In 2001 Ulrich Schreiber, an engineer and construction supervisor, started Berlin's first literature festival. In true Berlin fashion, he launched his personal vision after years of hard work in his free time.

The festival has a simple yet seductive format. Authors from around the world read from their work in their native tongue, accompanied by a moderator, who puts the work in the context of the author's life, and an actor who reads an excerpt in either German or English. It happens every year in early autumn.

During the 11th festival, Britta and I attended a lively and entertaining reading by Gary Shteyngart. Gary filled the room with his expansive and biting sense of humour, while describing the characters and themes from his new novel Super Sad True Love Story. Sigrid Löffler rounded out the evening by putting the book in context, and Matthias Scherwenikas read an extended passage from the German translation. Guests who didn't speak German could listen to simultaneous translation via radio.

The only downside of the evening was that the bookstand ran out of the English version of Super Sad True Love Story, so for the signing I bought the last English copy of Gary's first book The Russian Debutante's Handbook instead.

The Internationales Literaturfestival is a great example of the kind of grassroots cultural activity that makes Berlin such an amazing place. After a three-year gestation in Ulrich Schreiber's apartment, it burst to life in the Sophiensaele, and has since become an internationally respected ten day event run in eighteen different venues all across Berlin.

Internationales Literaturfestival Berlin
Chausseestraße 5, Mitte (office)
See the program on their website

Internationales Literaturfestival Berlin

Gary Shteyngart Reading

Classic Design: Exposed Aggregate Concrete

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