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Wie viele Tage

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

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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.”

Translation:

“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.

 

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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

Rail review

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.

 

Yale Radio

 

 

Das Ich, umkreist wie ein Fremdkörper

Segmente einer Biographie: Andrea Scrima erzählt ein Leben, gebaut aus Erinnerung und Fantasie.

Anton Thuswaldner in Die Furche, Sonderbeilage „Booklet“, April 2018

 

 

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Es geht sprunghaft zu in diesem Buch, das sich auf kleine Segmente einer Biografie konzentriert, die dafür detailgenau festgehalten werden. Chronologie wird aufgehoben, Linearität wird so im Vorfeld unmöglich gemacht. Eine Synchronizität der Ereignisse stellt sich ein, was deren Enthierarchisierung entspricht.  (…) Die Szenen, angesiedelt an konkreten Adressen, die dem Buch Bodenhaftung verschaffen, werden flankiert von kürzeren Passagen reflexiver Gestalt, in denen ein Ich Selbstüberprüfung anstrebt, intensiv Auskunft über eigenes Denken und Fühlen erteilt. Das eigene Ich wird umkreist wie ein Fremdkörper, ein rätselhaftes Ding, das sich nicht recht erschließen lässt. „Ein Blick, mehr nicht, und eine stille Lawine gerät in Bewegung, eine stumme Katastrophe.“ So könnte eine Poetik beginnen, die davon ausgeht, wie aus etwas scheinbar Harmlosem etwas Bedrohliches entsteht. Das Bedrohliche im konkreten Fall rührt daher, dass der Blick auf äußere Anzeichen angewiesen ist, aus denen er ein Ganzes formt. Das Problem – Lob der Fantasie hin, Kritik der Fantasie her – besteht darin, dass sich ein Individuum aus diesen Kürzeln einer Beobachtung nicht definitiv benennen lässt. Wahrheit ist eben nicht so leicht aus der reinen Anschauung zu haben. Gestehen wir es jedem zu, für den anderen Fragment bleiben zu dürfen. Das ist ohnehin schon sehr viel.

 

The book, which consists of short biographical segments described in great detail, skips from scene to scene. Chronology is suspended from the start, all linear continuity rendered impossible. A synchronicity of events crystallizes just as any hierarchy that might arise between them is dissolved; temporal planes merge to create a parallelism of concurrence. (…) The scenes in A Lesser Day take place at concrete addresses that anchor the book in time and place; they are flanked by shorter passages of a more reflective nature in which a self subjects itself to scrutiny, takes immediate stock of its thoughts and feelings, circles around itself like a foreign body, a mysterious thing that doesn’t quite lend itself to comprehension. “A look, nothing more, and a quiet avalanche is set into motion, a wordless disaster.” This could form the departure point of a poetics that explores how something seemingly harmless can transform into something perilous. In concrete terms, the threat derives from the fact that our understanding of things is contingent on external impressions out of which we fashion a larger whole. The problem with this, regardless of however we might praise or criticize fantasy, is that an individual can’t be reconstructed definitively from abbreviated perceptions—it’s not that easy to distill truth from observation. Better to allow ourselves to remain fragmentary to one other—that alone would be considerable.

Radio interview with Joachim Scholl at Deutschlandfunk Kultur

(in German language)

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Scholl: Sie haben, wie ich finde, eine ganz intensive Sprache gefunden. Ich lese mal einen Satz vor, es ist mein Lieblingssatz. Da erklärt die Erzählerin, dass ihr Hund davongelaufen ist. Sie sucht ihn, findet ihn nicht, kommt dann mit einem anderen, der ihr zuläuft, wieder nach Hause. Und dann heißt es, Zitat: “Und so waren wir heimgekehrt mit einem Hund, einem nassen, hungrigen kleinen Hund, der mit einem tiefen, erschöpften Seufzer in meinen Armen zusammenbrach, als ich sein klatschnasses Fell mit dem Handtuch trocknete.” Ich weiß jetzt nicht, ob es daran liegt, dass ich mit jedem Jahr sentimentaler werde, aber ich habe so entzückt und tief geseufzt, als ich diesen Satz sah, diesen wunderschönen Satz. Ich habe mich gefragt, wie haben Sie diese Sprache gefunden?

Scrima: Das kann ich nicht beantworten. Man schreibt nicht mit einer Schreibstrategie im Hinterkopf. Ich glaube, es geht vielmehr darum, dass man versucht, den Zugang zu sich selbst möglichst intensiv zu ermöglichen. Und ich kann das selbst nicht unbedingt sagen, wie ich das gemacht habe. Das ist für jeden anders. Für jedes Buch ist es anders. Ich arbeite noch an einem Roman, der mir das Leben sehr schwer macht.

Scholl: Sprachlich kann ich mir das nicht vorstellen bei Ihnen, Frau Scrima. Vorhin sagten Sie kurz, dass Sie das Buch geschrieben haben, als Sie Ihr Baby gerade hatten. An einer Stelle, glaube ich, zieht das Baby unterm Tisch den Stecker aus dem Computer, und dann schreibt sie “Alles ist verloren”. Da dachte ich, ist das hoffentlich erfunden, oder war das so?

Scrima: Das ist sozusagen die Metapher für die Mutterschaft in den ersten paar Jahren. Wie das Kind einem immer einen Strich durch die Rechnung macht. Das ist in erster Linie auch als Metapher zu verstehen.

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).

Listen here: 

 

And the drawings we talk about in the beginning can be seen here. 

 

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“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.”

— Bettina Schulte, Badische Zeitung, 17. Mai 2018

Read the article here.

 

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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

 

Read the full article here. 

 

Süddeutsche clip

PATTERNS OF EROSION: 

A Conversation with Andrea Scrima on A Lesser Day and the new German edition, Wie viele Tage. 

“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?”

Read the full interview online here

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“A linear narrative is sacrificed in favor of a porous, associative composition that blurs dimensions through its mantra-like ‘but that came later.’ History becomes palpable as a background murmur. The reconstruction of the turbulent decade in which the narrator’s vagabond life takes place is achieved through newspaper clippings, which she appropriates artistically. What remains is an inquiry into the time-space continuum: to what degree is the artist today the person she encounters in the layers of her painting surfaces, her texts, the layers of her past? These are things Andrea Scrima writes about wonderfully in her autobiographically colored debut.”

— Senta Wagner, Buchkultur 177  2/2018

 

 

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