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“In her novel ‘Kreisläufe,’ Scrima achieves everything a book can do, at least with me. Her call to ‘imagine this’ was so intense and worked its way through me to such an extent that, once I finished the book, I sat there somewhat stunned and began leafing back to revisit all the scenes I’d underlined and slip back under that warm blanket.”

Gallus Frei-Tomic on Kreisläufe.

Read it here (in German).

“Es gibt in der Literatur vielleicht nicht viele, die diese Bilder so detailgenau und mit so grosser psychologischer Tiefe nachzeichnen können wie Andrea Scrima.”

— Paul Jandl

“There are, perhaps, not many in the literary field as skilled at evoking these images and with as much precision and psychological depth as Andrea Scrima.”

— Paul Jandl

I’d like to draw your attention to an interview Ally Klein did with me that’s just gone up at Three Quarks Daily. We talk about my new novel, Like Lips, Like Skins, the German edition of which (Kreisläufe, meaning circuits, circulations, circles) was published a few months ago by Literaturverlag Droschl: the strange-seeming discrepancy in titles, which gets to the heart of what the novel is about, the book’s approach to visual imagery and artmaking, and some of its main themes.

One of these themes is trauma: 

The moment a traumatic experience occurs, certain regions of the brain, for instance the frontal lobes, are effectively switched off, while other, older parts of the brain—the regions responsible for the organism’s survival—take over. It’s similar with flashbacks: because our understanding of time lies in the neocortex, we experience a threat from the past as immediate, as though it were happening in the here and now. Cognitive thinking as well as language and memory formation also freeze up; in other words, all of a sudden there’s this huge blind spot ballooning outwards. The senses of a person experiencing a flashback become flooded, they fail to understand that they’re not in danger, they can barely find an explanation for their affective state and physical reactions and afterwards, confused and disoriented, they remember very little.


Another theme is autofiction: 

Writing in the first-person singular means that you can’t analyze a character on a meta-level or from a distance, you have to make them do things, dream, talk, think. This establishes a closer link to the reader. I gave Felice certain elements from my life, I gave her Staten Island and Berlin and some of my art—to an extent, I even lent her my own late parents. This can be misleading, of course, and it can mean that people confuse the character with the author. However, if you start reading the book in an “autofictional” manner, you’d have to become skeptical at the very latest with the character of Micha. I’ve been living in Berlin for 37 years and wanted to write about my adopted home. It was clear to me that my view of Germany would be perceived as that of an outsider, a foreigner, even if I’ve spent my entire adult life here. And so I designed a fictional character to speak in my stead; over time it became increasingly clear to me that this person had to come from the East. Micha was a vehicle for me to lend a face to some of my own observations on a divided Germany and German Reunification. I live between these two cultures, I have both an inside and an outside view of the two countries. As a former inmate in a GDR juvenile detention facility who never really gained a foothold in the West, Micha is also caught between cultures. He’s stuck in this dilemma, but as a German he has the authority to articulate his thoughts about this country. And so suddenly, the figure of Felice could become his counterpart and take on the role of the somewhat clueless American. This is where an attentive reader would have to notice that the first-person narrator can’t be autofictional—because Micha and his observations are of course the author’s thoughts, statements, and hypotheses. In other words: Micha, c’est moi.

The first chapter of Kreisläufe was published in issue 232 of the Austrian literary magazine manuskripte; English-language excerpts have appeared in Trafika Europe, StatORec, and Zyzzyva. The interview has also just appeared in German in issue 234 of manuskripte.

Click here to read.

While I was in Graz, the wonderful Barbara Belic interviewed me for her literary program series on Austrian public radio, “Radio Helsinki.” Listen to me read a few sections from my new novel—two lengthy sections in English and the rest in German—and explain why I’m against the category “autofiction”—why it fails to see so much of the actual art of a book.

Listen here.

xxx

“Ein Kaffeefleck auf dem weißen Herd, Spuren im überfrorenen Schnee: Es sind Alltagsbeobachtungen, aus denen Andrea Scrima in ihrem neuen Roman Poesie schöpft. Präzise, ästhetische Beschreibungen rufen Bilder vor unser inneres Auge, die vertraut sind – und die wir doch so noch nie gesehen haben. Sie werden zu Metaphern für die Zeit, das Kommen und Gehen unserer Erinnerungen.”

— Anne Kohlick, Deutschlandfunk Kultur

Read and listen to the review here (in German language).

