Sunday, November 13, 2011

Banana Yoshimoto

Found a red leaf on the ground, someone sent me a message.

At the airport, a woman with blond curled hair stared at me looking nervous. She took a book out of her wheelie bag, the cover title read „Nutritional lies“ but just a few minutes later she put the book aside, looked around, fumbled on her shoelaces, looked around again, then fetched a glossy newspaper, a German political magazine, skimmed the pages. The advertising on the wall switched too quickly to gain me as a potential client, „s'engager pour ses clients“, a young man in a grey suit was staring over the shoulder into the cleavage of a young female.
The woman with the curled hair somehow looked like waiting that I talked to her but I still thought of the girl with the dark hair in the library. When I glanced out of the window of the airport, I saw a seagull circling around, I never expected to see a seagull in this area, close and familiar but locked away by the pane. 

I had not seen her face but when she told me her Russian name, I liked her voice. She had pulled a book from the shelf. Banana Yoshimoto, she said, it has a beautiful feeling, a little sick maybe. Give it back to me when you’re finished.

But when I walked down the road to the library again, pondering how I could approach her and whether we could just skip this boy-girl thing, skip the usual conversation pattern, I did not find the place, my mental map was tricking me, I walked around and looked into the face of each black-haired girl looking around 28, and when I asked the guy in the grocery at the corner he said, I’ve never seen a Russian girl round here. But there was a Chinese recently, a Japanese, who knows, these Asians all look alike, don't they? Wanna buy anything?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Baggage check

It’s gonna be a tough day. How are you? I am fine. I can tell when you lie because your mouth smiles but your eyes don’t. Miss Johansson puts her gun away. Men in suits are bustling around, scribbling down lines of guilt and wisdom on memo pads. Some of the girls look scared, I need to protect them. But two people got sacked today. I am watching the flock of birds sitting up the roof, singing useless songs. Who is going to protect me? My heart is aching, I should go see the doctor. The girl with red hair would like to have a baby. I don’t love you anymore, her Japanese lover says. I see her running through the woods while heavy winds come up, she pulls on my sleeve, she’s anxious, she’s out of her mind. We spend the night together, in a poky chambre d'hôte in Alsace but I do not touch her. Down in the factory, the machines are groaning, spitting out shreds of metal, rules of conduct. The McKinsey man gets choleric, I see stains of sweat on his suit.

I walk out the door, take the next flight to Marseille.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Nine million bicycles

Wrapping children’s books in mulberry trees, wrapping my heart in words of sobriety. When I am afraid. There are nine million bicycles in Beijing. Katie Melua sings of liberation. When I am afraid, I close my eyes and fly to the desert sky. The voice of Sudabeh Mohafez is looking for shelter.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Susanne Osthoff

The German hostage in Iraq has been released today. It was all her own fault, people say, she’s a reckless mother.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Cuadros de familia (2)

Would you please come back in a few minutes? The priest throws me out, he looks uptight, he has the same wilted face as in my childhood when he decided to become a priest. My father talks about death. Is it this you want, I ask. He gets infusions, he speaks more clearly. He will recover. In the room next door, he gently pets the shoulder of a man in a wheel-chair, comforting. The man looks like a highbrow, immobile, his hands trembling. Could you dial for me, he asks. I push the buttons, he speaks fast, the number recorded in his head.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


It is handwritten on the disc like an incantation, my magic formula to get back to myself. There is a crack at the end, the piano stops abruptly, returns to track one, starting over again.

This night I had a strange dream: She calls me on my mobile, I see her name on the display, I need to find her petit ami, the man with whom she has the child, he’s lost. There are no more words necessary. I am not sure whether this is Meissen or not but I walk on a plastered road along a river, it looks like fall somehow, there are booths and shops and only few people. I enter a radio shop, the vendor is just demonstrating the virtues of a hi-fi to some believers but the music soaking out of the speakers sounds dull and old-fashioned. There is something I need to buy there, something unusual.

