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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.

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I had the opportunity to read from “Kreisläufe” at the Independent Publishers’ Reading Island at the Frankfurt Book Fair, moderated by my wonderful publisher Annette Knoch. Thank you, Literaturverlag Droschl. I feel very lucky.

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Es sollte möglich sein, so habe ich mir eingeredet, ein paar Tage in der Gegenwart meiner Mutter zu verbringen, ohne der Macht der Vergangenheit zu erliegen. Es ist eine Frage des Willens. Stell dir einen unsichtbaren Kokon um dich herum vor, ein Kraftfeld, hat Micha gesagt und dabei die Finger zu beiden Seiten seines Gesichts zu einem Strahlenkranz auseinandergespreizt, doch ich war nie gut in dieser Art von Übungen. Ich werde zu einem Blitzableiter für genau die Dinge, die ich eigentlich von mir fernhalten sollte. Ich zerre das Kissen unter meiner Wange hervor und drehe es auf die kühle Seite. Obwohl das Gerät leise gestellt ist, kann ich durch die Rigipswände die blechernen Stimmen aus dem Transistorradio hören, das meine Mutter mit ins Bett nimmt, so wie wir früher unserem Hund, damals noch ein Welpe, einen Wecker in ein Handtuch gewickelt unter die Decke legten, damit dieser den Herzschlag seiner Mutter simulierte und ihn in den Schlaf lullte. Sie hat ihren Lieblingssender eingestellt, ein Talkradio-Programm: erregte Stimmen, hektische Stimmen, die von wer weiß woher anrufen, weil sie eine Beschwerde loswerden oder sich für eine Sache einsetzen oder irgendeine verrückte Idee vortragen wollen, die sie fesselt und nicht mehr loslässt.

Ich schaue auf meine Armbanduhr und sehe, dass es früh am Morgen ist. Benommen vom Jetlag setze ich mich auf und versuche mich zu orientieren. Die Dielen über mir knarren; inzwischen gibt es Mieter im Haus, aber als wir hier aufwuchsen – Delphine, Lillie, Alfie und ich –, wohnten oben unsere Großeltern, und der Raum, in dem sich unser Leben abspielte, hatte eine andere Geografie. Als ich vergangene Nacht die Tür zum Flur schloss, blieb meine Hand auf dem Knauf liegen und tastete nach einem Gefühl aus der Zeit, in der die Tür immer offen stand und das Haus noch nicht unterteilt war in Privatwohnungen und einen Flur, den die Mieter nutzten; in der Oben und Unten noch verbunden waren durch eine Treppe, die Alfie und ich auf dem Bauch hinabglitten wie Schlangen. Hier zogen sich Lillie und Delphine zurück, um ungestört telefonieren zu können; sie zerrten am Telefonkabel und hockten sich auf die fünfte Stufe – denn weiter als bis zur fünften Stufe reichte es nicht –, wo sie hinter der Tür Geheimnisse in den Hörer flüsterten. Blockier die Leitung nicht, höre ich meinen Vater sagen, und darin schwang mit, dass jemand versuchen könnte, mit wichtigen Nachrichten durchzukommen, dass jeden Augenblick schlimme Nachrichten eintreffen könnten. 

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— aus Kreisläufe, Literaturverlag Droschl 2021

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At the Frankfurt Book Fair with Annette Knoch, publisher extraordinaire; me; our amazing PR person Henrike Blum; fellow Droschl author and editor of Manuskripte Andreas Unterweger; and the equally amazing Julia Marquardt of Kirchner Kommunikation. Lucky to be in such formidable company and happy to present this book that took so long to write.

“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).

Most of you know I’m not Serbian, but I’m honored to be included in this issue of contemporary European literature titled “Serbian Moments.” It’s nice to see the first chapter of the original English edition of my second book, “Like Lips, Like Skins,” published in this fine magazine of European writing. Thanks, Trafika Europe, and thanks, Andrew Singer, for championing so much important new writing in translation.

You can read the entire chapter here.

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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.

Statorec inaugurated its Corona Issue on April 16, 2020 with an essay by the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Andrea Scrima, titled Corona Report. Returning from Italy at the end of February 2020, just as the first lockdowns went into place, she reflects on the beginnings of the pandemic and on the Bergamo/Valencia soccer game in Milan, the biological bomb that led to the virus’s rapid spread throughout northern Italy. The hallucinatory prose in William Cody Maher’s Double Featurepublished one week later, gropes its way through a labyrinth of internalized fear as human encounters are measured in terms of physical distance. In late April, Statorec editor David Dario Winner’s Daisy Assassin followed, which exposes the uncomfortable barriers of ethnicity, civic cooperation, and racism as experienced by someone going out for what is no longer an ordinary run. In Windows, Beverly Gologorsky’s quiet meditations probe the geography of pandemic isolation, while in Excerpts from Another Love Discourse, taken from a novel-in-progress, Edie Meidav weaves the virus’s sudden appearance into a larger narrative of love and loss. German jazz pianist Christian von der Goltz’s Halted Time listens to what’s behind the eerie silence of the virus’s global spread; Matthew Vollmer reflects on some of the quirkier aspects of lockdown in his kaleidoscopic Quarantine Diary; and Aimee Parkison’s dreamlike riff Masks and Guns captures America in all its dangerous absurdity in a cops and robbers game gone horribly wrong.

