Tales of Another Country

»At twelve, I had begun to think about death as a possibility of life. I had just found a new book: The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann. At my age, I was perhaps a little young for this book, but I’d been able to read since I was five and I had read it before. The painful passivity of Hans Castorp during his seven years’ sanatorial stint got to me. Below the polished prose I could sense the presence of the reaper and his unhurried rites. In that summer, I first noticed all the weirdos on the street, and I wondered if I would be one of them. Who decided who and what you became? Who’d look after me if I made a wrong step? I was beginning to lose trust in my parents in this regard: they were fornicating without thinking that I might hear them. They were probably ready for me to move out. I often feared for my sanity then, because I experienced myself as living with two minds in two bodies: I was both surging with energy and constantly sleepy. It was as if I was stuck in an egg: my legs were kicking and my arms were holding on to the shell. Stonefaced, I looked in the mirror for long periods of time waiting for a spontaneous eruption of my skin or the emergence of a monster that had lain dormant behind my eyes. In those days of summer, I couldn’t stand my home, not only because my progenitors had rekindled the hot passion of their quickly withering youth, but also because I longed for the calm presence of books. I found what I needed in a local book store whose owner let me grumble, browse or just doze with a novel on my knees. The shop favored borrowing over buying, which was agreeable to my meagre allowance. The store was built into an old Kreuzberg flat that had seen much better days. Most apartments in Kreuzberg had. There were sofas and arm chairs to rest upon, and there were mysterious corners and forbidden doors to entertain my fantasy life. Over the period of a few weeks, I had investigated all rooms and nooks, I had lifted every wall carpet and painting looking for a hidden safe and I had opened small and large doors everywhere except one, a bright blue door that was in a short hallway between two other rooms. I’d always found it locked. If I wanted to own this place, I had to conquer this door also, and I had to do it alone.«

—Excerpt from: “The Preparation”, in: Tales From Another Country, 2014, pp. 57-71.

4 thoughts on “Tales of Another Country

  1. So many quietly disturbing concepts — deliciously dark and a relief to finish (but more, please, too — what happens next?).

    • So very kind, TU, thank you. I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to get the book…anything else would be a betrayal of my fellow anthologists and shortlist comrades. The 11 stories in this book written by Berlin’s coolest literary beans do pack a pretty punch. 11 stories on 77 pages: a simply fantastic bargain at EUR 3.99 (GBP 3.00)…literally from “Another Country”.

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