Moving Words: Literature, Memory, and Migration in Berlin
Published: July 2023© 2023
284 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
Ebook - ePub
In the decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Berlin has re-emerged as a global city in large part thanks to its reputation as a literary city – a place where artists from around the world gather and can make a life. Moving Words foregrounds the many contexts in which life in the city of Berlin is made literary – from old neighbourhood bookshops to new reading circles, NGOs working to secure asylum for writers living in exile to specialized workshops for young migrant poets. Highlighting the differences, tensions, and contradictions of these scenes, this book reveals how literature can be both a site of domination and a resource for resisting and transforming those conditions. By attending to the everyday lives of writers, readers, booksellers, and translators, it offers a crucial new vantage point on the politics of difference in contemporary Europe, at a moment marked by historical violence, resurgent nationalism, and the fraught politics of migration.
Rooted in ethnographic fieldwork, rich historical archives, and literary analysis, Moving Words examines the different claims people make on and for literature as it carries them through the city on irregular and intersecting paths. Along the way, Brandel offers a new approach to the ethnography of literature that aims to think anthropologically about crossings in time and in space, where literature provides a footing in a world constituted by a multiplicity of real possibilities.
1. Introduction: Berlin, City of Letters
2. The Prosody of Social Ties: Poetry and Fleeting Moments in a Workshop
3. Exile in Translation: The Politics of Remaining Unknown
4. In the Footsteps of a Flaneur: A Grammar of Returning (to a Street)
5. Collecting, Selecting, Connecting: Making Books and Making Do
6. Life in a Net of Language: Literature, Translation, and the Feel of Words
"Moving Words is an extraordinary feat: a lyrical essay on Berlin, an erudite treatise on the ethnography of languages, and a multilayered commentary on the centrality of migration and refuge in the making of a city and its literatures. Brandel moves seamlessly from anthropology to philosophy to literary criticism with uncommon facility, and in doing so gives us a major milestone in scholarship on migration and literatures."B. Venkat Mani, Professor of German and World Literatures, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and award-winning author of Recoding World Literature
"Brilliant and original – Brandel weaves together the movements of literature and people, focusing on encounters in the globally mixed, literary city of Berlin. He shows that literature makes a difference, helping us to refine our moral worlds. And in the most compelling way, he demonstrates that being at home and being in motion are compatible."Miriam Ticktin, Professor of Anthropology, CUNY Graduate Center
"Brandel’s attention and sensitivity to each word in context, his infinitely broad and diverse culture, and his original and personal involvement in European worlds make Moving Words a treasure trove of concepts and experiences. This groundbreaking book offers an exciting approach to cross-disciplinary and cross-Atlantic conversation and brings fields and voices together in creative and erudite ways."Sandra Laugier, Professor of Philosophy, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
"Brandel’s book offers a highly original and thought-provoking recalibration of the terms of debate within the field of anthropology and literature. By carefully exploring the question of what makes connections literary, the author throws up a range of intriguing insights as well as providing the reader with a fascinating account of literary life in Berlin. Moving Words challenges us to rethink how the literary provokes contexts and enables connections to appear or gives form to urban relations. As such, it points the way forward for a literary anthropology vitally invested in the study of literature in action."Adam Reed, Reader in Social Anthropology, University of St. Andrews