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Portrait of Steven Bloom, a writer and a teacher from Heidelberg, Germany

Portrait of Steven Bloom, a writer and a teacher from Heidelberg, Germany

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Published by Amalia Oganjanyan
Student project work of Amalia Oganjanyan. Two pages. January,14, 2011
Student project work of Amalia Oganjanyan. Two pages. January,14, 2011

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Published by: Amalia Oganjanyan on Jan 29, 2011
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4 DW-Akademie German-American relations: A portrait of Steven Bloom Januar 2011 International Media Studies
STRANGE PROFESSION
But what Steven fnds evenmore annoying about teachingis the necessity o giving grades.“It’s so artifcial! It’s impossibleto be a air judge. I wouldpreer just to write comments– or example what I liked orwhat I ound superfcial”, theproessor says.Nevertheless, Steven Bloomhas been teaching Americanstudies since 1970 – in the US,Germany, Italy and Poland. Andhe never gets bored with it. “Iread new things, try to thinkdierently. Each class is likea perormance with a certainamount o tension, but nevera routine”, he explains andthem conesses: “Teaching atuniversity is a very strangeproession: in order to bequalifed or it you don’t needto know anything aboutteaching. It’s a proession opeople who mostly like researchand writing”.
WRITING IDENTITY
The class is over and Stevenrushes back home to continuethe work on his new book. Hekeeps impatiently looking at hiswatch. The only thing he wantsto do right now is writing.Steven Bloom likes to jokethat he lives behind his desk,not in Germany. Nonetheless,the town o Heidelberg, wherehe has spent hal o his lie andcreated most o his books, hasserved as a nice backdrop orhis writing. Big cities no longerinspire Steven, who was bornand raised in New York.Steven writes fve hours aday, but does not expectto get amous or richrom his books.Once he fnishesa book, heautomaticallystarts tothink othe nextone. “I’llprobablyrun outo timebeore I’verun out oideas”, saysthe writerlaughing. Herealizes thatthere is nevera guaranteethat his currentnovel will ever bepublished. And even iit does see the light – there is noguarantee that it will be sold.The scene o his frstpublished novel
No New Jokes
is set in New York in 1949-50. Itscharacters are American Jews –Archie Feinstein, Jack Goldarb,Meyer Wool, Izzy and others.They discuss the Korean War,anti-Semitism, baseball, religionor women and try to reducethe uncertainty in their lives bytelling old Jewish jokes – whichhappens to be the specializationo proessor Bloom.Two actors make Jewishhumor special, he explains: “It’sa social activity, crucial or sucha verbal culture as that o theJews. And: in a hostile world,where one cannot count onGod, jokes can help to eel alittle better or a moment”.The same humorouscharacters inhabit Bloomssecond novel
Stellt mir eineFrage
(Ask me a question).Steven says that he knows thesecharacters well and likes them.“I do hear their voices. HoweverI don’t lose the reality that it isme controlling whatever theydo”, the writer adds.His avorite character isIzzy – a young Polish Jew whoought in the World War II andis constantly seeking personalhappiness. It was Steven’sather, who served as aprototype or Izzy. Hewas a real Polish Jew,who immigratedto the US at theage o 10 andlater went toNorth Aricaand Italy withthe US troops.He never toldhis childrenanythingabout his warexperience,except orthe act thatAmericancigarettes werethe main currencyduring that time.
DECISION FOR LIFE
Neither Bloom’s ather, norhis mother have learned goodEnglish or received highereducation. The best position hisather had ever had was that oa cleaning man at a post ofce.Thereore Steven didn’t have arole model or education in hisamily. Since he played ootballin high school, he decided to geta degree in sports. However,when he saw university teachersstanding in ront o an audience,talking about books, it seemedlike a very pleasant occupationto him. And the decision or liewas made: he was to become auniversity teacher.Steven’s lie as a writerturned out to be tougher. Bloomsays that it is easier or him topush a manuscript through apublisher in Germany than inthe US. But he still tries to sellhis texts in America. “I you area writer, you have to be used torejections and keep trying”, headmits.
MASTER OF DIALOGUE
Bloom’s main weapon is hissense o humor. His speech isinterspersed with jokes. “Themaster o dialogue” – thisis how German newspaperscalled him in their literaryreviews, praising his art o theconversational ping-pong. ButSteven is also a curious listenerwho eagerly asks questionsand expresses lively interest inevery conversation. Maybe he iscollecting material or his uturebooks?“As a writer I don’thave to tell the truth, myonly responsibility is to beinteresting”, he says. Well, somepeople may defnitely have tobeware. In autumn 2011 StevenBloom is to release a bookabout the mayor o Heidelbergand his wie.
PRIVILEGED FOREIGNERS
Thirty-fve years ago heollowed his wie Sara, anopera singer, who came toHeidelberg to fnd a job. WhiteAmericans arevery privilegedoreigners inGermany, so theBloom coupledid not have aproblem withthat, Stevenrecalls. Andthanks to theirEnglish theycould integrateeasily into theirnew society. Hisnational identityis not principalor him, Stevenadmits. The most vital to himis to be a writer, ather andteacher.
INTELLIGENT LEADER
Tuesday. 18.00. The libraryo the German – AmericanInstitute (DAI) closes or regularadmission. Only members othe Discussion group o the DAImay enter now. This club hasbeen run by Proessor Bloom ora quarter o a century. People odierent ages, occupations andorigins come here every weekto practice their English and geta chance to discuss topics like“How patriotic should a citizenbe?” or “Is honesty the bestpolicy?”“This man is rom Taiwan,now he is a citizen oGermany”, Steven says as soonas he sees the frst visitor. “Buthe complains that nobodyperceives him as a German”,he adds. It is obvious that heknows quite a bit about thelives o the people around him,thanks to his inexhaustibleattention and empathy.No trace o the restraint andtension that proessor Bloomrevealed in the morning inclass. His ace brightens up, hegesticulates reely and jokesnon-stop. “These people comehere voluntarily. They haverich experience and unlikethe students are very active indiscussions. The only troublehere is to stop some o themtalking”, Steven says all smiles.These evenings have becomean importantpart o theweek or manyparticipants.“Our leaderSteven is great.I’ve neverseen such anintelligent andentertainingperson as him”,says a nurseTheresa Hartl,who has been amember o thediscussion groupor 15 years. “Weare like a big amily here”.Literally, one may say. Itwas here in the DAI club thatSteven’s daughter Zoe met heruture husband Christoph. Willthis story turn into the prose oSteven Bloom? Well, that couldbe at least one componentin the ormula o his frstbestseller.
“As a writer I don’t have to tell the truth:my only responsibility is to be interesting!”
 by Amalia OGANJANYAN
 
