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Adam Sachs

The U.S. Embassy Literature Series

A Reading from The Organs of Sense

Adam Ehrlich Sachs, writer and fellow, American Academy in Berlin 2019

In 1666, an astronomer makes a prediction shared by no one else in the world: at the stroke of noon on June 30 of that year, a solar eclipse will cast all of Europe into total darkness for four seconds. This astronomer is rumored to be using the longest telescope ever built, but he is also known to be blind―and not only blind, but incapable of sight, both his eyes having been plucked out some time before under mysterious circumstances. Is he mad? Or does he, despite this impairment, have an insight denied the other scholars of his day?

These questions intrigue the young Gottfried Leibniz―not yet the world-renowned polymath who would go on to discover calculus, but a nineteen-year-old whose faith in reason is shaky at best. Leibniz sets off to investigate the astronomer’s claim, and over the three hours remaining before the eclipse occurs―or fails to occur―the astronomer tells the scholar the haunting and hilarious story behind his strange prediction: a tale that ends up encompassing kings and princes, family squabbles, obsessive pursuits, insanity, philosophy, art, loss, and the horrors of war.

Adam Ehrlich Sachs lives and works in Pittsburgh. He has an AB in atmospheric science and an MA in the history of science from Harvard University. The author of two books of fiction, Sachs’s writing has appeared in the New Yorker, n+1, and Harper’s, among other publications. His first book, Inherited Disorders: Stories, Parables, and Problems (Regan Arts, 2016), was a finalist for the 2017 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. His story “The Philosophers” was named a Distinguished Story in The Best American Short Stories 2017. In 2018, Sachs received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in literature. His novel The Organs of Sense was published in May 2019 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Peter Wortsman

The U.S. Embassy Literature Series

A Reading from Stimme und Atem. Out of Breath, Out of Mind

Peter Wortsman, writer, translator and alumnus, American Academy in Berlin

Moderated by Andrew Gross, Professor of American Studies, Universität Göttingen

“To have reached at age 66, after years of considerable creative effort in English, the beginner’s level in another language is in my view no small feat, something on the order of digging a hole so deep into New York granite that you come crawling back up in China, filthy but still breathing. If as an adult I stutter and stumble with the shaky spoon of my tongue back into the still fluid forecourt of consciousness that German constitutes for me, I do so in full consciousness as an English speaker reminded of other syllables that say more to me about the unspeakable than yes and no.” So writes the New York-born author, son of Austrian-Jewish émigrés, in the foreword. “I harbor a stillborn scribe of the German tongue in me,” he maintains. In this collection of stories, some quasi-autobiographical, some nightmarish, most of them originally written in German and thereafter translated, or rather, adapted by the author himself into English, Wortsman creates a compelling, albeit disturbing, portrait, not only of himself, but also of our shattered age. Despite all, with his writing, Wortsman harbors a hope: “Perhaps we Germans and Jews of the Post-War generation, as children of a shattered cultural union, can still achieve something productive together, perhaps we can pick a few rags of reason from the ruins of the past and therewith pitch a tent big enough to hold all our dreams.”

Excerpted from Stimme und Atem/Out of Breath, Out of Mind (Zweisprachige Erzählungen/Two-Tongued Tales), a bilingual German-English book of stories by Peter Wortsman, forthcoming from PalmArt Press, Berlin, October 2019

 

Peter Wortsman is the author of novels, books of short fiction, plays, and travel memoirs. He is also a literary translator from German into English. He was a Fulbright Fellow in 1973, a Thomas J. Watson Foundation Fellow in 1974, and a Holtzbrinck Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin in 2010. His writing has been honored with the 1985 Beard’s Fund Short Story Award, the 2008 Gertje Potash-Suhr Prosapreis of the Society for Contemporary American Literature in German, the 2012 Gold Grand Prize for Best Travel Story of the Year in the Solas Awards Competition, and a 2014 Independent Publishers Book Award (IPPY). His travel reflections were selected five years in a row, 2008-2012, and again in 2016, for inclusion in The Best Travel Writing. His short fiction and essays have appeared, in German translation, in Manuskripte, Schreibheft, Cicero, the anthology AmLit: Neue Literatur aus den USA, published by the Druckhaus Galrev, Berlin, and in Die Welt and Die Zeit.

