It’s finished: city-lit BERLIN has got its final shape. All the reading and selection is done. It’s all put together, and it’s just a case of waiting for the permissions to come in. And I feel sort of … bereft. After months of living in Berlin in my head, I’m leaving that remarkable and haunting city.
My mother tells me that even as a child, I used to get very low once any kind of exam was over. And I certainly remember the odd kind of depression I fell into after finals at uni. I thought I’d grown out of all that, but having to leave Berlin and all those wonderful writers through whose eyes I have experienced the city anew.
I’ve wandered its streets in the snow in the delightful company of Dutch author Cees Nooteboom (All Souls’ Day). I’ve travelled the U-Bahn with American Anna Winger (This Must Be The Place), been angry and scared reading Anna Funder’s Stasiland and have laughed my socks off at Thomas Brussig’s wonderfully satirical fantasy (?) of how the Berlin Wall was really breached on that November night in 1989 (yes, it’s the 20th anniversary already!). I could go on and on. Maybe next time I’ll post the whole contents list …
Working on the Berlin volume has been made more exciting by the fact that I’ve had a Berlin-based co-editor, the wonderful translator Katy Derbyshire, finding some great new German writing to be translated in city-lit BERLIN for the first time (and we acknowledge help from the London Goethe Institute in making this possible).
Reading extracts from these newly translated works makes me realise just how much we might be missing if the whole book never makes it into English. (Thank you, Katy.) WE NEED TO BUY AND READ MORE TRANSLATED FICTION. That way the cash-strapped publishing industry will see there is a market and might be prepared to give us more of the high-quality European writing we should have access to, rather than endless celebrity biogs.
Meanwhile, I will console myself for having to leave Berlin by lingering over the superb pictures in the vast Taschen book of Berlin photos my mother gave me for my birthday. Will it cheer me up, or make me ever more blue? There’s one consolation: the next stop is Amsterdam …
city-lit Berlin, £8.99 paperback, is published by Oxygen Books on November 5