Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Berlin, Expats and Book Nights

Berlin. It's a pretty great place to live. Many people seem to have discovered this, and come and stay for a while. Take Amelia Atlas, for example, who writes about Berlin novels in n+1 as if she were an expert on the place. A bit of poking about on the internet reveals she spent a year here. No doubt a year with a great deal of leisure time, judging by her pertinent comments on expats in the city, but still - a year isn't terribly long to get to know a place.

I personally find all these pronouncements on the nature of Berlin a little phoney, no matter who makes them. You know, a city on the cusp of something or other, wearing some crap on its sleeve, eternally insert-portentous-adjective-here. I know, because I've done it myself. What these sweeping statements ignore is the fact that shitloads of people live here, all caught up in their own lives. So some of them like to hang out at exhibition openings, while others prefer to spend their evenings on their balconies or maybe at the pub. Or watching telly. Because for every hip expat in Prenzlauer Berg (that's two words, guys), there are about 5000 bog-standard ordinary people out there just working in offices or on the dole or, I don't know, running the country or something.

So that expat perspective, as Atlas does in all fairness admit in her piece, is pretty warped. It really isn't the case for non-expats that "everybody you meet is either a graphic designer or a DJ," honestly. And yes, I know I'm not German either and I'm verging on racism here, or at the very least snobbism. But from my perspective as someone who has at least lived here for a long time, I am duty bound to look down my nose at these naive arrivistes. It makes me feel better about not leading a life of non-stop glamour and disco dancing or whatever they do, OK?

So to assume my secret Norman Tebbit persona, I have one piece of advice for anyone caught in the trap of only ever meeting graphic designers: Learn the language. Those few years of studious fervour will pay off. Because then you can go to literary events.

Thursday, for instance, sees the modestly named Berlin Book Night at the Kulturbrauerei. Linked to some congress or other, it's an all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza on ten stages or something, featuring love german books faves Jan Böttcher, Sibylle Lewitscharoff, Terezia Mora, Jan Faktor and a guy who was once nice to me at a party so he can only be good even though I've never read any of his books, Florian Werner. And lots of other writers and musicians.

Note, however, that I am being deliberately vague. That's because I can't go. So there's no point in investigating the line-up too closely as it'd only cause more tears on my pillow. Please, dear organisers of literary events, I have spent many many years learning German and seeing as the entire world revolves around me, you could at least do me the courtesy of organising your literary events on evenings when I don't have problems with childcare. Thank you.

1 comment:

kjd said...

That would be Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays, by the way. Perhaps not the sexiest nights of the week, but that's the way the cookie crumbles.