First snow in the morning, looks beautiful. But in the supermarket, people put on faces grey and angry.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Hasards et coïncidences

Pascal is telling funny stories, typing on his notebook. Agathe has made a piece of pottery, a proud woman in white, her belly is pregnant. Celine is reading words doggerel from a children’s book, she is trying, tasting the words like unknown fruit. Roi et reine, ils n’ont pas des enfants, ils sont déséspérés. My hand slips pouring tea over the Japanese paper, the ink smudges, the characters washed away by bitterness. Marie Cecile loves to walk, like Camille’s mother, she rests in herself, she dyes her hair with rainbow colors. She dances in the parlor, Salsa dancing steps, pictures from Africa in blazing orange behind her back. A woman is chasing her memories, taking videos from lost places. An empty boat on the sea. A man painting a woman in salmon pink on a bridge in Venice. A man falling in love with a nameless woman shot with a stolen camera. Water leaks from the shower down to the ground floor. The kindergarten will be on strike tomorrow, someone left a note. Celine spells my name, she wants to become archeologist, she cannot pronounce the word, archéologue, she chuckles, I’ll miss her. At night at the port, ships with dancing bars burst into light and music, the crowd moves like a wave, shaking its body, the eyes filled with rapture.

Sunday, October 30, 2005


I am not sure whether to give a tip. Isabelle is serving me, a girl with glasses and chubby face, she collects the money with the pride of a queen. The wind blows slips of paper across the flagstones before St. André, glossy ads from magazines, unstilled yearnings, while the bell strikes, every hour, the only continuum. At the door of the cathedral a beggar woman opens her hand for money. A bike leans against the iron fence, like a loophole getaway. People taking photographs, holding their cameras with extended arms before their eyes, like strange toys. A boy with books in his hands watches the big cars parading down the adjacent street. A few prowlers, les marginaux, walk over the square, guys with dogs, scrawny girls like kids. A young maghrebine is following her guy, a few steps behind him, she wears a chain of pearls around her naked belly. A man with crutches takes the crutches away, takes his cellphone, the woman by his side talking on another. They turn to stone in the heart of the square, talking prayers into their mobiles while a chopper above their heads is circling the square. A pizza driver takes the short cut. A woman with burnt skin and sunglasses looks strained, gets deeper into her newspaper, takes another coffee. A girl with flaming red hair throws her cigarette away, the butt rolls over the flagstones. At the table next to me, a few people talk about Sinsemilia, you cannot take it more than twice, one says. It makes you imbécile.

Pigeons scrabble on the ground. Eat pigeons, Koen screams with laughter, he wants to join the game, he is a bright boy, he is studying linguistics in Maastricht, he drinks too much, waves his hands, throws his hands up into the air, dances the tarantella, the bite of the tarantula makes a man go insane. They sit in the kitchen, a bunch of males fighting for virility, yelling at each other to drown the music out. The Englishman makes dirty jokes, his young face is empty, he shakes his hips like a dancer. You know, they say, banging a Chinese girl makes you stick in her, you don't get loose. The air is filled with smoke, leaden time, patterns of words and behavior reeled off. A girl from Corea enters the kitchen, doing the dishes, preparing food. The guys hit on her: Wanna stay with us, don’t like us? She keeps silent, drops her eyes, hurries to leave the kitchen. I barely hear her voice, tu veux goûter? A mobile rings, a ring tone of despair. Koen has a girlfriend, she is calling from Belgium, cutting the relationship. He locks himself in the toilet for hours. Later, I see the Englishman walking up the hall, he moves slowly, pulling his crippled legs. It takes another rapid eye movement to wake up.

A few slouch hats are carrying drums and saxophones, playing Jazz. Ms. Illinois, the beauty queen, is writing poems. She voted for Bush, she has to justify herself, fights against the gunfire of our propaganda. She has serious, alert eyes, keeps her mouth wide open laughing, shows her white teeth. You have to be silent, she says, just absorb the sounds, the odors, the images of this town. I drop some words into the yellow postbox behind the café. I mistake the languages, mingle the words, l’incendie à Paris, les jeunes femmes raised the fire dans l’immeuble, the newspapers search for explanation. I jump through a thicket of foreign words like a messenger between front lines, for reconciliation. Darkness comes early. People are gathering around the place. In the back road the police deploy forces, taking precautions. An indistinct sound fills the air,
a chant? a siren? a murmur? A girl is sitting on the steps, drinking from a can, looking at her watch. She rises, starts to dance in the middle of the square while the slouch hats push their collecting box closer to the people, the crowd claps its hands, she moves like a supple animal, the eyes closed. I put a spell on her to freeze the moment, to freeze the gasping sound of this city, the rhythm of the streets filled with litter and hopes and passion. But she gets back to her place, looking at her watch again, waiting.

Kriss Crumble

It has been raining for days, the rain gets harder. The radio sings nursery rhymes, gets excited about strong winds and high waters in the South. Moses supposes his toeses are roses. It is getting bright as day at night, a clap of thunder, rumbling up the mountain, like hell.

