The Bookshop as a Space for Encounter

Not talking about each other, talking to each other. Readings and conversations with refugees in your local bookshop.

von Annika Reich

Auftaktveranstaltung der bundesweiten Storytellings-reihe in der Tuchholksy Buchhandlung in Berlin am 27.01.2016.Foto: Dominik Butzmann
Auftaktveranstaltung der bundesweiten Storytellings-reihe in der Tuchholksy Buchhandlung in Berlin am 27.01.2016.Foto: Dominik Butzmann

For some time now, people we know more or less nothing about have been coming to Germany, and we’ve been asking ourselves: How do we want to live with them? Do we want to go on living as before or do we want to make a new life together? These questions and how to put them into practice have grabbed hold of me – so much so that for months now, I haven’t been working on a new novel but spending my time visiting authorities with a very humorous Iraqi family, talking to Syrian journalists, and helping set up WE’RE DOING IT.

You can’t write a novel when you get phone calls every day asking you to organize twenty pairs of children’s boots or accommodation for a blind man from Aleppo. You need a free horizon to write a novel, and I don’t have one right now. Incidentally, not for a moment do I regret taking this time. It was always my decision to do so.

The longer I do it, the more I wish there were spaces where the people who have come here and those of us who have been here longer can get to know each other. Many of my friends and acquaintances and all of the newcomers I’ve met so far want exactly that – but don’t know how and where.

And this is where bookshops come into the equation. They’re almost predestined to open up their spaces. People who go to bookshops want to discover stories by other people, and booksellers have made it their profession to pass on other people’s stories. There couldn’t be a better place.

How might that look in practice?

Booksellers would invite a bookseller, librarian, writer or passionate reader from a nearby refugee centre into their shop to organize an evening together. They could read from a favourite book – in the original language and in German – tell stories together, or read aloud for children. The booksellers would find a translator and moderate the event. The guests would be customers and the residents of the refugee centre. I’m certain that many of the people who go bookshops are active volunteers or would like to be, and some will already have links to aid organizations. If people get talking to each other after the reading and discussion in the bookshop, then the essential first step towards living together has been taken.

Upcoming events:

  • 27.1.2016 Tucholsky Buchhandlung Berlin. Erzählsalon mit Arif M. aus Pakistan: Mein erstes Jahr in Berlin.
  • 24.2. 19.30 Uhr, Bibliothek, Bücherei Pullach. Zwei Männer aus dem Senegal erzählen im Wechsel mit Lesungen von deutschen AutorInnen aus der Anthologie “Fremd”.
  • 28.2.2016 Tucholsky Buchhandlung Berlin. Mehrsprachige Kinderlesung.
  • Mitte März (TBA): Buchpremiere von Rasha Abbas in der Vierten Welt, Berlin.
  • 12./13./14.4. 2016 Lesung, Erzählsalon und Podiumsdiskussion im Rahmen des allerorts Literatur Festivals in Heidelberg.
  • 27.4.2016 Erzählsalon zur Lage in Ägypten im Rahmen des read!Berlin Festivals.
  • TBA: Erzählsalon/Lesung in der Buchhandlung Kirchheim Gauting.
  • TBA: Erzählsalon/Lesung in der Georg Büchner Buchhandlung Berlin.
  • TBA: Erzählsalon/Lesung im Büchereck Niendorf Nord.
  • TBA: Erzählsalon/Lesung in der Buchhandlung Nippes, Köln.
  • TBA: Ocelot, Berlin.
  • TBA: Buchhandlung Die Insel, Berlin.
  • TBA: Der Zauberberg, Literarische Buchhandlung, Berlin.
  • TBA: Stadtlichter, Berlin.
  • TBA: Ferlemann & Schatzer, Berlin.
  • TBA: Kulturbuchhandlung Jastarm, Ulm.
  • TBA: Isarflimmern, München.

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