Friday, September 12, 2014

Espresso, Espresso

How do you get a Berlinica book? On Amazon and, of course. And also, every book store can order it. However, that might take a few days, but now this will be slimmed down to a few minutes only: You can get Berlinica books at the Espresso machine. This is, as you probably have been thinking, a huge machine that prints out books in front of your very eyes upon ordering. So far, the Espresso machine can only reproduce black-and-white, softcover books (with full-color-covers), but this is developing. So, basically, you walk up to the counter, ask for the book, and you can take it home ten minutes later (after you have paid).

Espresso machines have been around for a while; McNally Jackson Books on 52 Prince St in New York has one, for instance, but now also Barnes and Noble got into the game. Its first machine is at the flagship store at New York's Union Square, and two more are in Paramus, N.J, and Willow Grove, Pa. Also, Books-A-Million, affiliated with Wal-Mart, has bought two Espresso machines.

What else is new? Berlin 1945. World War II: Pictures of the Aftermath will come out later this month. It is a 8.5 by 11 inches book with harrowing black-and-white pictures taken in the aftermath of WWII by Soviet soldiers and German war photographers in their employ. They are shown for the first time in the U.S. The text is written by Dr. Michael Brettin, the history editor of Berliner Kurier in whose archive the pictures were found. The preface is written by former New York Times Bureau chief in Berlin, Stephen Kinzer. We will keep you posted.

And also, the Steuben Parade is on in New York, the largest German-American Parade. It will take place next Saturday on September 20. I will be walking down Fifth Avenue with German Pulse, a Chicago-based cultural organization and be handing out postcards. See you all there!

Your publisher, Eva C. Schweitzer

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

My Last Afternoon in Berlin

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

As many of you know, the 53rd anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s construction was about three weeks ago, on August 13. At the moment, there are all manner of special events on to commemorate the occasion, in addition to the permanent Wall Museum at Checkpoint Charlie. The best one that I had the opportunity to see during my last week in Berlin was by far the Wall Panorama (also at Checkpoint Charlie) by Yadegar Asisi.

Asisi, who lived in Kreuzberg in the 1980s, has constructed for this exhibition a large-scale panoramic view of everyday life on both sides of the Wall, complete with an artificial scaffolding platform. Leading into the panorama room, one sees a series of photographs collected from people who lived in or visited Berlin while the Wall was up. The aim here is to impart a sense of the quotidian during this period—one cannot, Asisi claims, truly understand what life was like without understanding the minute details of der Alltag. Of particular importance to the artist was also to communicate the normalization of the Wall: it was always there and it, strangely, became a part of the natural landscape for Berlin residents on both sides of it. No one was surprised to walk by it; it became part of the landscape. To hear that one could get used to such circumstances, that one could really forget the kind of oppression implied by such a structure, was amazing to me.

The panorama itself is also breathtaking. Asisi removed and shifted a few buildings in order to allow views of Berlin landmarks, like the Marienkirche, but otherwise the view is totally accurate, complete with images of citizens performing everyday tasks. The image is almost life-size and there is even an elevated platform from which viewers can get a better angle. It’s a truly stunning project that really delivers on an interesting intention, namely giving visitors a real glimpse into the reality of life in Berlin during the 1960s, ’70s, and ‘80s.

Another interesting aspect of the introductory photos was that so many of them came from people who were just visiting the city. The images themselves varied, but one thing was always the same: every one of them mentioned that they fell in love with the city and wanted to move there immediately. On my last afternoon in Berlin, this was particularly affecting.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Wall, be sure to check out the panorama as well as Berlinica’s related publications, including The Berlin Wall Today by Michael Cramer and Rocking the Wall by Erik Kirschbaum!

It’s been a privilege to share my summer experience with you all, and I hope you continue to enjoy everything that Berlin has to offer!

So long, Vanessa


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