A feature by Katy Derbyshire
The Berlin novelist Inka Parei has written three books—The Shadow-Boxing Woman, What Darkness Was, and The Cold Centre—all of which I have translated for Seagull Books. Recently, we visited two locations: an absolutely unspectacular, slickly modernized residential building in Berlin-Mitte where Inka once lived—in The Shadow-Boxing Woman it is run down and empty, the book’s protagonist and her neighbor the last tenants before the landlord strips and refurbishes the apartments—and then, a short S-Bahn ride away, the 1970s block built for the Socialist Unity Party’s newspaper Neues Deutschland. These two settings have disappeared and the places themselves have become bland parts of today’s Berlin. As in Parei’s stories, it was less the buildings than the history behind them that ignited our conversation, which continued by email . . .