Berlin friends! Come to a presentation and reading from the German edition of my second book, Kreisläufe.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021 | 19.30 pm | Brotfabrik

The event is in German language.

Als ich eines regnerischen Morgens die Treppen der U-Bahnstation Oranienburger Straße hinaufsteige und auf dem von Regentropfen gesprenkelten Asphalt vor mir den kupferfarbenen Widerschein der Straßenlaternen sehe, die von der letzten Nacht noch nicht erlöscht sind, erkenne ich plötzlich, wie jede Generation blindlings und unbewusst einem Auftrag unterworfen ist, die Fehler und Schmerzen der Generation vor ihr zu korrigieren, um die Schäden der Zeit wiedergutzumachen.

Im Roman Kreisläufe, das zweite Buch Scrimas, das beim Literaturverlag Droschl erschienen ist, wird mit psychologischer Tiefe eine Familiengeschichte ausgebreitet, die von starken emotionalen Bindungen, aber auch von Schicksalsschlägen erzählt. 

Felice zieht nach West-Berlin der frühen 1980er Jahren und lernt den Journalisten Micha kennen, von den psychischen Folgen seiner Internierung in einem DDR-Jugendwerkhof erfährt sie nur stückweise. Dem Verdrängen von Traumata begegnet Felice auch Jahre später, als sie nach Amerika zurückkehrt und die Tagebücher ihres verstorbenen Vaters findet, die alte, zum Teil vergessene „Büchsen“ der Erinnerung öffnen. Während sie den vertrauten Kurven der väterlichen Handschrift nachspürt und seine eigenwillige Codesprache zu entziffern beginnt, sucht sie in dieser knappen Chronik nach Schlüsseln zu einer Vergangenheit, die Geheimnisse und blinde Flecken in sich birgt. 

Nach der Lesung wird Kathrin Bach ein Gespräch mit der Autorin führen. Am Büchertisch der Buchhandlung Montag werden Exemplare von Kreisläufe zu erwerben sein. 

Weitere Informationen hier.

German friends: “Kreisläufe,” the German edition of my second book “Like Lips, Like Skins,” makes its official appearance today. An essentially untranslatable title has transformed into a word that means circuits, circulations, cycles, in other words contains multiple meanings that fit this novel about family trauma well.

I talked to moderator Frank Schmid at RBB about the book in the program “Der Tag” and you can hear the 15-minute recording online here.

Coming soon from Literaturverlag Droschl: The German edition of Like Lips, Like Skins.

I’ve been co-translating it, we’re happy with the results, but the essentially untranslatable title has transformed into a word that means cycles, circuits, circulations, in other words contains multiple meanings that fit this novel about family trauma well.

Warily, circuitously, I peer back in time; I slip on my coat feeling raw and vulnerable. Sudden insights spark strobe-like in the dark, momentarily illuminating long-ago scenes in chiseled, lightning-etched detail. I shiver and tremble as unanticipated stabs of anxious rumination slice through the everyday like shrapnel. Discovery, when it comes, can be strangely unspectacular. Climbing the subway steps one drizzly morning, emerging onto Oranienburger Strasse as the copper-colored reflection of a streetlamp not yet turned off from the night before flashes in the scattered drops dotting the asphalt before me, I suddenly see it: each generation blindly, unknowingly conscripted in a mission to correct the failures and heartaches of the one preceding it, to undo the damage of time. 

Zaghaft und über Umwege blicke ich in die Vergangenheit. Ich ziehe mir den Mantel über, fühle mich roh und verletzlich. Plötzliche Erkenntnisse leuchten wie ein Scheinwerfer in die Tiefe und erhellen für einen Augenblick längst vergangene Szenen in feinen, blitzartig gestochenen Details. Mich fröstelt, ich bekomme Gänsehaut, wenn Momente ängstlichen Grübelns wie scharfe Pfeile den Alltag durchbohren. Entdeckungen können, wenn sie eintreffen, verblüffend unspektakulär sein. Als ich eines regnerischen Morgens die Treppen der U-Bahnstation Oranienburger Straße hinaufsteige und auf dem von Regentropfen gesprenkelten Asphalt vor mir den kupferfarbenen Widerschein der Straßenlaternen sehe, die von der letzten Nacht noch nicht erlöscht sind, erkenne ich plötzlich, wie jede Generation blindlings und unbewusst einem Auftrag unterworfen ist, die Fehler und Schmerzen der Generation vor ihr zu korrigieren, um die Schäden der Zeit wiedergutzumachen.