GERMANY Featuring Jeremy Tiang . E.E. Mason Florence Grende . Jim Ruland Robin Wyatt Dunn . Pippa Anais Gaubert
Mystery Issue, March 2013 | 44
www. l ocand a o t t o e me z z o.c o.u k
16 March – 9 June 2013 www.royalacademy.org.uk Friends of the RA go free George Bellows, Stag at Sharkey’s (detail), 1909. Oil on canvas, 92 x 122.6 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Hinman B. Hurlbut Collection. Photo © The Cleveland Museum of Art
Litro Magazine Germany
EDITORIAL Willkommen! At the helm of European policy, champion of the Euro, home of the largest economy in the union, Germany would appear to be one of Europe’s biggest success stories, its eyes fixed firmly on a brighter, stable future for the continent. But the submissions to this month’s issue of Litro would seem to tell a different story. The Germany they describe is haunted by its past. There is an air of uncertainty and at times, tension to each of these pieces—whether born of regret of past actions, fear of unresolved confrontation, or simply the frustration at not being able to leave history behind. In Jeremy Tiang’s Schwellenangst, the central character is advised against visiting the abandoned Nazi resort of Prora on the island of Rügen—“Go to Binz instead,” she is told. “Nicer there. Not so much history.” We walk through the grounds of E.E. Mason’s beautiful desolate Blühende Landschaften, watching a indifferent nature reclaim layers of history—from affluent Berliners to German Wehrmacht to Soviet occupiers—Lenin is left, “abandoned to overlook the empty bramble-filled bowl of the fountain.” Heidelberg, A Beautiful Life, an extract from Florence Grenede’s memoir Out of Silence, tells the story of a family’s post-war success, but one which shrouded in mystery as thick as smoke from the cigarettes, while in Jim Ruland’s The Fall of Berlin (Oil on Canvas) the narrator recounts a tale of despair and deception, the consequences of which reach from the past to the present. Love by the Wall by Robin Wyatt Dunn offers us a slightly different view of Berlin—regrets already forming in the city’s marshy foundations; and Pippa Anais Gaubert’s Berlin Ghost Story finds the narrator literally becoming a ghost—a condition which gives her a way to relieve the pain of reality, but one for which there is, sadly, no cure. Although only the one mentions it explicitly, in many respects, all of this month’s stories are ghost stories. But while Germany may have a haunted past, it's the way these stories confront it, the frisson of tragedy that runs through each of them, that makes them so compelling. Viel Vergnügen… Andrew Lloyd-Jones Editor May 2013
E.E. Mason BLĂœHENDE LANDSCHAFTEN
Florence Grende HEIDELBERG, A BEAUTIFUL LIFE: 1946-1951
Jim Ruland THE FALL OF BERLIN (OIL ON CANVAS)
Robin Wyatt Dunn LOVE BY THE WALL
Pippa Anais Gaubert BERLIN GHOST STORY
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COVER ARTIST Kirstine Roepstorff Kirstine Roepstorff is mainly working with collages and sculptures. The collages are often large using different material like fabrics, photocopies, cuttings, foils, brass, wood and paper. www.kirstineroepstorff.net
EVENTS THIS MONTH BOOKS London Literary Festival Southbank Centre, Belvedere Rd, SE1 8XX 24 May – 4 June A celebration of all things literary with events including a series of lectures on the literary greats and bestselling authors Audrey Niffenegger, James Salter and William Dalrymple discuss their work. Racy German cabaret singer Ute Lemper will also perform Pablo Neruda's love poems.
The Dash Café with English PEN and the PEN Atlas: A literary evening with Oksana Zabuzhko Main Space, Rich Mix, 35 – 47 Bethnal Green Rd London E1 6LA Wed 5 June, 7:30pm, free Controversial Ukranian author Oksana Zabuzhko will discuss her latest historical novel The Museum of Abandoned Secrets with music from Olesya Zdorovetska.
Hammer and Tongue: national slam final C ompetition The Wilton’s, 1 Graces Alley, London , E1 8JB Sat 8 June, All day, £15, £12 concs, £15.50 door A day of competitive wordplay with performance poets from across the UK hoping to be crowned national slam champion. Regional teams compete during the day then, in the evening, 24 slam winners go head-to-head to win the audience’s votes.