Friday, October 21, 2005

San Juan de la Peña

Where are you going? Where the wind blows.
Where are you going? To the market, buying fruit.

Sue opens the door, warily, she speaks French but I hear her British accent. Daren, her husband, looks like a rocker, bearded face, tangled hair, with a soft voice. He is locked in his mother tongue. He is a bricklayer, a skillful worker, spends day and night restoring the house, polishing the Harley in the garage, caressing the dog. They are living at an intersection of a French village au pied de Pyrénées, they are happy people. You have to go to Jaca, they say, cross the Spanish border and just follow the route, never miss San Juan de la Peña. In the morning they talk about violence, about living in the suburbs of England, about their abandoned life. About coldness of the heart. Sue was a social worker, she pours cereals into a bowl, she still needs to free herself from images of horror. Ben, the 11-year old son, enters the kitchen, leaving for school. He has changed so much, Daren says later. He used to sit before the TV there, killing time. He was so scared. Sue gets some fresh milk from the fridge. It is his second childhood here, they say, now he is alive.

It is late in the evening, almost dark, when I follow the bumpy road aside the motorway, the sign reads Chambres d’hôtes, I need to find some place to sleep. The building looks uninhabited, just a diffuse glimmer of light oozing from a window. The door opens into a kitchen, a woman with white hair is sitting at the table, shyly smiling at me. She starts to speak, apologizes for being nearly deaf, her daughter would be here in a minute. A huge garden behind the villa with lawns and pruned trees, plastic chairs and tables, rusty bars, parasol. A Chekhov zone. A Chabrol scenery, forlorn land, once flooded with laughter, with life. Who was living here? The daughter, in her sixties, looks like a countess. I am on my way to Bordeaux, I say. The rustic parlor is filled with clocks and rugs and yellowed dreams, a map of the historic Paris and a photo of a girl in dancing dress, beautiful and real. My daughter, she says. I was working as a real estate broker, I was living in Paris. A proud, lonely lady living with her mother in an empty villa. One day I got here for business and I fell in love with this villa, so we left Paris and moved here 23 years ago. It was deserted, then, she keeps saying.

San Juan de la Peña, the monastery is built into a rock. Fat men are taking pictures, posing before the chapel. I listen to the water flowing underground, to the sculptured faces at solitary pillars which had once been the living space of the monks. Later, I return to France through le tunnel du Somport, I do not like tunnels. There is no border just the road and a valley of rock faces. But at Urdos, 8 miles away, the border police stops me, the customs officer is a young tall woman. Where are you going, she asks. You’ve got something to declare?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Camille’s mother

I’ll have a coffee, I say. The silent stream of water, the unobtrusive sound of birds and nearby traffic far away. I hear the fire burning, the rustle of wood. I see no signs of smoke. This is not a good day for losing somebody. Mawkish music comes from the hill, the riverside covered with stories to tell. I walk too fast? I say. There is no danger, no villain in the darkness. No lie. This is the track I was looking for. The fire is digging under my skin, resting there. When I look back the path, I see no blades of grass trampled underfoot, no footprints.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Passing car

The girl turned her head and looked at me. It was raining, the grey color of the clouds swallowed the morning sky, the city of Berlin. Cars drowsily waiting at the traffic lights. Gears shifting, brakes howling, wheels accelerating. I barely noticed the dark blue van passing on my left. She may have been 8 or 9 years old. A child sitting in the front passenger's seat, her face behind the pane. She twisted her head and looked at me again, catching my eyes. A long silent look within the immortality of a second, close and knowing and nameless.

Cuadros de familia (1)

I still remember the tubes meandering out of him in the desperation of the ICU. He would be dead in a jiffy, doctors said. Ten years later, I see my father standing at the door, resting on his walking stick, thoroughly shaping words like gems, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. A fascinating puzzle of will and faith caged in a paralyzed body.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The girl from Greece

She proudly shows her dress and her shoes to me and I like it. In the empty rotunda, the black piano man with white gloves plays Boogie-Woogie. I am trembling inside. This is not the right moment. The businessmen are joking around. Carlos, she shouts. She is drinking beer, the city from above is made from hazy lines and muddy colors, there is bewilderment in her eyes. I paint dragons with seven heads, they guard the access to the hill. She is laughing: You had bad dreams? Carlos, the Italian guy, is pulling funny faces. Marion, the saleswoman with red strands in her hair, pretends to be drunk, she wants to be a photographer, I like her face. The sun gets down. The girl from Greece shivers, feels chilly. She has something in her eyes that could rescue me, cut off the seven heads of the dragon. I like your tie, somebody’s joking, it is Martyn, the Australian. Hey, he says, I thought you would be happy with her tonight. I touch her skin, the lamp sheds light onto us, they are watching us, she says. Let’s go back. The dragon raises his heads, the seven heads grinning like seven devils. They put bonds of steel to my mouth, hoarseness into my voice. I fell in love with you, pebbles echo under my feet. This is not the right moment. The Chinese girl talks to me but I do not listen.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Longing for leadership