Holly-Jane Rahlens

In commemoration of the Fall of the Berlin Wall thirty years ago, New York-born Berlin writer and entertainer Holly-Jane Rahlens will read bilingually from her young adult bestseller, Mauerblümchen (Rowohlt) / Wallflower (Fourth Floor Fiction).

Originally published in 2009, the novella has become a favorite read in German, history and religion/ethics class, grades 8 and up. Now, published in its original English in a new edition, English-language teachers throughout Germany can get in on the action, too.

Wallflower is four hours in the life of Molly Lenzfeld, a sixteen-year-old New Yorker in Berlin. It’s Thanksgiving Day 1989, two weeks after the fall of the Wall. Molly, the daughter of a German-Jewish mother who fled the Nazis in 1938, is off to her mother’s birth house in East Berlin. On the train to Prenzlauer Berg, wallflower Molly meets East German wildflower Mick Maier, nineteen. It’s love at first sight. For both, it’s a journey into an unknown land and a world deep below the city’s streets – a fertile terrain in which to discover each other, the absurdities of the divided city, and, of course, the wonder of love.

This is what the press has said about Wallflower/Mauerblümchen:
A slew of comic scenes embellished with a great love for detail. — Spiegel Online | Powerful and touching — Berliner Zeitung | … an absolute riot! — Aviva-Berlin | … truly hilarious! — FAZ | Have you ever read a novel that made you feel like you could see the movie version in your mind while you were reading it? That’s what I experienced when I read Wallflower.  — Susanne M. Heim »Chicken Soup For the Soul« | A time machine into the past — Deutsche Presse Agentur  | A real eye-opener — Politiken
And this is what German teachers have said about Mauerblümchen:
Eine tolle Geschichte, sehr lebendig erzählt, sehr witzig, kurzweilig. Ein Buch für alle, nicht nur für Mädchen. Ein Buch aber auch für Erwachsene und für die Schulbibliothek. Dort kann es getrost im Register “Geschichte” stehen. – uhb Niedersachsen | Mit augenzwinkerndem Humor erzählt Rahlens von einer Jugendliebe auf den zweiten Blick, von Kettwurst und besonderer Gastfreundschaft – eben von einem Stück deutsch-deutscher Geschichte. — dk Bayern | Gerade die mit tatsächlichen Bahnhofsnamen versehene und dadurch realistisch verankerte Fahrt durch Berlin und das allmähliche Annähern der beiden Hauptcharaktere versinnbildlicht dabei die deutsch-deutsche Vergangenheit anschaulich und gestaltet Geschichte sehr lebensnah. Gerade der offene und dennoch hoffnungsvolle Schluss kann dabei womöglich auch als Allegorie der deutschen Geschichte seit der Wende gelesen werden. – StJ Sachsen-Anhalt | Es ist äußerst reizvoll, die sehr realistische Geschichte mit zu erleben. – frisch Nordrhein-Westfalen

Holly-Jane Rahlens, a born New Yorker, grew up in Brooklyn and Queens and graduated from Queens College (City University of New York). She moved to Berlin, Germany, soon after, where she has lived virtually all her adult life. While remaining an American citizen, she has flourished in the German media world, working in radio, television, and film as an actress, producer and commentator as well as creating a series of highly praised one-woman shows. She writes fiction for readers of all ages. In 2003 her first novel for teens, Prince William, Maximilian Minsky and Me, earned the prestigious Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis as the best young adult novel published in Germany. In 2006 the Association of Jewish Libraries named it a Sydney Taylor Honor Book. It has since been published in eight languages and was adapted in 2007 into the motion picture Max Minsky and Me, which has garnered praise and awards around the world.

Anne Finger

ETB | IPAC, THEATER THIKWA and the american academy in berlin present A reading by ANNE FINGER

Anne Finger will be reading from an early memoir, Past Due: A Story of Disability, Pregnancy and Birth which was published in the U.S. by Seal Press. A German translation, Lebenswert, was published by Fischer Verlag in 1992.