Tilt’s London Liming Rich Mix (Bar), 35 – 47 Bethnal Green Rd, London, E1 6LA Thu 13 June 7:30pm, £10, £8 concs Music and spoken word from MOBO award winning saxophonist and rapper Soweto Kinch, Patience Agbabi and poet Mark Gwynne-Jones. The theme for the night is ‘combustification!’, whatever that means.
Gulliver’s Travel Martin Rowson Kings Place, 90 York Way, London, N1 9AG Sun 23 June, 3:30pm, from £9.50 Guardian cartoonist Martin Rowson talks about his new book, an adapted and updated version of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver’s Travels, and explains where it sits in the tradition of satire.
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EXHIBITIONS Central Saint Martins’ degree show - designStudents Central Saint Martins, Granary Building, Granary Square, King’s Cross, London, N1C 4AA Wed 19 June – Sun 23 June, 12pm, free Central Saint Martins has a mind-bogglingly impressive list of alumni—A S Byatt, Lucien Freud and Alexander McQueen, to name just a few. If ever there was a place to grab some ideas from the ‘next big thing’ it’s here.
Holloway Arts Festival Holloway 1 – 8 June Project Adorno have curated this year's festival which hopes to bring the atmosphere of the British seaside to Holloway. Expect music, spoken word, film, comic performance, crafts, theatre and outdoor events.
PowerplantSummer Festival Bishopsgate Institute, 230 Bishopsgate, London, EC2M 4QH 15 June, 8:00pm, £16 A tantalisingly hard to imagine audio-visual extravaganza. Percussionist Joby Burgess, cinematic sound designer Matthew Fairclough and bespoke filmmaker Kathy Hinde blend minimalism and the electronic for their collaboration with composer Gabriel Prokofiev.
Late at the Library: The Party Rules Conference Centre, British Museum Great Russell St, London WC1B 3DG The British Museum goes electro with an evening of live music along the theme of their summer exhibition ‘Propaganda: Power and Persuasion’. Public Service Broadcasting, who experiment with music, information films and wartime broadcasts will perform alongside DJs Alexis, Al and Felix from Hot Chip, Party Police and Olivier award-winner Christopher Green.
Dieter Roth Camden Arts Centre, Arkwright Road, London NW3 6DG 17 May – 14 July Much of German-Swiss artist Dieter Roth’s (1930-98) work was a diary of sorts – a record of his relentless and impassioned engagement with life. This exhibition focuses on his actual diaries where he recorded drawings, photographs and poems in colourful brilliance as well as scribbled 'to do' lists, appointments and addresses.
Germany Issue, May 2013 | 5
TALKS Wagner the Writer: A Study Day ‘Distinguished authorities’ Conference Centre, British Museum, Great Russell St, London WC1B 3DG Sat 8 June, 10:30am, £20/£15 You’ve heard of his operas, now learn all about the German composer’s immense literary output. This study day looks at both his prose essays and poetic texts, with a discussion of the issues arising from translation.
First Thursday Folklore Whitechapel Gallery, 77-82 Whitechapel High Street, London E1 7QX Thu 6 June, 6:30pm, £8/£6 A celebration of eastern European and British interpretations of the folkloric featuring screenings, workshops and a debate on folk culture’s inherent tension with modernity.
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SCHWELLENANGST A chance encounter in a relic of Germany’s past.
