What is the National Monument of India

On the go with ...
... Christopher Kloeble through Berlin

Christopher Kloebles at Potsdamer Platz | Photo: © Valerie Schmidt

You are never in one place at the same time with the writer Christopher Kloeble. Today we try anyway. The author of various novels, plays and screenplays shows us one of the cities that are part of his multi-layered biography: Berlin.

Perhaps it contradicts the laws of physics, but not those of Christopher Kloeble's power of imagination, that when you meet this writer in any place, you are not in one or many other places at the same time. For example? The Hotel Begaswinkel. It is located in a largely overlooked and yet not too uninteresting part of Berlin's Tiergarten district. It's just a walk to the Neue Nationalgalerie and Staatsbibliothek, the Philharmonie (but more on that later) and the notorious street prostitute on Kurfürstenstrasse. Only a blind person could describe this area as beautiful. A single look at the street, which was apparently very carefully destroyed in the war, reveals the advantage that the Hotel Begaswinkel is in a set back alley, in a dead corner, and when you stand there you don't really know whether in The next Wes Anderson film or a remake of Alfred Hitchcock's film Psycho should be shot in this picturesque Wilhelminian style villa. But nobody has to decide that here and now.

The Hotel Fürstenhof

The elegantly curved staircase, the breakfast room on the top floor - and there the writer Christopher Kloeble, who receives him for coffee. Why? Because his mother, Christopher Kloeble's mother, works here and has just set up the buffet? Because later your father, a former actor, will also drop by to casually say hello?
As I said, with this author you are never in just one place at a time, and never quite at home in the present - family stories, as he told them in his novel “Mostly everything very quickly”, always haunt his wordy stories Stories that are mainly characterized by the fact that he constantly gives very eloquent answers to questions that no one has asked. Hotels like this one preoccupy Kloeble for autobiographical and literary reasons. Berlin, Leipzig, Bavaria, India? But let's start from the beginning: A setting in Kloeble's next novel will be the Leipzig Hotel Fürstenhof, a traditional hostel that - long before the Wall was built - was once run by the great-grandfather of this 32-year-old author from the Rhineland; This great-grandfather had previously been the tenant of the Löwenbräukeller in Munich and had once been in jail there for allegedly serving poor beer - an episode that was immortalized in literature by none other than Feuchtwanger, as a prime example of Bavarian hard-heartedness.

From the province

The history of the Leipzig Hotel Fürstenhof, which was expropriated, renamed and assigned to the Ministry of Tourism (which in turn was subordinate to the notorious state security authority) in the GDR, - so that and how all this relates to the history of his own family, Christopher Kloeble was now concerned with for research reasons. His own biography can also be traced along the towns of Bavaria, Leipzig (and today Berlin). Christopher Kloeble comes from near the Bavarian town of Bad Tölz, which is a picturesque provincial nest in the German mountains and has become world famous for its boys' choir, which (of course) also Christopher Kloeble belonged to, before his voice broke at the age of eleven.

Coming from Bavaria, he was drawn to Leipzig immediately after graduating from high school, where the well-known German Literature Institute is located, which is the first training address for young literary talents in Germany. Kloeble was early because he knew earlier than many others that he wanted to be a writer. He learned and he wrote. And that's how stories, a novel, scripts came about. He is currently working on an adaptation of his book “Mostly everything very quickly” for television, and that is the reason why he is in Germany at this time. Christopher was supposed to be in India in winter.

Half a year in India

India? This emerges as we here at the Hotel Begaswinkel and very gradually uncover the many layers of his not-so-long biography, then as the youngest and perhaps the most important phase of this author's life: four years ago, Christopher Kloeble had his wife today, who I met the writer Saskya Jain, who grew up as the daughter of German-Indian parents in New Delhi, speaks Hindi, German and English like mother tongues and writes her literature in English. In 2012 Kloeble was in India for the first time, today he lives there for six months and the other half of the year in Berlin, only otherwise during the warmer months of the year.

