The new year has started and the objective is to keep the momentum of our recent Berlin and Dresden break. But also to harvest from inspiring suggestions received in Milano, Trieste, Tokyo. Read inspiring books, have interesting movie experiences, go to live performances (music, dance or theatre) and walk in the city, when the weather does not inspire treks in the countryside. We want to remain inspired by architecture, fashion and photography. Pretty ambitious programme! How are we doing so far? The books which marked the switch to 2014 were very diverse.
The big novel read over Christmas on our Berlin couch next to candles and glasses of Russian tea is “La famiglia Karnowski”, by I.J. Singer, the story of a Jewish family across three generations, from Poland to Berlin to New York. Without mentioning a single date or event, the story of the Karnowskis is a big fresco of integration and immigration, of identity and relationships. I am really grateful that Adelphi translated this novel from Yiddish to Italian, and as a matter of fact it was a pleasure for me to read a great novel in Italian, after so much German and English reading and listening. But I am grateful also to my friend Giuseppe in Milan who suggested to me to get this book during a September Hotel Diana aperitivo. He knew I would have loved this novel…his bold book advice was truly inspiring!
It is always nice when a book gift hits the mark. Therefore it was a nice surprise to receive from a business acquaintance from Boston the essay “Engineers of victory – the problem solvers who turned the tide in WWII” by Paul Kennedy. The person did not know that I am an absolute junkie on topics related to WWII and Cold War, and this will make a nice reading for better understanding the people who were behind the leaders who dominate our history school books. A corporate view of WWII, a book about processes, projects and working groups.
Getting a fresh view on current affairs is always a way of starting into the new year, therefore I thank Stephi for bringing back from her recent Italian trip a copy of Limes, “Che mondo fa”, on geopolitical topics. A pity for those who cannot read Italian. Limes is an anthology of essays on geopolitical and economic topics. It is nice to remove a bit the worries and the news over Christmas, but it is also necessary to refocus and Limes is always an out-of-the-box, lateral thinking reading which cuts across the noise of daily news.
I love to buy books when I travel – and then I complain about heavy Rimowas. I had bought La famiglia Karnowski at Milano Centrale Feltrinelli bookstore during a trip to Milan and during the same trip, when in Triest, I noticed at the Tergesteo bookstore “Polska, rivemo!” a cheeky travelogue in Triestin dialect by Diego Manna and Michele Zazzara. The book follows the trail of “Tre uomini in bicicletta”, the famous Paolo Rumiz travelogue. I was looking for another glance on Poland, a light and contemporary one, as all my Poland-related reading so far had something to do with WWII. Also, I love biking and the refreshing aspect about this travelogue is its use of ancient and contemporary Triestin dialect. I miss my city and reading dialect makes me feel all of a sudden 20-something. A nice feeling, in the tricky period between New Year’s Eve and my birthday…
Central Europe is always my obsession and after having edited all my bookshelves in Dusseldorf, I decided to re-read Eric Ambler’s “La frontiera proibita” – “The dark frontier”. Central Europe is fascinating, fake Central European states are mesmerizing. Winter still has to deploy its icy power and therefore trains, stations, hotels, borders are fitting to the mood. Trains are my passion I received a beautiful photo book from MeinMann: “Unvergessiche Reisen”, which covers the most beautiful train journeys worldwide. It was nice to refresh our memories of our legendary trip across Australia with the Indian Pacific train, which we did in 2006.
Let’s stay in Central Europe but switch to photography. Two exhibitions marked the start to the year. First, the big retrospective exhibition dedicated to Barbara Klemm “Fotografien 1968-2013″ at the Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin. Watching her photographs, especially those printed on the first page of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, tell the recent history of Germany. Brandt, Schmidt, Kohl, but also Breznev, Hitchcock, Jagger…Barbara Klemm seems to have been always present when a political or social event shaped the public opinion. For me this exhibition was very personal as well since it covers my portion of the 20th century…events occurred when I was a child, and which I want to know better, or of my grown-up life. I love the black and white, sober resolution of newspapers prints, especially one of the pre-digital era, which were definitely better than today’s.
Back home, we saw Candida Hoefer’s “Dusseldorf” photo exhibition. The pupil of Berndt and Hilla Becher shows us a few decades of Ruhr and Rheinland life unfolding. I had spotted a few of her window-sill pictures in 2010 in Essen at the San’aa photo museum. In as much as Klemm depicts Germany with an unconventional, but nevertheless official, historical, international eye (Germany for the outside world), Hoefer shows more intimate places, some solemn and grand – the operas, the libraries, the headquarters – other more low-key: kebab kiosks, windowshops, streets. Last year we had seen Wolfgang Tillmans exhibition at the Kunstsammlung NRW, and I find there is a common thread. Hoefer’s exhibition made us more curious about our city. Her portraits of places, such as Benrath castle, Dreischeiben Haus grand entrance, Schauspielhaus are a door to more exploration in Dusseldorf.
MeinMann and I love exploring the urban texture of cities and, following Hoefer’s 1970s to date Dusseldorf view, he topped up the story with “Dusseldorf wie es war”, a photographic book about the pre-war era. Truly fascinating, it was the perfect inspiration for starting a post-industrial journey across Flingern, the neighborhod across the bridge, and its powerstation. Beautiful urban trekking on the day of my birthday!
Due to mild weather – so far – we privileged walking to going to movies and live performances. But we picked not only really nice plays and movies, but also fabulous venues. In Berlin, in order to lighten up the start of the business year and the end of the holidays, we saw “Cooped” at the Tipi am Kanzleramt by the MontyPythonesque Spymonkey. We loved the play and the Tipi will be on our agenda for our next trips to Berlin! On movies, we got into Zoo Palast mania – we love the place and the atmosphere. Now the goal is to explore the Rheinland’s pendant to Zoo Palast, ie the Residenz movie theater, in Cologne. Or smaller cinemas in Dusseldorf. There will be cold and rainy afternoons ahead in which a gemuetlich movie theater is required, the Winter is not over and there’s never been a warm Carnival as far as I can remember…and we will need ways to avoid Carnival!
Thinking of the mild season, we stocked up on “Infinitely beautiful”, a book about the UNESCO gardens of Woerlitz. Sooner or later we will be tired of cold weather, and planning travels in the Dessau-Woerlitz region will need some sound advice, which we will find in this beautiful book.
Additional inspirations, which are in the pipeline and will need further investigation or “implementation”, are the following: “The 100-year-old-man who climbed out the window and disappeared”, “L’educazione siberiana”, “La nonna vuota il sacco”, “Neoclassico”, “Berliner Chic: A Locational History of Berlin Fashion”, “German Fashion 1947-2013″, “The launch pad”, “Venedig-Dresden, zwei Kunstmetropolen im Dialog”, “Polonia l’Europa senza Euro”, “Aiuto, Hilfe!” (graphic novel), “Japan 8-9-3 – in search of Japan” (exhibition)…pheew!