I’m reading tomorrow evening from the German and English editions of my book Wie viele Tage (Literaturverlag DROSCHL) / A Lesser Day (Spuyten Duyvil Publishing) at Buchlounge Zehlendorf, Clayallee 343, at 8 pm. Here’s a radio broadcast the wonderful Michaela Gericke did with me a week or two ago in the studio for RBB Kulturradio (in German).
And the drawings we talk about in the beginning can be seen here.
“She sees a slip of paper lying on the street at the point of projected convergence, and she picks it up with a feeling that retrieving it is somehow necessary and crucial. That’s a key passage in the book, and it comes close to describing a relationship to meaning, in the way that you’re living in an insentient world, in a world of natural phenomena, man-made phenomena, trains and buses and buildings and streets, yet things are constantly happening that can suddenly seem to be saying something to you. The phrase I use in the book is ‘a language of happenstance […] in the din of occurrence.’ Searching for meaning in these chance occurrences—the superstitious see signs in coincidences, but you could also think of them as constituting a kind of language. But whose, and to what purpose? At the moment I’m reading Esther Kinsky’s Hain, a beautiful book that she’s called a Geländeroman—how would you translate that into English?—it’s not nature writing, but a meditative description of outdoor spaces that could be called wasteland or fallow land, something in between city or village and rural. Basically, the premise of the book—although I’m sure Kinsky’s intentions are more complex—is to reflect consciousness in the process of observation. Kinsky’s narrator studies a landscape that’s transitioning into a kind of poorly defined, semi-urban space—it’s a landscape, but it’s not idyllic: there’ll be a dump somewhere, or something broken down and very ugly. And through this description process, through this unbelievably painstaking, precise description that consists of the quietest, most strikingly poetic details, she reflects and clarifies her thought process, her process of remembering. There’s a passage mid-way in the book in which she actually begins speaking of a grammar in the landscape: a slash, a comma, a sentence answered by another sentence; birds as a flurry of punctuation marks. It’s extraordinary..”
“When a person lives between two continents, two apartments, the transience of things becomes even more urgent. It’s a question that seems to haunt Andrea Scrima. Again and again, the objects that surround her are brought into sharp focus: objects that need to be packed, stored, and transported in moving boxes; objects the sheer force of human presence suffuses with meaning. Incessantly, the self attempts to catch hold of individual situations and moments in time, zooms in on them with an almost uncanny precision of perception to salvage them from the obscurity of the past and the unarticulated and to shed light on them. Not glaringly, but tenuously, with caution.”
It’s not we who remember places; it’s they that remember us. They’re the ones that no longer let go, and sometimes we can retrieve them in the crypt of memories—as Andrea Scrima has done in her sensitively written novel “Wie Viele Tage”.
Nearly every section […] begins with an address: Bedford Avenue, Kent Avenue, Ninth Street, Eisenbahnstrasse, Fidicinstrasse. These are the streets where the artist and writer lived in the eighties and nineties; here are the apartments where recollections of times, emotions, states of mind have embedded themselves. And even if the locations and faces are in danger of disappearing, even if they sink a bit deeper each year into the memory crypt, some part of the self nonetheless remains. We don’t just remember places. We seem, in a kind of magical thinking, to inscribe ourselves into these places. They are the ones that no longer let go.
— Ulrich Rüdenauer, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 3. Mai 2018