In the December 28, 2018 edition of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Esther Kinsky, acclaimed author of River and Hain, chose A Lesser Day as her favorite book of 2018:
“In A Lesser Day (German edition: Wie viele Tage, Droschl 2018), Andrea Scrima addresses, with poetic intensity, alienation and non-belonging as a state of mind in a life lived between two locations toward the end of the twentieth century. The first-person narrator—an artist—was born in New York and lives in Berlin; occasionally, she returns home to her native city. Without giving rise to an hierarchy of impressions, the narrator records everyday life between the present and a remembered past in miniatures that brim with sensory input. Everything is equally important, like the components in a mosaic. The resulting whole, both subtle and haunting, is made up of fragments of fragile places. The density of moods is remarkable; it allows the weather, light, smells, and colors to become physically alive.”
— Esther Kinsky
German-speaking friends! Tune in Sunday at 1:30 p.m. on “Zwischentöne”:
Growing up in New York, moving to Berlin, becoming an artist and giving it all up to write. An hour-and-a-half program with the incomparable Joachim Scholl. Featuring the music of Christian von der Goltz.
Read the full article here in German language.
“Das Besondere und das Wunderbare an diesem Roman ist, dass es Scrima mit dem Ausdrucksmittel der Sprache gelungen ist, uns die Funktionsweise des Erinnerungsprozesses wirklich erfahrbar und erlebbar zu machen. Denn anstatt eines sinnvoll geordneten und strukturierten Narrativs präsentiert sie uns mit Wie viele Tage eine Textkomposition, die ebenso wenig ordnet und sinnvoll kategorisiert, wie unser Gedächtnis, wenn es sich der Gegenwart enthebt, um sich vergangenen Erlebnissen zuzuwenden. Unsere Erinnerungen sind sprunghaft, sie schwimmen von einem Bild zum nächsten. Und von Bedeutung sind meist die einfachen Dinge: die Möbelstücke, mit denen wir eine bestimmte Phase unseres Lebens assoziieren, die Erinnerung an unser Gefühl, dass wir gerne all unseren Besitz an einem Ort beisammen hätten, damit wir uns selbst nicht mehr wie ständig auf der Reise zu fühlen. Die Weltgeschichte erscheint in dem Leben des Einzelnen meist nur am Horizont, während es unser Leben in den eigenen vier Wänden und unsere Wahrnehmung der direkten Umgebung ist, das unser Sein bestimmt und beeinflusst. Für all dies steht dieser lyrische Roman, der durch den Einfluss der bildenden Kunst dahingehend auf wunderbare und einmalige Weise befruchtet wird, dass kraft der Sprache tatsächlich visuelle Bilder vor unserem geistigen Auge entstehen.”
“The remarkable and wondrous thing about this novel is that Scrima has succeeded in using the expressive means of language to enable us to experience, at close hand, the ways in which the process of remembering actually functions. Instead of a meaningfully structured narrative, A Lesser Day presents us with a text composition that orders and categorizes as seldom as our memory when it leaves the present tense to attend to past experience. Our recollections are skittish; they jump from one image to another. And it’s usually the simplest things that wind up taking on importance: pieces of furniture we associate with a certain phase of our lives; the memory of having longed to have all our possessions in one place at last, to stop feeling as though we were constantly on the road. In this individual’s life, world history generally makes an appearance at a distance, while it’s the lives we lead within our own four walls and our perception of our immediate surroundings that shape and determine our existence. This lyrical novel, enriched in a unique and wonderful way by the influence of art, stands for all this; indeed, the power of language gives rise to visual images that rise up before the mind’s eye.”
File under Spoken vs. Written:
My wonderful editor at Literaturverlag Droschl, Christopher Heil, interviewed me about my book, A Lesser Day (Wie viele Tage). Actually, we were really just trying to prepare for a reading at the Leipzig Book Fair this past March, and when we saw that we’d written I don’t know how many pages of questions and answers, we realized that, up on stage, it would all be useless to us and that we’d have to wing it. Why don’t we turn this into a written interview, I asked. OK, he answered — and here it is, translated into English on 3QuarksDaily.
Read the full review here.
Andrea Scrima’s brilliant debut novel, A Lesser Day (Spuyten Duyvil), creates a realistic psychological portrait of an artist’s life (…). The narrator and the reader are haunted by the unseen, the unspoken, the uncaptured, the unconscious forgotten details lurking in the vivid portraits of the artist’s memory. (…) A delicious unease slowly builds through the pages, suggesting that in every described detail there is a hidden meaning—a meaning often hidden even to the narrator. The fact that the narrator can remember so many minor details and the fact that even such a reliable, careful memory could be wanting is as terrifying to the reader as it is to the narrator. One of the delicate disturbances of the novel is the sense that if one’s memory can’t be fully trusted, no one can be trusted, even the self. (…) In a sense, each short chapter is like snapshot, the snapshots the narrator takes with the camera in her hand and the camera in her mind, wanting to capture some specific detail of each and every day—even the “lesser days,” when the washed-out details are so challenging to capture that even the most carefully framed photographs are unlikely to develop a vibrant image.
– Aimee Parkison
Yesterday I had the pleasure of reading from “Wie viele Tage” in the Orangerie at the 38th Erlanger Poetenfest in Erlangen. Moderation by the wonderful Verena Auffermann.
I had the pleasure of talking again to Brainard Carey of the Praxis Center for Aesthetic Studies—you can hear the full interview here at Yale Radio. We talk about writing and art, my book A Lesser Day, memory, place, becoming an artist in post-gentrification New York and Berlin, the critical distance of a foreigner, Joseph Beuys and his performance I Like America and America Likes Me, Sophie Calle’s The Detachment, an essay I wrote for The Millions, and more — and I read from two sections of A Lesser Day.
How to go back in time; one would have to subtract everything that has come after, shed the skins that have accumulated since: peel them off one by one and forget them. To undo all that has occurred, to have found oneself in none of these situations, to lose entire parts of oneself; to forget. To disappear, to undo oneself. And when my mind carries me back, it is as another.