As the pandemic made its way around the globe, the end of May saw the publication of former Vogue Paris editor-in-chief Joan Juliet Buck’s Corona Diarywhich masterfully assesses the wear and tear on the psyche as we attempt to navigate this strange time, while Alice Stephens’s After Ginger reflects on anti-Asian and anti-Asian-American sentiment in times of Corona—and how some things don’t seem to change. In Rooms and Clarinets, Clifford Thompson reflects on Covid, racism, Malcolm X, lockdown, and discovering a new room within to make one’s voice heard; Alexander Graeff’s Perpetuum Mobile describes long-distance love and patriarchy in times of pandemic; and Scott Martingell’s Poems in Times of Corona expose the little hypocrisies spoon-fed to us by the powers that be. As the Black Lives Matter protests flared up in early June, Nigerian-American poet Uche Nduka’s Speaking of Which: Work in Progress probes racism’s dark and violent undercurrent in American society, while Rebecca Chace’s Masks and Gloves looks at white privilege and “I can’t breathe” in the Corona crisis. Barbara Fischkin’s essay Autism in the Time of Covid details one man’s lockdown in disabled housing, and Jon Roemer’s Uncertainty Ever After explores what it means to be a writer in precarious times.

In her provocative essay White Fantasy: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Covid, and the Myth of Self-Sufficiency, Joan Marcus unmasks the unsavory sentiments behind one of America’s most-cherished narratives—the conquest of the West—while Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer’s We Are Dreaming of the Future Season chronicles the author’s escape from Manhattan to the comparative, albeit unsettling, calm of Maine. In Between Two Worlds, Cheryl Sucher investigates the stark differences in the way the Covid-19 pandemic has been handled (and virtually eradicated) in her second home of New Zealand, while practicing physician and writer Christine Henneberg’s Pain and Coping describes women’s increasing vulnerability to mental and physical pain during and after an abortion procedure. Caille Millner’s Something New appeals to the power of love in the Black community as our strongest and most promising force for change; Mui Poopoksakul’s The Blue Vial delves into the psychological aspects of what appears to be an anti-Asian hate crime with a curiously absent culprit; and Zeynep Camuşcu’s Corona in Istanbul highlights the unerring behavior of a city’s irrepressible inhabitants. In Flattening the Curve, John Casquarelli and Aydin Behnam imagine a dystopian future in a haunting counterpoint of poetry and prose, while Saskia Vogel’s Around the Bend looks at new motherhood and the reconfigured geometry of transatlantic family ties in times of pandemic.

In response to the Black Lives Matter protests, Roxana Robinson has written a powerful essay on the post-Cold War militarization of the police and the racist roots of police brutality. Militarizing the Police traces the history of armed police in the US from the peacekeeping forces in colonial times and the slave patrols of the American South to the preventative violence practiced by white militias in the post-Civil War era that could not endure the sight of armed Black freedmen. Cecilia Hansson’s My Body Has Failed Me and Now I’m About to Die revisits the lung ailments of Thomas Bernhard and Franz Kafka as she suffers through a debilitating period of viral infection with SARS-CoV-2; Tiffany Winters’s Hope Interrupted: Organ Transplantation in the Middle of a Pandemic details the unknowable in an essay on grief and the incomprehensibility of medical decision-making; and Liesl Schillinger’s Hope in the Age of Covid probes fact checking and the mined landscape of hope in perilous times. To conclude StatORec’s Corona Issue, Joseph Salvatore’s In the Time of “In the Time of”—a brilliant and moving work of literary criticism, linguistic essay, and personal testimony in one—asks when we will be able to mourn the Covid deaths, when we will be “allowed to grieve and mourn the loss of our old lives.”

True to its mission, Statorec (“Statement of Record”) is motivated by the urge to record a variety of voices going through the same experience, but in very different ways—before the drive to return to normality blots out the memory of lockdown, of charts and graphs and epidemiological factoids. It’s this we find ourselves thinking about the most: how our reality shifts with each new outrage, and how little we understand about the way these events are changing us in the long term. As we undergo a kind of grinding down of reality in the process of adapting to unheard-of change, what motivates us to publish this issue is the feeling that there’s a fragile chance to be seized, if only we could sustain our attention and belief long enough to act on it.

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

esther süddeutsche

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I’ll be taking part in a panel today on language diversity in the literatures of Berlin.

Come to the Literarisches Colloquium in Wannsee! 

4:30 – 6 p.m.
PANEL III
: Berliner Futur – entropische Literaturen?
Keynote: Anne Fleig
Participants: Andrea ScrimaEugen RugeMitja VachedinAnne Fleig
Moderation: Martin Jankowski
Featured Poet: Amora Bosco

Read the full program here. Parataxe

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