Lunch today is a cheaP

baguette, eaten in a small,
neglected weedy square that
commemorates the socialist
Karl Liebknecht who Proclaimed the first Free RePublic
of Germany. Not long after, he
was tortured and murdered,
along with Rosa LuxemburE, bY
right-wing FreikorPs officers
who threw their bodies into the
Landwehr Canal and were
never punished for their crimes.
A modest Soviet-stY1e monument stands here, forlornlY,
next to one of the ubiquitous

construction sites.
A few doors from here is
Brecht Haus, adjacent to a
graveyard where Bertolt Brecht,
his partner Helene Weigel, KarI

Marx's favourite PhilosoPher
(Georg Hegel) and Dada Photomontagist John Heartfield are
all buried. The cemetery affords
some peaceful strolling along
birch-tree-lined Paths beYond
the hectic pace of new Berlin.

I am here

as a Suest of the

inaugural Berlin International
Literature Festival. An ambitious event set in several
venues across the citY, it was
conceived 'in solidaritY with
Sarajevo'. Quite a few of the

invited writers have been in
political trouble over their

work, others have causes to
pursue and others, like mYself,

Here in Berlin
Pam Brown

Tl vrnvoNE HERE is wonder-E trrg where summer went.

These Brey, windy daYs complement the greY concrete
stucco that's peeling off manY
of the unrenovated blocks of
flats in former East Berlin.
72

oYe!1ard.165.2OOI

represent broader literarY
interests like postcolonialism
and transnational writing. The
poet Bei Dao who was arrested
in China and now runs his
magazine from the USA; members of the Rwanda MemorY
Project; Gruppe'99 from
Sarajevo are here. The South
Africans include Nadine
Gordimer, Antje Krog - an
Afrikaans poet and iournalist

working for the Truth and
Reconciliation Commission and a seventy-year-old Zulu
poet, Mazisi Kunene. From the
USA there's Michael Palmer, Bill
Clinton's favourite black Poet,
Rita Dove, and others; James
Fenton from Great Britain; the
Hungarian Peter EstherhazY;

Italian Antonio Tabucchi;
Chinese/English Poet Yang Lian
and others from Morocco,
Russia, Japan, Ireland, New
Zealand, Senegal and so on.
So, with the lingua franca
being German (although in
practice English is the dominator) there are comPlex considerations about Presentation.
Sometimes actors Perform
translations; otherwise, translated text is proiected simultaneously onto a large screen
behind the writer during the
reading. There is a lot of
discourse and some contention
about the problems of multilingual presentation.
The festival includes an
extensive children's literature
section, a literarY film Program
and the publication of an
enormous catalogue (460 Pages)
of the event and a hardcover

anthology selected bY the
particiPating writers.
I was also invited, with the
New Zealand poet Michele
Leggott, to do a reading and
conduct a class at Potsdam
University, iust to the southwest of Berlin. The English
Department is located within
the ex-state surveillance training institute and so, although
the exterior is drab - a tYPicallY
plain Eastern Bloc building - its
advantage is that it's wellequipped for technologY unlike the other facultY buildings in the very beautiful

grounds of the Prussian socalled philosopher-king
Frederick the Great's eighteenth
century pleasure palace - Sans
Souci. The lecturers we met at
Potsdam University are all
locals who have lived and
worked here before the Wall
came down. Today, like all

former-GDR residents who
have been able to keep their
jobs, they are paid 30 per cent
less than their western counterparts. Australian and New

Zealand writing is studied here
as a component of the postcolonial literature course.
The City of Berlin is broke.
The extraordinary architectural
projects of Potsdamer and
Pariser Platz which have little to
do with ordinary Berliners,
continue via foreign corporations' financings, but there is
no money to cut the grass on

footpaths and nature strips,
many of the fountains are not
running because of water costs,
and the city's cultural programs
depend on a lottery.
For me, to visit Berlin is to
revise any soft or romantic

notions

of 'left-wing politics'

and to reinvigorate my scepticism of all ideologies. You only
have to visit, briefly,'the To-

pography of Terrors in the cells
used for torture by the Nazis
and then pass by the white
crosses on a fence near the
Brandenburg Gate
memorialising those ordinary
citizens killed in attempting to
escape the socialist German
Democratic Republic. Reminders of the complex histories of
oppression and war from
before the Prussians until the
end of the last century are
everywhere here. And what

remains of the Berlin Wall is
salutary reminder indeed.
Pam Brownjsoverland

b

poety

a

edi-

tor. This piece was written during
her recent extended overseas trip.