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on the Bard College Berlin Student Blog

► Monday: Medieval Christmas Market

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Imagine a gate opening in the art, culture and clubs hub of Friedrichshain to transport you to the medieval ages. In this historical Christmas market, you won’t find the usual kitsch; you’ll find everything from live medieval performances in music, acrobatics, and a fire-show, to unique handicrafts, and a tavern serving hot mead. Everyone will be dressed in costume and all the masterfully crafted decorations make the experience truly memorable.

  • When: 14:00-22:00
  • Where:  RAW Gelände – Revaler Straße 99, 10245 Berlin
  • Admission: 2€
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►Monday: Robert Doisneau – Photographs

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“Le Baiser de l’Hôtel de Ville” captured in front of a Parisian café in 1950, is the iconic photograph that shot Robert Doisneau up to fame. It also contributed to the idea of Paris as la ville de l’amour, or the city of love. The 100 photographs selected for this exhibition show Doisneau’s use of photography as a medium for love, Parisian life and humanity.
  • When: 10:00-19:00
  • Where: Niederkirchnerstraße 7, 10963 Berlin
  • Admission: 5€
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Susan Nieman on Why Grow Up (credit: BCB promotional poster)

Susan Neiman gives a presentation on her book Why Grow Up? at BCB (credit: BCB promotional poster)

In an audience consisting mostly of 20-something-year-olds, the question “why grow up?” awakens both curiosity and a deep mistrust. This mixed reaction comes as a result of wanting to know how to do it while harboring a suspicious attitude towards anyone who might try to make us do it too quickly. “Why grow up?” is the inquiry that Susan Neiman, the acclaimed moral philosopher and director of Potsdam’s Einstein Forum, delved into from behind the podium in Bard College Berlin’s lecture hall. Her book of the same name was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 2015 and deals with our society’s idea of adulthood.

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From left to right: Inasa Bibic (BA 2016), Norman Manea, David Kretz (BA 2016). Credit: Gaia Bethel-Birch (AY 2016)

On the evening of Friday, September 18th, in a residential neighbourhood on the fringe of one of the world’s most vibrant cities, something odd occurred at Bard College Berlin. This is a time when one might expect the students of BCB to be out and about the city, or simply doing their best not to think too deeply for a while. And, indeed, most of the classrooms were empty: doors locked, lights off, lying in wait of Monday morning. Curiously, though, on this night, light and sound filled the school’s lecture hall. 

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The cover of Aurelia's recently published book of poems

The cover of Aurelia’s recently published book of poems in Romanian

Subtly overwhelmed by the realization of my graduation, I, like my graduating class fellows, have embarked upon the journey of exploring the world of “what if.” Amidst the swirl of mixed emotions signalling the end of another fruitful academic year at Bard College Berlin, I found myself caught within an entanglement which marks a fixed and certain end, and at the same time announces an exciting, but yet unknown beginning. Potential anchors in this unrelenting “self-search” vary from one graduate to another, but beyond these differences, I harbor a wish to discover the promising land of “what if” by finding the trajectory of those who have already been in my situation, but have followed their own inspiring path. I found out about the “road taken” by an alumna of our university, Aurelia Cojocaru, currently a PhD student in Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley, and author, publishing under the pen name Aura Maru. The following interview is an interesting glimpse into the marked stations that Aurelia passed on her path.      

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Nabokov (second from left) on a tennis court behind the cinema “Universum” - which later became Schaubühne

Nabokov (second from left) on a tennis court behind the cinema “Universum” – which later became Schaubühne

One cannot visit Nabokov’s Berlin in the way one can visit Joyce’s Dublin or Kafka’s Prague. It no longer exists. There are, of course, certain ghosts. We know that he hunted for butterflies at Grunewald, and that he taught tennis on Kurfürstendamm. Charlottenburg was once home to so many Russian expatriates that it was nicknamed Charlottengrad, but that community disappeared at the beginning of World War II. Just as his ghost haunts Berlin, so the ghost of Berlin haunts Nabokov’s body of work. His first novels, written in Russian and set in Berlin, offer an interesting perspective on Nabokov’s oeuvre, and on his place in the pantheon of twentieth-century writers.

Nabokov was a notoriously cranky novelist. (Even decades after his death, it causes me some anxiety to wonder what he might think of this essay.) His predilections and pet peeves are well documented, the subject of countless essays and interviews.  Berlin did not escape the disdain he held for soft music, cocaine, Freud, fascism, gossip reporters, and Dostoyevsky. He moved here in 1922, after the rise of the Bolsheviks, hoping to escape the fate that befell many of his aristocratic peers. His arrival in Germany was less than auspicious. In March of 1922, Nabokov’s father was killed shielding Pavel Nikolayevich Milyukov from an assassin.

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scraps heaven

Note: This author profile was written at the request of the online magazine “artaktivist,” for their issue on refugees and migration. It will be published online in both Russian and English.

If modernity is to be characterised by the theme of exile and the achievements of émigrés, as Edward Said claimed in Reflections on Exile, then the Melbourne writer Arnold Zable is modernity’s most recent chronicler.  His writing exists between geographical places one can pinpoint on a map and memories that so persist over time, and have become so imprinted on the mind’s eye, that they seem to be timeless. His characters, often refugees, survivors, or other persons displaced by conflict must tell him their stories, sometimes several times over in variegated repetition, because while their lives have moved on from the experiences they were exiled from, their recollections have not. Zable’s talent as a writer lies in his ability to minimise his narrative presence so that his stories flow effortlessly from these characters, which creates the sense that these recollections are being spontaneously shared directly with the reader. We feel as if we are there as well, perhaps sitting in a cramped apartment overlooking Pott’s Point in Sydney, hearing the story of a survivor from fin de siècle Vienna.

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Laura Scuriatti

Laura Scuriatti

Laura Scuriatti studied English and German Literature at the University of Milan (Laurea). She received her Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Reading, where she was also teaching assistant. Her research focuses on the relationship between literature and the visual arts in early modernism and the avant-garde, and on gender theory. Her publications include edited volumes like The Exhibit in the Text: Museological Practices of Literature (with Caroline Patey), 2009; Dekalog 5. Dogville (with Sara Fortuna), 2012; book chapters like “Sea changes: the Sea, Art and Storytelling in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Isak Dinesen’s Tempests and Marina Warner’s Indigo” in Civiltà del mare e navigazioni interculturali: sponde d’Europa e l’ “isola” Trieste, eds. C. Ferrini, R. Gefter Wondrich, P. Quazzolo, A. Zoppellari, 2012; and numerous contributions and articles on modernist authors, for example “Bodies of Discomfort: Mina Loy, the Futurists and Modernist Feminism” in Women in Europe between the Wars: Politics, Culture and Society, eds. A. Kershaw / A. Kimyongür, 2007; “Walking the Tightrope: Sacheverell Sitwell’s Rewriting of the Mediterranean in Southern Baroque Art,” in Anglo-American Modernity and the Mediterranean, eds. C. Patey, G. Cianci and F. Cuojati, 2006; “A Tale of Two Cities: H. G. Wells’s The Door in the Wall, illustrated by Alvin Landon Coburn”, in The Wellsian, 1999.

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