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"Berlin Now" - A Reading and Conversation with Peter Schneider and Professor Ulrich Baer

Tuesday, September 30, 2014, 6:30 p.m.

Deutsches Haus at NYU

Deutsches Haus at NYU and the American Council on Germany present a reading by Peter Schneider of his new book Berlin Now and a moderated conversation between the author and Ulrich Baer, NYU's Vice Provost for Faculty, Arts, Humanities, and Diversity.

It isn’t Europe’s most beautiful city, or its oldest. Its architecture is not more impressive than that of Rome or Paris; its museums do not hold more treasures than those in Barcelona or London. And yet, when citizens of “New York, Tel Aviv, or Rome ask me where I’m from and I mention the name Berlin,” writes Peter Schneider, “their eyes instantly light up.”

An intriguing journey through Berlin by a longtime interested observer.

Ungainly, amorphous, overrun by armies, clotted by construction, inhabited by uneasy neighborhoods of ethnic niches (including Turks, Russians, Vietnamese and Israelis), and still affordable to starving artists and all-night partiers, Berlin is a wildly attractive tourist spot, not least due to its dark history. In these amusing, knowledgeable essays and dispatches, German novelist and journalist Schneider, who first came to the city as a student in the early 1960s to claim exemption from serving in the Bundeswehr (German defense forces), unearths much that is fascinating and even beautiful about Berlin.

He examines the conversion of various sections of the city and warehouses, industrial ruins and other structures in what was formerly East Berlin—e.g., Potsdamer Platz, the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport and newly gentrified Prenzlauer Berg. Deeply engaged with friends and colleagues from both East and West, Schneider has written extensively on the ramifications of the removal of the Berlin Wall, not only in the physical revelation that Berlin’s great historic center and grand buildings were all located in the East, but also in the souls of “Ossi” and “Wessi” remnants, now cohabitating a little like oil and water. In his autobiographical essay “West Berlin” (“the name…refers to a city that no longer exists”), the author reaches back into the student movement of the late 1960s and the building of the “wall of the mind” mentality he wrote about in his novel The Wall Jumper (1984). In “The Stasi Legacy,” he writes poignantly of the poisonous effect the secret police had on even married couples informing on each other. Berlin’s “culture of remembrance,” he writes, has also been transformed—e.g., the multitude of Holocaust commemoration exhibits and memorials paying quiet tribute to a vanished community.    

A seasoned journalist conveys the charms and perils of this “Cinderella of European capitals.” - Kirkus Review

Peter Schneider is the son of a conductor and composer. He spent his early childhood in Königsberg and Saxony; from 1945 to 1950 he lived in Grainau near Garmisch-Partenkirchen and from 1950 in Freiburg im Breisgau. After gaining his Abitur in 1959 he studied German, History and Philosophy at the Universities of Freiburg and Munich. In 1962 he continued his studies at the Freie Universität Berlin.
His novel Lenz, published in 1973, had become a cult text for the German left, capturing the feelings of those disappointed by the failure of their utopian revolt. Peter Schneider has also written novels, short stories, essays and film scripts that often deal with the fate of members of his generation and the situation of Berlin before and after German reunification. These works include The Wall Jumper (1984), The German Comedy (1990), Couplings (1996), Eduard’s Homecoming (2000) and Berlin Now (2014).
Peter Schneider is a member of the German PEN Club. He is a recipient of a Villa Massimo scholarship (1979) and the Förderpreis für Literatur des Kulturkreises of the Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie (1983).He has held posts as visiting professor or writer in residence at universities in the United States, including Stanford, Harvard and Princeton. Since 2001 he has been the Roth Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at Georgetown University. He lives in Berlin.

Ulrich Baer received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Yale University in 1995, and has been teaching at NYU since 1996. His books include: Remnants of Song: Trauma and the Experience of Modernity in Charles Baudelaire and Paul Celan (2000), Spectral Evidence: The Photography of Trauma (2002), 110 Stories: New York Writes After September 11 (editor; 2002), Letters on Life: The Wisdom of Rainer Maria Rilke (editor and translator; 2005; translated into Portuguese, German and Greek), and The Rilke Alphabet (in German; 2006). He regularly teaches on the poetics of witnessing, 19th and 20th century poetry, the history and theory of photography, a team-taught seminar (with Professor Shelley Rice) on archives, photography, and cultural memory, and a Freshman Honors Seminar on “Photography as a Global Language.”
He has published widely on literary representations and historical testimonies of the Holocaust; on Rilke and Celan; on the history and theory of photography, and on contemporary art. He has been the recipient of a John P. Getty Fellowship, an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship, NYU's Golden Dozen Award for excellence in teaching (1998 and 2003), and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship which he spent partly in Shanghai, the People's Republic of China. His current projects include a book on "Photographing the World" in which he investigates how photographers have sought to represent the world in its entirety, and how photography has become a global phenomenon with distinct local grammars.
Since 2007 Baer has been Vice Provost of Globalization and Multiculturalism at NYU, in which capacity he oversees the academic and operational aspects of NYU’s ten Global Academic Centers throughout the world.

This event is part of our fall focus on the city of Berlin, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall.

Events at Deutsches Haus are free of charge. If you would like to attend this event, please send us an email to deutscheshaus.rsvp@nyu.edu. Space at Deutsches Haus is limited; please arrive ten minutes prior to the event. Thank you!

Berlin Now is a DAAD-sponsored event. Additional support was provided by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.