd people who come in to buy the old books stacked up in the back room, whom his uncle advised him never to speak to?

I didn't like reading - being dyslexic, I was too uncertain about the world of letters - but I liked people telling me what they saw in books. There's nothing more vulgar than a cashier commenting on your toothpaste or your magazine the instant you arrive at the till. But it was particularly cruel to refuse a bookseller, even an untrained one like me, a conversation about obscure rare books. Uncle Ludwig's last piece of advice took on a fear-inducing note when he told me: "If you don't stick to it, Victor Gips, then everything will start to decay, and you have no idea how badly it'll end for you." I stuck to it. I took the cash and didn't make clever conversation with these strange people.
Funny, huh? I have to say I enjoyed this story more than the other piece because it stretches the imagination more and seems to take itself less seriously - or perhaps I'm simply too rational for ghost stories. Here, Khan's language is playful and drew me in to the drama, particularly at the more psychedelic moments. And content follows form in a short story that moves from books to electronic screens in a rather terrifying way - the perfect e-book reading matter. Sweet, a little bit silly in a good way, a little bit yucky, and very good fun. 

Happy Halloween!

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