by Jeremy Tiang She can just make out the words in the fading sunlight: ‘The only good system is a sound system.’ The concrete façade is marred in patches, but several stretches are still pristine grey, damaged only by the salt air and bird droppings—the vandals defeated by its sheer length. Most of the graffiti is in German, but language here is no badge of authenticity. Everyone Joy has met seems eager to parade their English before her. Even the older residents, the ones who learnt Russian at school, pepper their dialogue with it. ‘Auf meinem To-do List stehen drei Urgent Emails.’ Her own German is rusty, but fine for ordinary conversation. She isn’t bothered about details like gender. It makes no sense, anyway, that ‘sea’ is feminine but ‘ocean’ neutral. She tries both out, looking at the glittering water just visible through a screen of pine trees. ‘Das Meer. Die Ostsee.’ The Baltic, starting here on the Northern German coast and rising in a silver arc along the Scandinavian peninsula. She has been walking for almost an hour, yet there is no sign the building will surprise her. Its uniformity is strength, the sheer brute force of a monolithic bulwark against—what? On the way over, when they stopped for lunch, the fat woman who ran the café tried to talk them out of staying there. ‘Go to Binz instead,’ she insisted. ‘Nicer there. Not so much history.’ Joy tried to explain that history was exactly what they were after, why the school was sending twenty-three of its brightest A-Level candidates on a journey away from anything normal teenagers might find exciting. The Head of Department having decided the way to truly understand a language is to know the past of its speakers, they have gone in search of artefacts. And now, Prora. They arrived that afternoon, but the real exploration will take place tomorrow. Her solo walk around is ostensibly to identify potential problems in their route, but really she wants to experience the building without the distraction of two dozen wellmeaning but unbiddable young people. The daytrippers have long gone, and she has the narrow footpath to herself. Even with the wind, she can hear vague throbbing that resolves into a bass line as she nears a row of broken windows with light behind them. Not the steady glow of normal lamps, but flickers and flashes. Torches? Then she gets closer and it is obvious. As she watches, a tallish red-haired man steps from a window, finding his footing on the ledge, lighting a cigarette. They eye each other. She calls up, EngGermany Issue, May 2013 | 7
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BLÜHENDE LANDSCHAFTEN A visit to a house with many past lives.
by E.E. Mason The path was once asphalt: you can see that straight away, but moss has almost grown over it, the richest green, creeping in from the edges. The ornamental birches of the garden have run wild: underfoot there are scatters of small leaves, as if someone has shaken the shapes from a thousand playing cards, and we're walking over a carpet of golden hearts and spades. From somewhere nearby comes the hollow drone of a woodpecker. Otherwise, nothing. It's been twenty years since the Russian army left here, and no one's used it since. As we struggle along the path to the house, snagging our clothes on thorns and brushing creepers aside, a statue looms to our right. The round head, the high cheekbones, the pointed beard and short neck are unmistakable: Lenin, poor man, is flaking badly, abandoned to overlook the empty bramble-filled bowl of the fountain. He gazes over it into the far distance, straight-backed, his chin raised, ignoring the dilapidation behind him, the broken windows and rustling trees. This whole area was once a Soviet army zone, forbidden to Germans. It's a place of lakes and pine and beech trees, endless forest. The woods around here are full of army barracks, their roofs falling in and teenage graffiti blurring the hammer-and-sickle mosaics by their doors. But this house, a grand mansion with a baroque stone balcony and a wide terrace sweeping up to the front doors, was built for rest cures back in the 20s. It's a short walk from a lake; nearby are the old vacation villas of wealthy Berliners, confiscated by the Nazis, then commandeered by the Soviets, and then abandoned for years. We skirt the house. Basement windows still have their decorative ironwork—a sunburst now scuffed with mould. The jolliness has been sobered with a layer of pale army paint. All over the building, plasterwork is peeling off, and way up on the fourth floor, under the roof, a sapling has taken root. Behind the building, a recessed door leads into a long grassy embankment. The door is a sheet of grey metal, scored and blistered, with a row of solid bolts and hinges. It's halfopen. We hesitate at the entrance to the bunker. "Want to look in?"—"You've got to be joking!" We peer inside. Bare concrete walls; a coffee cup. A sign in Cyrillic, turned upside down. After reunification, Helmut Kohl promised the former GDR "blühende Landschaften"—blossoming landscapes, a vision of the economic abundance the West could bestow. Twenty years later, towns on the eastern side of the country have bled thousands of workers to Munich and Frankfurt and Stuttgart. Local rumours say this 16 | Litro Magazine
house has been bought by developers, who are still wondering what to do with it. A hotel, perhaps. In summer the area's popular with day trippers, and some ideas work, while others inexplicably fail. We turn back, down the overgrown path, back over the golden leaves. Behind us, the ruins, the silence, the eager forest.
Collage by Anna Neidhart After spending seven years in Berlin, E. E. Mason moved to Vancouver to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing. She now lives in London. Her work has appeared in Malahat Review. Germany Issue, May 2013 | 17
Does the idea of living and working in a library for a whole month sound too good to be true? Now in its third year, Gladstone’s Library is looking for four writers to take up residence in 2014, following in the footsteps of the 2013 winners: Sarah Perry, Richard Beard, Peter Jukes, Vanessa Gebbie, Katrina Naomi and Angela Topping. Submissions open from Monday 1st April until Saturday 31st August. For more details and full rules, visit www.gladstoneslibrary.org
Gladstone’s Library is the UK’s only residential library. Based in beautiful north Wales, yet close to major cities, the Library is the perfect place for an affordable getaway for anyone wanting to write, read or seek inspiration. Gladstone’s Library runs a variety of courses and events throughout the year on a wide range of topics.