Anne Finger liest aus einem autobiographischen Text: “Past Due: A Story of Disability, Pregnancy and Birth”, der in deutscher Übersetzung von Christine Frick-Gehrke unter dem Titel “Lebenswerteine behinderte Frau bekommt ein Kind” 1992 bei S. Fischer erschienen ist.

Anne Finger is a writer of both fiction and non-fiction.  Her most recent book is a novel, A Woman, in Bed (Cinco Puntos).  Her short story collection, Call Me Ahab retells iconic disability stories from a disabled perspective.  Her most recent memoir, Elegy for a Disease: A Personal and Cultural History of Polio was published by St. Martin’s Press. She lives in Oakland, California, where she is active in the disability justice movement as well as movements for broader social change.

Anne is currently the Holtzbrinck Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin.

Anne Finger ist Autorin von Romanen, autobiografischen Texten und Sachbüchern; 2018 erschien ihr neuester Roman “A Woman, in Bed”. In ihrem Erzählungsband “Call Me Ahab” (2009) erzählen Behinderte – sowohl Figuren aus literarischen Texten als auch real existierende Mitmenschen – aus ihrer Perspektive. Ihr letztes Memoir “Elegy for a Disease: A Personal and Cultural History of Polio” erschien 2006. Anne lebt in Oakland / Kalifornien, wo sie sowohl in der Behindertenbewegung als auch in verschiedenen Gruppierungen und Bewegungen für breitangelegte gesellschaftliche Veränderung aktiv ist.
Zur Zeit ist sie Holtzbrinck Fellow an der American Academy in Berlin.
Pic/Foto: Shoey Sindel

 

 

Rebecca Rukeyser

The U.S. Embassy Literature Series

Rebecca Rukeyser reads from The Homestead – a novel in progress

From 1862 to 1986 the Homestead Act allotted 160 acres of land free of charge to any American man who could work the land for five years. The last decades of this Act populated Alaska, a state that still bears the nickname “The Last Frontier.”

Set in the early years of the 21st century, The Homestead looks into the final days of one of these Alaskan homesteads. Having lived on an unpopulated island in the Kodiak archipelago for decades, Lew and Megan Jenkins face economic strain and open their property to tourism. Their “remote lodge” aims to give vacationers a sense of the real West and the real Alaska—a pristine landscape molded by hard work. But Jenkins’ lodge is failing as a tourist destination and their marriage is dissolving.

Rebecca Rukeyser is a fiction writer, co-founder of the Berlin Writers’ Workshop, and the recipient of a 2018 “Arbeitsstipendium nichtdeutschsprachige Literatur” –  Grant for Non-German Literature, awarded by the Berlin Senatsverwaltung für Kultur und Europa. Her work has appeared in such publications as Best American NonRequired Reading, The Massachusetts Review, and ZYZZYVA. She holds an MFA in Fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and teaches creative writing at Heinrich Heine Universität.

Yaa Gyasi

The U.S. Embassy Literature Series

Yaa Gyasi will read from her critically acclaimed debut novel, Homegoing (Knopf, 2016), which probes the legacy of the slave trade as it impacted two sides of an Akan family. Homegoing received 2017’s American Book Award, the National Book Critics’ Circle’s John Leonard Award, and PEN’s Hemingway award for debut fiction.

Yaa Gyasi was born in Mampong, Ghana, and raised in Huntsville, Alabama. She received a BA in English from Stanford University and MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she held a Dean’s Graduate Research Fellowship. Gyasi’s short stories have appeared in African American Review, Guernica, Callaloo, and Granta, which designated her a Best Young American Novelist in 2017.

Candice Fox

Reads from her novel Crimson Lake.

Six minutes in the wrong place at the wrong time—that’s all it took to ruin Sydney Detective Ted Conkaffey’s life. Accused but not convicted of the brutal abduction of a 13-year-old girl, Ted is now a free man—and public enemy number one. He flees north to keep a low profile amidst the steamy, croc-infested wetlands of Crimson Lake.

