Moi, Gabrielle, historienne #WritersWednesday

I wrote this back in 2014 as I was working on the beginning of the novel still titled “The Page”. This work carried on over the following five years, and should have been completed here in Berlin, but was not. Some 40,000 words later, it lays still, unfinished and unedited. Should I take another look? There are so many inconsistencies, and plenty of confusion about characters. In this post, one of them, the historian Gabrielle, who, at the time, was central to the story, accuses the author, and other character, Julian, of being an amiable fool, and a fraud. Indeed it felt like a personal accusation.

I then moved on to write “Viktoria Park”, inspired by Berlin, and events further East that are still unravelling today. “Francis’ story” should have followed but was abandoned quickly, as I found myself under increasing pressure from a variety of sources of inspiration. The bulk of my production has been, from then on, short stories, and even flash fiction. I am pondering now what my writing priorities should be.

Sisyphe sur le Rivage

A la fenêtreJ’ai donc choisi ces colonnes pour m’exprimer, plutôt que le blogue de notre auteur. Ce n’est pas que je me méfie de cet homme charmant, mais, ici, je me sens plus libre. Mais, d’abord, permettez-moi de me présenter.

Je m’appelle Gabrielle, qui est le nom qui, je crois, autant qu’on puisse s’assurer d’une ressemblance à telles distances, est le plus proche de mon vrai nom, dans une langue encore peu parlée dans votre monde. Je suis historienne, enfin, l’une de plusieurs spécialistes, dans cette partie de votre galaxie. Mon secteur particulier, ou, comme il est peut-être plus précis, mon intérêt propre, c’est l’histoire du vingtième siècle. À ce titre je suis restée dans votre voisinage, disons, pendant quelques années. Mais, me direz-vous, pourquoi ne pas nous dire les faits tels quels sont? Eh bien voilà: je suis arrivée chez vous un peu avant la guerre de 1870 entre la France…

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Partir?

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How to leave the city? Setting aside the why (perhaps one day?) how is the question. Maybe the correct answer is: we don’t, ever, we may be elsewhere, but our minds and hearts stay here. Maybe we’ll reminisce, as Frederick writing to Voltaire, much, much later (in fact many wars and forty years later) about Rheinsberg: I had the happiest years of my life there… It is impossible to forget anything: the tree-lined streets, deserted on Sundays, the granit monuments that remind us of the terrible events, the canals, the lakes, the sand, the Spätis opened all night, the parks, the crows… The little markets, the narrow lanes, a city from where one can travel, on an old bike, away from traffic, and lose oneself in deep forests…

We will long for the museums, the concerts, the sheer grandeur of those avenues, history always present, without fuss, without pretense. In many ways we won’t leave, even if, three months from now, there will not remain more than a shadow of our presence here, perhaps a stolen bike in some flee-market.

On the streets #Berlin #January

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Still remnants of the past Sylvester

and dead Christmas trees

litter the streets,

grey the walls,

sad the dogs,

only the crows find cause to rejoice.

Sparrows sing, in the cold bushes.

The city, lost in a dream,

lets the clowns speak, 

ignores the lies:

she’s heard many others.

Yet Spring will come,

and the Sun will shine again on Mauerweg.

 

Image source

Being there, or here? #fivewords

Weekly Writing Prompt #177

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leaf, home, alter, light, front

There, she knew well, it was her home, her friends, where she’d met him. Here, was another leaf, both of them now almost past the light, an alter-life she did not understand, even feared a little, however familiar she was with the language, the everyday words. Indeed this was different, in a way she had not expected. She did not know where to be, there was her past, and much happiness, here was the unknown, only clouds in front of her. But him, did he know?

Image: ©2019 Mark Fernyhough, The Berlin Architecture Series, Kaltblut Magazine

Am Nordufer

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Our paths crossed, again, as I was walking along the canal on a silent Sunday morning of mid November. The temperature had dropped overnight but was not yet at freezing point. The little man greeted me with a toothy smile, to which I politely responded. I knew of him for one of the multitude of minor demons that populate this city, largely innocuous, albeit one couldn’t tell for certain. We had met before, and I was a little intrigued to see him here, of all places, a hardly popular meeting place, squeezed between the industrial area east of the canal, and the deserted streets bordering the edge of the kiez.

“Are you enjoying the city at its quietest?” he enquired cheerfully. 

“Indeed, most adults are having brunch, or considering it, and the younger are probably still fast asleep after a night on the town!” I replied, half absent minded about the question. 

“You are right, this is a good time to enjoy the city, and forgotten places such as this… Or indeed our many beautiful cemeteries…”

I was surprised. I had taken an interest in the many small cemeteries to be found in all neighbourhoods, in the beautiful trees often planted there, and in some of the most intriguing old graves. But how would he have known of my interest? I decided silence was best.