Creative Writing Book Launches Theology Film
Author Talks History Philosophy Conversation Dinners
For more details, visit www.gladstoneslibrary.org Call 01244 532350 www.gladstoneslibrary.org We’re on Twitter @gladlib | Litro Magazine and18Facebook
HEIDELBERG, A BEAUTIFUL LIFE: 1946-1951 In some families, cigarettes are good for your health.
by Florence Grende How long before they could afford our flat with its glass French doors, gardens, and pond that so enchanted me? Constructed of small stones, about two feet high and perfectly round, swimming in it, outsized goldfish, shimmering with tones ranging from silver and coral to coal and coral. Watching them as a child, I longed to join in, to glide through water aimlessly, secure, in that compact world. “We had a beautiful life in Heidelberg,” my parents’ friend, Sara, says. She, one of the youngest to survive the war in the Polish forests at age fourteen, my only source for family history, now that Mameh and Tateh are both gone. Holocaust survivors, they had all emigrated to American Occupied Heidleberg from Poland. To begin anew. With the German Reichmark worthless and goods scarce, a black market economy thrived. And, according to Sara, so did we. “What were they dealing?” I ask Sara about Tateh, and his partner, her husband, Moishe. “Cigarettes, with cigarettes you could buy anything, With cigarettes I paid for my gall bladder operation.” In fact cigarettes became commodity-money, used by everyone to buy and sell in Germany, from 1945 until 1948, when the Deutshe Mark began to bolster the economy. “They had people who drove them around. My husband had a Mercedes-Benz.” “You had a girl who stayed with you. A nurse.” Four years old at the time, I remember several. For a hungry populace, cigarettes, easily transported, standardized and divisible, bought food. At the time the Allies rationed less than 1000 calories per day. With cigarettes as money one could buy butter, eggs and meat from a farmer, sugar and other staples on the black and gray markets.
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THE FALL OF BERLIN (OIL ON CANVAS) A Nazi art dealer writes to his American captors, May 1945.
by Jim Ruland 02 May 1945 Captain Stoddard: At your request, I have set down a description of my duties from 1933 until the time of my arrest. I have taken the liberty of providing details of a personal nature. Although these may not be of immediate interest to you, I feel they provide a fuller picture of my circumstances. I was born in 1890 in the village of Ferch to the northwest of Potsdam. My father was the village doctor, my mother its nurse. If this association strikes you as quaint, it is because the Deutschland is different now than it was then. All my life I wanted to be an artist. Perhaps it is a common ambition in young men of privilege, but in me it was a comical one for I was entirely without talent. I did, however, possess a fascination for the interior of things, a curiosity that leads to the joys of classification, which are meager and few, but are the wellsprings of discovery. Discipline, obedience, restraint: these were the skills my father strove to cultivate, perhaps because he recognized them as his own. Thus, I learned to shunt the hot wax of my artistic impulses into the mold of the scholar, and the peculiar habits of my youth served me well as a critic and a collector. All things happen for a reason. I joined the National Socialist Party in October of 1933. I want to make it clear that my motive for joining the party was to enhance my career. I was not much interested in politics. The world of art was more than enough for my overzealous imagination. Perhaps you think this irresponsible of me; perhaps you have a right to think that way. I understood, sooner than most I think, that the National Socialist worldview was stridently straightforward, and just as there was room for only one F端hrer, one Reich, and one people, in the world the party foresaw there would be room for just one kind of art. Uninspired depictions of farm life and rural landscapes hold no great sway over me, and one can only look at so many idealized depictions of Teutonic mythology in the neo-classical style before slipping into a kind of intellectual stupor. These were the works the party championed, and it stood to reason they would, in time, become the only works the Reich would deem suitable for viewing. As you well know, 22 | Litro Magazine
LOVE BY THE WALL The life and walls of medieval Berliners.