There, Ted’s lawyer introduces him to private investigator Amanda Pharrell, herself a convicted murderer. Perhaps it’s the self-isolation and murderous past that makes her so adept at tracking lost souls in the wilderness, but her latest target, missing author Jake Scully, has a life more shrouded in secrets than her own.

Not entirely convinced Amanda is a cold-blooded killer, Ted agrees to help with her investigation, a case full of deception and obsession, while secretly digging into her troubled past.

Candice Fox received Australia’s most prestigious prize for crime fiction, the NED KELLY AWARD, both in 2014 and 2015!

Sechs Minuten – mehr braucht es nicht, um das Leben von Detective Ted Conkaffey vollständig zu ruinieren. Die Anklage gegen ihn wird zwar aus Mangel an Beweisen fallengelassen, doch alle Welt glaubt zu wissen, dass einzig und allein er es gewesen ist, der Claire entführt hat. Um der gesellschaftlichen Ächtung zu entgehen, zieht sich der Ex-Cop nach Crimson Lake, eine Kleinstadt im Norden Australiens, zurück.
Dort trifft er Amanda Pharrell, die ganz genau weiß, was es heißt, Staatsfeind Nr. 1 zu sein. Vor Jahren musste sie wegen angeblichen Mordes ins Gefängnis. Nun tun sich die beiden Außenseiter zusammen und arbeiten als Privatdetektive. Ihr Fall: Ein berühmter Schriftsteller mit Doppelleben und kaputter Familie ist verschwunden, die örtliche Polizei behindert die Arbeit der beiden mit harschen Methoden. Dann platzt das Inkognito von Conkaffey, die Medien erzeugen Hysterie. Lynchstimmung macht sich breit. Während er den Fall seiner neuen Partnerin wieder aufrollt und sie versucht, ihn zu entlasten, nimmt der Fall des Schriftstellers überraschende Wendungen …

Candice Fox is the middle child of a large, eccentric family from Sydney’s western suburbs composed of half-, adopted and pseudo siblings. The daughter of a parole officer and an enthusiastic foster-carer, Candice spent her childhood listening around corners to tales of violence, madness and evil as her father relayed his work stories to her mother and older brothers.

Bankstown born and bred, she failed to conform to military life in a brief stint as an officer in the Royal Australian Navy at age eighteen. At twenty, she turned her hand to academia, and taught high school through two undergraduate and two postgraduate degrees.

Hades, Candice Fox’s first novel, won the Ned Kelly Award for best debut in 2014. The sequel, Eden, won the Ned Kelly Award for best crime novel in 2015, making Candice only the second author to win these accolades back-to-back. Her third novel, Fall, was shortlisted for the 2016 Ned Kelly and Davitt awards.

In 2015 Candice began collaborating with U.S.-American crime writer, James Patterson. Their first novel together, Never Never, set in the vast Australian outback, was a huge bestseller in Australia and went straight to number 1 on the New York Times bestseller list in the U.S. and also to the top of the charts in the UK. The sequel, Fifty Fifty, will be released in August 2017. They have also co-written a prequel novella, Black & Blue, as part of the James Patterson BookShots series.

Candice Fox lives in Sydney.

Candice Fox stammt aus einer eher exzentrischen Familie, die sie zu manchen ihrer literarischen Figuren inspirierte. Nach einer nicht so braven Jugend und einem kurzen Zwischenspiel bei der Royal Australian Navy widmet sie sich jetzt der Literatur, mit akademischen Weihen und sehr unakademischen Romanen. Für den ersten und zweiten Teil ihrer Trilogie, Hades und Eden, wurde sie 2014 und 2015 mit dem Ned Kelly Award ausgezeichnet.
Pic: © Penguin Random House Australia / Suhrkamp Verlag.

Nickolas Butler

The U.S. Embassy Literature Series

Nickolas Butler reads from his novel The Hearts of Men (Die Herzen der Männer, Klett-Cotta, 2018)

Camp Chippewa, 1962. Nelson Doughty, age thirteen, social outcast and overachiever, is the Bugler, sounding the reveille proudly each morning. Yet this particular summer marks the beginning of an uncertain and tenuous friendship with a popular boy named Jonathan.

