Posts Tagged ‘Berlin’

Infected World

Wednesday, August 12th, 2020

I intended to start a novel this year. It is set in Berlin in the 1920s. It is about my grandmother, Irawati Karvé. She studied at the Friedrich Wilhelm University and the Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics under the supervision of Dr. Eugen Fischer.

It was significant that an Indian woman did her PhD under the man whose ideas inspired Hitler’s belief in racial hygiene and Aryan superiority.

irawati Karvé’s research showed race could not be discerned from skull measurement—a now-discredited method that supported colonial and racist policies. The story follows her in a turbulent Germany as she comes to terms with her identity as a woman scientist and the conflicting nature of her work: a colonial subject herself, measuring human skulls obtained during German colonial expeditions. I want to highlight the complexity and entanglement of positionality, race, gender, and colonial subjects and objects through the eyes of an unusual woman in an unusual time.

In 2019 I received a grant to research the novel. Of course, I have not been in Berlin to do it. I hope that things will get better. I don’t know where this hope comes from, in spite of the disappointments of this year: The defeat of Bernie Sanders by the neo-lib-Dems and their corporate masters. The death of my beloved dog. A forced separation from my partner, who is German, and couldn’t stay any longer in America without a visit from ICE, and I couldn’t go because US citizens are most unwelcome in the sane world. The personal sadness is small, when compared to people who have lost jobs, homes, and so tragically, family and friends to this disease. In the past months, though I have been relatively unaffected, I’ve been unable to write much of anything.

But, there have been a few encouraging moments. I was invited to a conversation with a fellow writer to speak about our work. This was organized by the Literary Colloquium Berlin, who administer the grant I received.

And now, Germany is allowing their citizens to be reunited with foreign partners. So Berlin, and this novel, may be in my near future.

10/22/2010 ~ ReADING

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

I recently had a conversation with a friend about a certain e-reader. I had just bought one, she was thinking about getting one as a gift for her husband who is an avid reader. We talked and talked, or rather, I talked and talked. About my total delight in the e-reader’s book carrying capacity, in its portability, about my access to the entire Gutenberg Project library for free, in being able to download classics for as little as 99 cents and often free… and imagine my awe when I downloaded a book, at the beach, and start reading it – as soon as I was told I was a disgrace because I’d never read it! (The Metamorphosis, 99 cents, and now I wish I had stayed a disgrace. It is horrifying.)

My friend eventually chickened out of surprising her husband with an e-reader and asked him if he wanted one. He told her he was much happier with “real” books from the bookstore or library, thank you, he didn’t want to put librarians and book store workers out of work. Plus, he enjoyed the feel and smell of books. All this was not that different from the way I felt before I got my own e-reader. Although I wondered about my friend’s husband worrying about the livelihood of librarians over the preservation of pines, I bought my e-reader for a reason not connected to ecology and empathy: My two books now had online  kindle editions. I discovered that I made a lot more from a download than from the sale of a “real” copy of my book.  Ten times as much (three dollars vs thirty cents). So it makes me feel very happy when I have that rare sale. And then I wonder what resources go into the making of a “real” book that makes my share so paltry – the cost of cutting trees, the payrolls of paper industry and publishing house employees? (And as I write this, I have a thought: I’m going to ask my friend’s husband if he has an email account, or if he still writes and receives “real” letters due to his concern over the payroll of postal workers.)

My pitch to my friend was so heartfelt that she  asked me if I was getting a commission for selling this particular e-reader. Which gave me the idea. This is one product I wouldn’t mind selling. Not door to door, but from my website! The more people have e-readers, the larger the market for my own books, after all. Which explains the picture and link on this post.

Now if you were to ask me if I care that much about selling copies of my book, I’m not so sure of the answer. It’s hard to decide whether I want to be a bestselling writer or a starving artist true to my art… you know, poor but sexy like the city of Berlin… I might be stuck with the Berlin option because – it’s just not my choice to make – as I’ve commented before, three downloads last month, a grand total of nine dollars and change! Which also explains the picture and link on this post?

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