Today’s news blown up, bloated: The Bavarian premier and right-wing challenger for German chancellor, Edmund Stoiber, speaks at an election meeting, his nagging, barking voice leaks from the radio, painting the decay of Germany in darkest colors. Pape Benoît pushes beatification of his predecessor to satisfy the demands of the masses on St. Peter’s square. It looks like personality cult to me, glorifying a man instead of the god. Lea Rosh wants to bury the molar of a Holocaust victim into the new Holocaust memorial in Berlin, the plan has been rejected by the Jewish community. Lea Rosh has been an excellent (and ironic) journalist once, asking critical and necessary questions to politicians and society. She has grown into a zealot. She separates Holocaust victims into classes: Jews are first-class victims; Sinti and Romanies, homosexuals, communists are second-class victims. She is not Jewish but makes the Jewish her passion. She even teaches Paul Spiegel, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, what Jewish is.

Things are hypertrophic. Not just a word but a torrent of words. Not a sound but a hubbub of voices. Not the suffering of people but templates of attitude and good will. We know what is best for you, they say. I do not believe you anymore, the kid says, you talked about danger and heavy waters but opening the door I feel just a breeze of wind. You may be right but I do not listen to you any longer.

It may listen to the voices that speak more clearly. Germany may not be susceptible to temptation more than other nations. But walking along the streets, waiting in line at the groceries, talking to the worker at the punching machine in my company, I hear the whisper, the underground grudge, the unspoken. Like a sudden lull in the wind. Wind comes up again, the sound of footsteps, stomping feet. La foule s‘approche. Protesters with painted faces holding banners against Bush and Abu Ghraib and Israel’s cracking down on Palestinians. They sing, jolly, serious people. They forget about Putin and Chechnya, the dictators in Darfur, Zimbabwe, North Corea. First-class and second-class rogues? A pothole-riddled road, windows closed, panes pasted with newspapers. Hey, I say, Bush is a mole who makes 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 bloody real and scares democracy to death. Ever read Arthur Miller? There may be a different story, a different country. But the guy next to me would not listen, he talks his head off, he loves his wife and his kids and donates to charity. Bush is just a crash test dummy for his resentment and his bad feelings, against America and the West and everything unknown. Americans are superficial and prudish. The grudge gets louder, leaves cover. French are rude and stab the tires of your car. Foreigners take your job and rob you. It is an ordinary day, nothing uncommon.

Tell us what to do, they say, we hug you, kiss you. Twigs and roots, the maze of voices muddle our minds.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Entre temps

Aujourd’hui, le lundi, j’ai travaillé tard. Comme les semaines dernières. Où je travaille il y a un microcosme. Il y a des machines haletantes et bruyantes, des boîtiers du fer-blanc, des ordinateurs sur la chaîne de montage, des femmes dans les blouses qui répètent le même mouvement toute la journée, les ragots, les luttes du pouvoir. Des relations humaines que je perçois comme le photographe perçoit (voit) l’objet. Mais, maintenant, je regarde le ciel, dans la nuit dernière c’était la pleine lune, j’ai dormi mal, je suis réveillé au milieu de la nuit, la nuit me va. Dehors, dans les rues étroites, l’air porte l’odeur grasse du barbecue, par les fenêtres ouvertes sortent les histoires de la télé, les destins factices, l’illusion du bonheur. Un couple jeune danse la valse au sous-sol, l’homme aux cheveux avec une raie. Sous le toit un autre homme joue le violon. Au rebord d’une fenêtre s’assied un chat noir, elle me regarde, qu’est-ce qu’elle veut dire? Les yeux du chat jettent des étincelles.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

On violence (1)

A leaf on the ground crushed by feet. Floods have vandalized the German city nearby. The riverside road still shows the ravages of water. Garbage hanging in the trees, plastic drainage pipes ripped out, a washbasin on the country lane turned upside down. Voices upswelling and dying away, like aircraft noise.