Over the years, Nelson, irrevocably scarred from the Vietnam War, becomes Scoutmaster of Camp Chippewa, while Jonathan marries, divorces, and turns his father’s business into a highly profitable company. And when something unthinkable happens at a camp get-together with Nelson as Scoutmaster and Jonathan’s teenage grandson and daughter-in-law as campers, the aftermath demonstrates the depths—and the limits—of Nelson’s selflessness and bravery.

Nickolas Butler is the author of the novel Shotgun Lovesongs and a collection of short stories entitled Beneath the Bonfire.
Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania and raised in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, he was educated at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. His work has appeared in Ploughshares, The Christian Science Monitor, The Kenyon Review Online, Narrative, The Progressive, and many other publications. Along the way he has worked as: a meatpacker, a Burger King maintenance man, a liquor store clerk, a coffee roaster, an office manager, an author escort, an inn-keeper (twice), and several other odd vocations. He received numerous prizes and awards for his work.

 

 

Holly-Jane Rahlens

The U.S. Embassy Literature Series:

Holly-Jane Rahlens reads from her novel Infinitissimo

“The I of my heart says hello to the you of yours.”

The year is 2264. Despite incredible technical advances, scientists of the twenty-third century are at a loss on how to solve the problem of a decimated human population. The young historian Finn Nordstrom, a specialist for turn-of-the-millennium popular culture, is asked to translate newly discovered diaries written in extinct German. Do the vintage diaries of a young girl from the early twenty-first century hold a secret that can revitalize humankind?

Finn Nordstrom lives in a passionless but otherwise worry-free and peaceful world shaped by community spirit, leaps in science, and the promise of immortality. All is well until he begins decoding Eliana’s diaries. Following the progression of her life from page to page, he becomes fascinated by the young girl blooming into womanhood right before his eyes. Asked to test the authenticity of a virtual-reality game set in the twenty-first century, Finn is stunned to find himself face-to-face with the girl. Caught up in a whirlwind of intrigue orchestrated by powerful physicists, Finn is sent unwittingly on a dangerous mission through time.

“Enthralling, knowledgeable and inventive. … A page turner!” dpa/APA
“Rahlens creates an absorbing social utopia, examines the principles of collective harmony, and clothes it in an utterly intriguing and touching love story.”  NDR
“Infinitissimo is touching, witty, spiked with a wealth of original details, and absolutely delightful. It’s a book for readers of all ages!” ekz
“Rahlens’ imagination is as far-reaching as the universe, her word creations are absolutely brilliant and the story is not just fun and games, but profound, philosophical and universal. Infinitissimo forces us to confront what’s important in our lives today.”  Aviva
Holly-Jane Rahlens, a born New Yorker, grew up in Brooklyn and Queens and graduated from Queens College (City University of New York). She moved to Berlin, Germany, soon after, where she has lived virtually all her adult life. While remaining an American citizen, she has flourished in the German media world, working in radio, television, and film as an actress, producer and commentator as well as creating a series of highly praised one-woman shows. She writes fiction for readers of all ages. In 2003 her first novel for teens, Prince William, Maximilian Minsky and Me, earned the prestigious Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis as the best young adult novel published in Germany. In 2006 the Association of Jewish Libraries named it a Sydney Taylor Honor Book. It has since been published in eight languages and was adapted in 2007 into the motion picture Max Minsky and Me, which has garnered praise and awards around the world.

Thomas Chatterton Williams

The U.S. Embassy Literature Series

Race, Identity, and the Boundaries of Blackness: Thomas Chatterton Williams explores what it means to be a black man of mixed-race heritage with a white-looking daughter and a white wife.

A reading and conversation with Rose-Anne Clermont, journalist and author of Bush Girl.

Thomas Chatterton Williams holds a B.A. in philosophy from Georgetown University and a Master’s degree from the cultural reporting and criticism program at New York University. While a student at NYU, his op-ed piece, “Yes, Blame Hip-Hop,” struck a deep nerve when it ran in the Washington Post, generating a record-breaking number of comments.
Pic: Luke Abiol