Berlin Views

Marek Zagańczyk at New England Review:

But Berlin is also a city receptive to wanderers conversing with death, loners who find themselves at the end of the road. For the Polish reader, there is no more important description of Berlin, of its mood, people, and places—all of them passed by with equal haste—than the fragments, from 1963, of Witold Gombrowicz’s diary. These pages offer a valuable introduction to the city; reading them carefully sends shivers down the spine. It is necessary to treat them as a standard of free writing and of a literature always on the side of life, though also one that is drawn towards life’s final moments.

It is impossible to forget his metaphor for death, which, lurking, “perches on the arm like a bird.” In these fragments, hands are presented as protagonists of the first order, as if their pantomimes embodied the spirit of the city. The hands of Berliners are always moving: they manufacture, produce, spin—avoiding inaction at all costs.

more here.