by Robin Wyatt Dunn The Margraviate of Brandenburg, Berlin, 1248 A.D. They are building a wall in the swamp. “Ever since Albert the Bear this backwater has smelled bad,” said Thomas. “Albert the Bear? Since Pribislav too. It stinks. It has always been stinking,” said Hermann. “What is there to wall off? Nothing.” “You, you were made to dig a ditch. Your ancestors were ditch-diggers, too, not like mine, mine were chiefs.” “And what happened?” “Therein lies a tale,” said Hermann. “I’d rather not hear it,” said Thomas. They are building the wall in the swamp, digging the trench, maintaining the sluices to keep the area dry. Still, water seeps in. The wall will never stand for more than a week, but this is where the Rat wants it. “The Rat can kiss my ass,” said Hermann. “And it will, when you’re in the stocks. You think I’ll guard you then?” “Fraulein, bring us some water!” The Fraulein lingered near the workers, watching the younger men. “Fraulein!” “Get it yourself, lecher!” The men laughed and Hermann’s face grew dark. “So I’ll get it myself,” he muttered. The sky was clear; autumn lingered richly. Hermann eyed the Fraulein as he brought the water dipper to his lips. His wife had left him for a merchant nearly seven years gone now; he felt like a widow. The Fraulein was a Sorb, or anyway her grandfathers had been. The Margraves had brought civilization and the love of Christ to this backwater generations before; some heathens persisted in their worship.
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Toyboy by Sabrina Mueller Germany Issue, May 2013 | 35
BERLIN GHOST STORY Meet the latest ghost in a city full of them
by Pippa Anais Gaubert I never expected to become a ghost but it happened to me all the same. Up until my move to Berlin, I had never had a problem being real apart from the usual vagueness suffered by many people who have spent a lifetime lost in books and thought. I had moved from New York to Berlin by myself, determined to focus on my studies and start a new life. I found myself living in a two room Altbau apartment with wooden floors. My apartment looked onto a cobbled street that had three restaurants, an antique shop, two florists and one community center for homeless old people. All day long, people walked up and down, walking dogs, carrying home shopping, strolling arm in arm. And of course there were a lot of old people, on their way to the center, with bowed heads and hunched backs. The condition began with headaches, hot, screaming, loud, red pain in my head that lasted for hours. The pain had rich texture and subtle nuance; it was a vast world of pain. I went to the doctor’s, but not even that was easy to do for me as I spoke no German and the smallest of practical things in Berlin were challenging for me to do. Where was the doctor’s office? Would they speak English? How did I file for my insurance? Often, after a day of trying to take care of simple tasks, I would find myself coming home and flinging myself down on my bed, unable to work or move, overwhelmed by the searing pain in my head and with the difficulties of everyday life. I presumed the pain was caused by stress, so did the doctor. The doctor said: “Frau Stark, they are migraines. Perhaps you are stressed because of the move to a new country.” I thought perhaps I was finally showing my age. I was only 38 and had never had any sign of growing old, still presenting myself in the world as a young, single woman. But it seemed I was not dealing with change and stress in the way that I had always been able to do up until then. I even wondered if the old age of the people on the street below was contagious, that I had come down with old age in the same way you came down with a bad cold. Another consequence of arriving in Berlin and immediately coming down with those headaches was that I was unsociable; perhaps for the first time ever, I stayed at home and I didn’t meet anyone. Not a soul. I knew there were many ex-pat Americans in the city and I presumed before I arrived that I would meet many. However, I found myself renting an apartment in a very traditional area where there were primarily stiff older Germans who had a reserve I couldn’t even imagine 36 | Litro Magazine
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LITRO | 125 Germany The path was once asphalt: you can see that straight away, but moss has almost grown over it, the richest green, creeping in from the edges. The ornamental birches of the garden have run wild: underfoot there are scatters of small leaves, as if someone has shaken the shapes from a thousand playing cards, and we're walking over a carpet of golden hearts and spades. From somewhere nearby comes the hollow drone of a woodpecker. Otherwise, nothing Bl端hende Landschaften by E. E. Mason Page 16 Cover Art: Chessing with loss by Kirstine Roepstorff www.litro.co.uk ISBN 978-0-9554245-5-7
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Published on May 13, 2013
Litro's theme this month is Germany, with writing from, Jeremy Tiang, E.E. Mason, Florence Grende, Jim Ruland, Robin Wyatt Dunn and Pippa An...