Writers’ Colony in Berlin

I’ve contributed for about seven years now to an excellent site called Bookslut, and the editor, whom I’ve never met and yet still managed to feel intimidated by, moved last year (?) from Portland, Oregon to Berlin.  She blogged a few days ago about her idea to open a literary colony of sorts in an abandoned hospital in her new hometown.  It sounds like absolute heaven.  I immediately emailed the managing editor and asked for a room (he said yes, of course.)

“I had this crazy idea. Actually, I had it about two years ago when I fell in love with a Berlin building that had a tree growing out of the back of it. In my research about the abandoned building, I discovered that it had originally been built in the 19th century as a mortuary for the nearby hospital. Then the Nazis took it over and used it for storage. Then the East Germans took it over and used it for a bureaucratic office. I decided I had to buy this building and open the Bookslut Literaturhaus of Sex and Death. (Don’t worry, we would burn some sage in there. Maybe bring in a priest.)

“After reading Sarah Schulman’s The Gentrification of the Mind, and watching Berlin turn into Brooklyn, I’ve become more determined to open the Bookslut Literaturhaus of Sex and Death, although Charles, our managing editor, insists it should exist in Chicago so he can go, too. (Maybe we will open Literaturhaus Zwei.) Schulman writes about the need for radical spaces, for the mixing of people from all nationalities and economic backgrounds, for places to perform and fuck up and converse, and not just recreate the socioeconomic climates of our childhoods in our social circles.

“So I’ve decided my demented little building is not big enough, but perhaps the abandoned 19th c. hospital next door would be for what I want. (And really, someone should take it over before it’s turned into luxury condos.) I want: low rent apartments for writers and artists, who can teach or mentor or help rehab the building in exchange for rent. A performance space/reading hall. An extensive library. Classrooms, not for MFA-style workshops but for classes on history, international literature, art, etc. There’d be rooms to stay in for traveling writers and bourgeois people who just want to look in on the action and they would be charged more. There’d be a bar and cafe, of course, because it’s going to be a steady diet of Hungarian rose wine and goulash. And of course a large section will house Bookslut/Spolia offices and inevitably a publishing company/bookstore. I’ll do the tarot readings in the library.

“I will of course live in the mortuary.

“I am five seconds from Kickstarting this fucker, although then all of the money would go to Paypal, and yuck. But rewards would be like, we’ll name a barstool after you. Or, a couple nights for free. From there I can raise my enlightened crones-in-training army, and we can have our little radical space within the workings of capitalism. Who is with me? You’d be a fool not to run away and join our circus.”

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