So for reasons of half homesickness and relief of acute heartache (Kloeble's wife is currently in India) maybe a little detour to the Indian embassy? All right, but only briefly. The building is also located in the Tiergarten, which is actually the embassy district in Berlin, and it is just as big as the embassy of the state of Baden Württemberg, which is right next to it. But that's the way it is with dimensions of meaning between Germany and India: From an Indian perspective, Germany appears to be quite a long way away, and not just further away than the former colonial power England is for historical reasons - in fact, from this point of view, the whole of Europe is open Thousands of levels of complex country with its many languages ​​and ethnicities, above all, a relatively uninteresting continent - and to see this, says Kloeble, while we are now standing in the cutting winter wind in front of this red quarry stone building, that is sometimes a very healing experience.

The most famous orchestra in the world

A few hundred meters further: the Berlin Philharmonic. This building by the architect Hans Scharoun is the home of what is possibly the best and most famous orchestra in the world. The Berlin Philharmonic? “As children we had no idea!” Laughs the writer. “As a child, you just want to know when there's a Fanta next time. Or something to eat. ”The fact that the Berliner Philharmoniker are sitting there and that Claudio Abbado is swinging the baton doesn't upset a ten-year-old. On this occasion, Christopher Kloeble actually came to Berlin for the first time, as a singer, that was over twenty years ago and shortly before he broke his voice and left the Tölzer boys' choir. Kloeble also remembers appearances in Cologne, Munich, Florence or Montreux, but no longer remembers which piece he sang in Berlin back then. Wagner's Tannhauser? The Christmas Oratorio? No matter.

What is more important is a fundamental experience that he had back then. If you have to work musically as a child, and under such disciplined conditions as in this choir, then you learn to learn yourself, so to speak. You get an idea that success, including artistic success, requires work and effort. Do choirboys grow up faster? Even today, the writer admits, he and his father, the former actor, have a recurring dream in common: “After many, many years - that is, as a long-retired actor or former choirboy - you will be pushed onto the stage again, and with you the one and only question on the lips: 'Which piece? What is actually being played here? ’“ It is obviously not easy to ever forget the drill and the performance situations.

Curries, Chutneys, Thosais and Idlis in Kreuzberg

In any case, in the Tamil canteen, where we warm up afterwards, it is clear what is being played. India is being played! There are quite a few Asian restaurants here in the Kreuzberg district, but none is like this: the fruit displays on the street, the cash register right behind the front door, this is not a restaurant, but rather a small supermarket, and yet there is one in a corner Two tables where you can sit and eat. Those who are married to an Indian woman have such insider tips to offer. There is a reason why the food here, i.e. the curries, chutneys, Thosais and Idlis are so excellent: Normally, explains Kloeble, in Germany there are mainly Bangladeshi-run restaurants with North Indian cuisine, which are also very much on the adapted to European tastes. But the best food is in the south of India. Mostly vegetarian, mostly spicy, and never particularly oily.
It is astonishing how little the Germans usually know about India. His wife here once asked in all seriousness whether she had ridden the elephant to her wedding. Or the widespread cliché of a thoroughly misogynistic society. Kloeble does not deny the rape cases that were also heard in the news in this country. On the other hand, there are many more women in management positions in India than in Germany, for example. It is hard to say that women are oppressed per se.

Mountains in the capital

On the other hand: aren't there clichés about people who come from somewhere else everywhere? Christopher Kloeble keeps coming back to his Bavarian origins. In Königsdorf, that nest near Bad Tölz, there, on his trip to Italy, Goethe also stayed, but what about the horizons of the locals today? Although the place is only 45 minutes from Munich, Kloeble still knows people his age who have only been to the big city two or three times in their entire life. And isn't it in some old dictionary that the Bavarians are a dwarf and devious mountain folk? Obviously, dwarfism and deviousness are not characteristics that apply to the writer Christopher Kloeble. But the mountains? Sometimes he misses them in Berlin. And then, as a strollers, finds weak relief. So, at the end, we too climb the Kreuzberg together that gave the district its name. And how he stands there, right at the top and in front of the neo-Gothic national monument for the wars of liberation, and then behind him the lettering "Leipzig, October 18, 1813" in gold letters appears, it is really clear: You are with this one Writer never in one place at a time.


Dr. Ronald Düker is a cultural scientist and journalist. He writes for various daily and weekly newspapers and magazines. Since the beginning of 2008 he has been a member of the editorial team of Literatures, where he is responsible for non-fiction books.

Translation: Ritu Khanna
Copyright: Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan New Delhi
January 2016

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