prose, English translation of Berlin
Counterpath, Denver, 2015
Translated by Brian Henry,
Forrest Gander and Aljaž Kovac
ABOUT THE BOOK
Berlin is a lyrical account of the city as well as a book of discoveries, allusions, and traces, an homage to great literary figures who have lived in Berlin. 31 prose miniatures are combined with 21 black-and-white photos taken by Šteger in the city. Instead of describing, Šteger works to create a web of Benjaminian passages and allusions, a flaneurian book full of small details that takes the reader on a smooth yet unpredictable journey through the city, which turns out to be a city of texts.
Highly successful in Europe, Berlin has received major awards and has been translated into many languages. English translations from the book have appeared in various magazines, including The Antioch Review, Asymptote, Conduit, Conjunctions, Denver Quarterly, Gulf Coast, The Iowa Review, Jubilat, The Kenyon Review, and Virginia Quarterly Review.
Aleš Šteger has published six volumes of poetry, a novel and a book of prose. He is the most translated Slovenian author of his generation. His texts and poems have appeared in more than 200 international magazines, including The New Yorker, Neue Zuricher Zeitung, and Lettre International; and he has received numerous awards for his work, including the 2007 Rožaneva Award for the best book of Slovenian essays (for Berlin).
Berlin is as much a book about a city as it is a book about the language of being. Placing oneself in a foreign place, be it for a week or a year, and finding in the resulting otherness an ability to be present to the moment away from the routine demands of family, responsibility and commitments that pile up around us in those places we come to think of as home, can be an opportunity to open up to the small details, the sounds, the angle of light, and, yes, the people we might otherwise overlook.
Joseph Svhreiber, roughtoughtshttps://roughghosts.com/2016/04/17/twenty-first-century-flaneur-in-the-german-capital-berlin-by-ales-steger/
If you need to read only one story in this collection to believe it is a worthy BTBA winner, I’d ask you for a favored memory, one that rests in a deep place in your heart, from time in a distant city. For me, in a rather embarrassing cliché, it’d be bookstores, whether they sell books in a language I could read or not. In his own cliché, Šteger’s visit to a bookshop is an act of worship, “About temples.” It’s utterly, almost absurdly, romantic, but he makes it felt, beautiful and intimate, bringing it back from that point of eye-rolling, so skillfully that I know I will reread it both in preparation for, and returning from, travel, as I will many other pieces in this collection. Šteger has been “ordained in books, which uncover the secret correspondences between Berlin and its gods,” and it does not mater if I have ever uncovered secret correspondences, it does not matter if I think of Berlin or Kyoto or Dublin or Reykjavik, what matters is that some part of me, for once, feels something true in the expression, and that ability is why Šteger and his translators should win this year.