Books in Berlin


A few months ago, I sent my story about The Mouse to an Irish editor, who told me very politely that it wasn’t right for his publication, but to try again. Though we’d never met, the same man then invited me to a book launch in Berlin.

That launch was tonight. I had to write down the underground station and draw myself a little map so I could be sure to find it.

The book being launched was The Apartment, a novel by Greg Baxter, originally from Texas but who lived in Dublin for a few years before moving to Berlin. Baxter meant to come to Dublin as a stopover before settling in a beautiful European city but somehow he got attached to a mortgage in a ghost estate in north Dublin. It was awful, so he decided he would invent the most exciting city in the world, and live there in his head instead.

The road I was looking for was on a hill. I passed by old, tall buildings and some grotty newsagents selling strange things, like university hoodies and stickers. The area had a feel I can’t describe: it was a little short of pretty, somewhat incomplete. The evening air was warm and sweet.

When I found the address, I wondered at it. Here was a brand new apartment complex on a dusty street with names and buzzers on the door outside.

The fancy cafe next door was attached to the apartment block. I wandered in and a German lady said “we need to put posters up. Nobody is going to find this place.”

She led me to a lift, and told me to ring the bell when I got to the fourth floor.

When I got out I was facing a large white door. I rang the bell and the door swung open.

I found myself in an enormous, mostly empty penthouse with a huge balcony that stretched far across a courtyard. When I came in, a bubbly English woman, who I found out later was a bookseller, said, “Red or White?”

I took my glass of (red) wine to the balcony, where a little cluster of literary figures was chatting in a corner. “I’m a writer” I heard one say, as the other talked about his agent.

I sat bolt upright on a wickerwork garden chair and dug my nails into the rim of my glass.

I could see myself grinning in the reflection on the side of the balcony.

Red evening sunlight cast beams against the walls. I wore a sleeveless dress. As the guests began to file in, I noticed I was among literary agents, diplomats and a few of Baxter’s neighbours.

I could hardly have been more out of place. This wasn’t quite like the times LSB and I turned up uninvited to the book launches advertised in the window of Dubray books on Grafton street. Here I was, alone in unusual surroundings and among distinguished people and all I could do was hold on to my wickerwork chair, smiling perversely.

I wondered who, if any, among the guests was the publisher I had corresponded with.

A moment later, a man sat down beside me.

Greg Baxter, author of The Apartment image source: the Guardian

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