“Have you been to the one on Turner road? The grounds there are beautifully kept…”

The street was on my way to the school, and I walked there twice a week during term. How did he know, or was it just a coincidence? In the summer I had stopped there a couple of times to look at the small stones of the soldiers’ grave in one corner of the cemetery, left of the entrance. Most civilian cemeteries in the city have a military corner, with graves from the two world wars, or their aftermath. 

It was time to counter-attack.

“Of course you know all these places of old, don’t you?” I said rather abruptly. “After all, you and your colleagues have not much else to do than visit, time and again?” He did not appear shocked by my statement. His smile was just a little more of a rictus, but he corrected himself quickly.

“We… I am busier than you seem to think, Herr Dupuis. We contribute much to the city’s knowledge of itself. Sometime the authorities don’t even notice, for example, the interest that someone like you, a valuable visitor, shows for these things, old streets, old churches, isolated parks… In fact, Herr Dupuis, by now you know more about it than many of its (younger) inhabitants!”

We were walking in the direction of the bridge and I was mulling over my companion’s story. Contributing to the city’s knowledge of itself? What did he mean by that? But, again, he was changing the subject.

“I see you wrote again about an interview with the one you call the “good doctor”… An intriguing name, from someone of your persuasion, I mean political persuasion!” I was lost. What could he possibly know about my political views? And how could he know about my writing?

The “good doctor”? Was this creature getting too personal? I was tempted to give him a shove toward  the water. But he continued.

“I enjoyed reading that interview. You understand a lot about our city Herr Dupuis. I think you are… transmuting, may I say, into one of us. But one of the old guard, if you know what I mean…” I did not and was getting somewhat annoyed by the turn of the conversation.

He must have sensed this.

“Ha… It’s getting late for me, and I must not take advantage of your kindness, Herr Dupuis. Einen schönen Sonntag noch! Au revoir maintenant!” He’d already disappeared. 

I resumed my walk. There were a few joggers around, and the odd dog walker. I had written about the interview on my blog, so that creature must have read it. I was being read, observed, I was the object of “their” attention. What did they report to their boss?

Picture: das Nordufer, weddingweiser.wordpress.com

Looking back… #Iamwriting

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Last winter, there was ice on the windows… Perhaps, now, we miss that cold edge to the air?

The long walks along the river, the parcs, the lakes. A cold Sekt on a bench, long rides in the vibrating forests, the discovery of ancient sites, the monuments to deep history…

The storm. Each day counted, a boat trip on the lake, an hour in the museum, Luther, Sans Souci… Ruinenberg…

Yes, some short stories, but the novel is still beached, going nowhere. Does it matter?

No, it was a good year. Each day counted, 1937, a look into a recent past, and, wrapped in mist, a further away time: what ghosts roam in those older streets?

Discoveries: characters to make alive, tales to tell, dreams to repeat.

Inspiration: each new dawn, nature fighting back, art… The dark Muse.

Books? Turing, Wittgenstein, The Plot Against America, Silk Roads, Musil…

We are grateful for every morning, in the City of Faust: a Moveable Feast…

Photo: Air-raid shelter in Berlin at the Reinhardtstraße. At the present it is used as a private museum for contemporary art of art collector Christian Boros. On the top of the shelter is a reproduction of the Barcelona-Pavillion.

By Times – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3950214

 

Neophyte #thedailypost

Neophyte

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The streets are empty, and rain starts falling. Some windows are lit, high up the tall buildings. Fallen leaves fly in the wind. Slowly he begins to hear the voices of the city. He has so much to learn: the geography of those unknown spaces, where the wall once stood, the secret boundaries, what was once the East, what is still the West, the ancient churchyards, the parks, the statues.

He listens to the voices, far away. He walks, he writes, he speaks to her. She says: “you have to forget what you learnt: this is different, you are on the other side of a mirror, you have to start again, and you cannot guess…”

“Suspicious, but still benign…”

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When they left the S-Bahn station a thin drizzle was falling on the deserted sidewalks of Wedding. It was about 1:30 in the morning, there was hardly any traffic, dawn was still some hours away. They were tired of carrying their luggage: it had been a long journey, all the way from the other side of the other capital… But home was now very close!

On the plane they had celebrated with a half-bottle of half-cooled champagne, just happy to have made it, through the grid-locked roads, the late and overflowing trains, the idiotic obstacle course through duty-free (!) at the airport.

As usual, they felt happy to be back, under a sky that meant, for them, peace and love.

And then there was that diagnosis: something not right, but not so wrong that they should worry, for now. They were not going to, as they had long learnt that being suspicious was an attribute of free people. And so it went for these cells inside him, and their mysterious behaviour.

As she opened the door, they kissed. This was not their last trip.

Picture: ancient bell, Invaliden Friedhof, Berlin Mitte, ©2017 Honoré Dupuis