The schedule was schön übersichtlich: Anreise Berlin, visit to the LCB, train to Leipzig, visit the book fair and a reception or two and then head off home.
I thought I'd get on the train home, check my notes and maybe write a summary of the past few days. Instead I fell asleep and dreamt about words and books and the people and places I'd just got to know.
I can never just go to Berlin - I always go back to Berlin. I don't think I know another city where past and present are so present. My great new thing to take away was LesArt - this is something every country should have: an independent Stelle (I'm hoping this is the one blog where we're allowed to do Salatspeak) for introducing literature to kids, with the most amazing ways of making them, you, us in our case, want to get to the bottom of storytelling. Sabine Mähne had us hooked the moment she asked us each to choose one of the objects she had set out for us (magnifying glass, paper weight, ball of wool...). I hope she's wrong in thinking that something this fantastic needs a Wende to come into being.
Then we had time for a first get to know (siehe Reiseprogramm, gemeinsames Abendessen). There we all were: translators and journalists and publishers, all fluent in German and all interested in the same stuff. Just imagine meeting people who have translated Michael Ende, Christine Nöstlinger, Cornelia Funke and and and! And this was day one!
First thing next day we headed out to the Literarisches Colloquium at Lake Wannsee. If you've studied German Lit., you'll understand that this is a bit of a Mecca. I had two voices going on in my head: I'm here, I'm here, I'm here, and: it's actually ok, it feels fine! I was personally really pleased to meet Katy Derbyshire there, who has just been awarded the German Embassy Translators' Award. And we got to listen to Annett Gröschner and Albrecht Selge who have recently published novels which could (also) be considered Berlinromane.
The next two days were Leipzig Book Fair days. The Leipzig Book Fair is a dive-in, dash, rumble, love AND enjoy affair. If you can cut yourself in four while squaring the circle, you'll get the best deal. If that's not possible and you love books, you will still be overjoyed. A short list of amazing things: the nominations for the children's book prize, the nominations for the grown-ups book prize, interviews auf dem blauen Sofa, readings by very many established and unestablished authors, the LCB discussion on translation and the fact that the local schools give their pupils a day off to visit the fair. PLUS the Rahmenprogramm. If anyone's worried about the future of German writing all they have to do is go to the Lesenacht. My favourite reading was by young writers from the Leipzig Literarinstitut.
BUT THE VERY BEST THING was our group: being able to talk to people who do the same thing, who worry about words, think about impact, know about differences, want to communicate. We talked about words! Selbstgerecht, gemütlich, Sehnsucht, frumpy. And about characteristics, hairstyles, shoes, flowery prints...in Germany, Holland, Ireland, Scotland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finnland. And Elisabeth war immer da -she made sure we had our tickets, suggested venues, got us talking, moved us on - she was wonderful.