day 106: circle of candles
Yesterday I ventured out of the house with a plan. I wanted to do something that I used to do when I was a student in Düsseldorf. Every now and then I would go to my favourite bookshop, the Sternverlag, buy a book and sit with it in the next café reading the first 20-50 pages sipping a coffee. That bookshop is just fantastic, it’s really big and where ever you wander you will find a book worth picking up, even in the self-help section. Sure enough, I still haven’t located a comparable bookshop in Berlin and, no, I (sadly) don’t drink coffee anymore, but there is a bookshop not so far from here across from the court house on Turmstraße. And it has a café right next to it.
When I entered the shop I wasn’t sure whether I would find something worth getting, since I don’t like reading books in translation unless I don’t speak the language and contemporary German literature doesn’t really peak my interest. Still, I gave it my best shot, browsed through the big art section and even looked at the little yellow Reclam paperbacks that every German kid knows from school reading. Even when I still went to school I used to pick up a play or a short novella for a few euros thanks to these cheap Reclam paperbacks. I skipped the Fantasy and Science Fiction shelf and unexpectedly found myself in the poetry corner. And there, right in front of me on eye level there was my new book: Mascha Kaléko “Die paar leuchtenden Jahre”.
Back when I left for England a good friend of mine gave me a Mascha Kaléko book to pass the time on lonely evenings in exile. And quite a few evenings I didn’t spend among those “weird Brits” but with some of these German exile verses in bed. There it was, the longing for a long lost home that is for the most part only a longing for lost years (an approximate translation of one of the verses from memory, actually). And back then I didn’t quite understand yet what it means to feel like an outsider in a place that you still somehow consider to be your home. That only came later. Nowadays, as much as I sometimes wish that I could go back, I know that I can’t pick up my old life where I left it. Sometimes you have to leave to be able to come back. And sometimes you can never come back at all.
With my new Kaléko book I sat in the café next door and read the first 50 pages while sipping a fresh mint tea with brown sugar. Maybe that’s what I’ve been doing wrong over the last few months: Instead of just picking up my old habits in a new city, I’ve been trying to “get a plan” of what to do next. Maybe not the way to go.
On the way back home I ran into a protest against domestic violence in front of the Rathaus Tiergarten, i.e. the city hall of the area. Part of it was this circle of candles which these two kids obviously enjoyed very much. I was lucky to catch the scene when it was illuminated by the headlights of a car. The illumination gave the shadows of the candles a somewhat surreal feel.