6 years after the Meissen incident when a 15-year old boy stabbed his woman teacher to death, in front of his classmates. My niece and my nephew went to his school, just a few walls away from him. 3 years after the Erfurt school massacre when a 19-year old expelled student killed 14 teachers and 2 kids from his former school, before killing himself. Images that will never leave my mind, like these faces of Beslan: The man smoking, focused and calm. The child not understanding what happens. The scene is bloody real but it looks somehow unreal to me, like in a cocoon.

Fuss in the media, explanations, promises drained away. No traces left, the scenes have been cleaned up, the buildings reconstructed, the facades painted. A girl prowls around the Erfurt school taking photos of walls and windows and corners collecting memories and useless stuff.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


The teenage daughter of my neighbors, Marie, sits on the steps in front of the house, smokes quietly. She must be 17, 18 now. A few years ago, at night, I heard loud voices from the apartment where she lived with her parents, male and female voices yelling with rage at each other. On another day, I came home and found blood all over the walls in the hallway. That was the day her mother threw her father out of the house. A few months later, another man moved in, obviously her stepfather now. He looked like one of those guys I do not wanna meet in times of oppression, in a dictatorship. One day at midnight I found her drunk and apathetic at the front door brought home by her friends. She behaves like a girl with good manners. She looks like a bird to me that wants to be set free.

Monday, April 25, 2005

L'Institut Français

A call from the Institut Français où je suis le cours de français le lundi. A girl left a letter for me there, a girl with no name. I play with the idea of leaving it there, unopened, as a mystery. Another story untold, another turnoff, wrapped in paper.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

It never occurred to me

It never occurred to me to create a blog of my own until 2 weeks ago. It was evoked by chance, as often in my life. Looking for some French weblog to deepen my French language skills, I came across Valérie's site and tout de suite liked her style of writing and viewing things and the layout of verstehen. Thanks, Valérie.

Stories from the parking lot

Dresden, downtown. Tuesday in the afternoon. At the parking lot, a woman with red hair feeds the parking-meter, runs out of change. She looks nervous, uneasy. I throw some money into the slot, she looks surprised. 'Coz it's such a beautiful day, I say, just to relax her. She thanks me effusively, waving her hand to me. Leaving the parking lot, she turns to me again from the distance, smiles. In my mind there is a movie going on. A tiny, ridiculous gesture that sets in motion the big things... The woman with red hair gets into her car elatedly, sings while driving. In the supermarket she cheerfully asks the ill-tempered shop girl about her children, the shop girl smiles for the very first time for days, this evening she is not going to turn on the TV and to yell at her kids and to regret later. In front of her house, the woman talks to the boy next door, the boy next door replies hesitantly, still unbelieving. The next day he is going to stop blackmailing the guy with freckles after school, the guy with freckles could explain the mystery of math to him, maybe? The woman gets upstairs, with each step she gets younger and younger, tonight she is going to beget a child with her lover and to bring new life into the world... If I had snarled at her (hurry up! I've got no time to waste), she may have got into her car with anger, may have run over somebody on the road. At night she would go to bed early and feign tiredness to her lover, while the shop girl would sit in the kitchen crying. The guy with freckles could not sleep at night while the boy next door would sit on the doorstep looking up to the lighted windows and volunteer for the army someday and get into war and abandon lives. And the woman with red hair would stand at the parking lot again someday searching the sky with flickering eyes while time passes...

Friday, April 22, 2005

L'insouciance du papillon

Il fait une chaleur lourde un instant, des gouttes de pluie timides le prochain instant. Des nuages blancs, des nuages gris. Je suis dans un bistro au quartier où j'habite, le quartier s'appelle "L'œuf de Nuremberg", j'aime bien ici, en plein air. J'écris, j'écoute, la musique du haut-parleur, le Jazz sauvage va bien avec la chaleur. L'insouciance du papillon. Le désir. Je brûle. Les adolescents à coté de moi font du bruit, un des hommes don le ton, une des filles veut plaire, elle rit un peu trop forte, c'est son anniversaire, elle avoue. Ils jouent les jeux des adultes, comme des petits animaux apprivoisés...

Je n'assume pas ce que je pense, elle a dit. Elle a écrit à un bout de papier. L'histoire de Stéphanie.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Out in a different world

This is the story of a reoccuring dream
Some other images cut in between
Endlessly seeking for identity
Of what there is and what there seems to be ...

Lyrics in "About" and "About me" conceived by Katharina Franck and Ulrike Haage or The Rainbirds.