M
onday. 9.00. Small lecture room o the University o Heidelberg. Proessor Steven Bloom is buried in a heap o paper, up to his ears in preparations.He looks like a student diligently using his last minutes beorea big exam. A fnal glimpse at his watch – and the class begins.Today Steven will guide his students through the history o  America’s wars.Completely grey-haired, with his white moustache and beard, at frst glance Steven Bloom resembles a sad SantaClaus. Once he starts talking with his audience, his large eyeslight up and the Santa becomes young. His very American jeansand backpack make him look even younger.Thirty minutes are almost nothing i you have to cover thenuances o a complex political and historical topic like the oneSteven has to present now. He juggles with acts, comparisons,quotes o Obama and Lincoln. But it’s still difcult to involvethis young audience into discussion. Even humor doesn’t help.This annoys the proessor, because he would like to reduce thedistance, collaborate with his students and learn rom them aswell. He oten thinks about his motherland, the USA, where students call their proessors by frst names and usually takeactive part in their classes.
Favorite writers:
J.Joyes,V.Nabokov, I.B.Singer, P.Roth
Favorite music:
Good one, like jazz, opera.
Favorite holiday:
I don’t needholidays. I have an easy lifeand work whenever I have achance.
Favorite time of a day:
Earlymorning, I get up at 5.oo
Are you a atalist?
I even don’tknow, what destiny means.The only thing you can sayabout all people in a room isthat they will die.
The word you use more oten:
Yes.
Can you live without writing?
Iwould not want to.
 STEVEN’S
FAVORITEJEWISH JOKE
A man is looking orsomething at the courtyard,his riend asks him:- What are you looking or?The man answers:- I lost my key.- Are you sure you lost ithere?- No, I lost it on theroad, but the lighthere is better.
White Americansare privileged oreigners inGermany 
LAST MINUTE QUESTIONS
Steven Bloom at a Christmas market
    P    h   o   t   o   :    A   m   a    l    i   a    O   g   a   n    j   a   n   y   a   n
“ ” 

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