The Babbel Blog

Online Language Learning

Jason Lutes: “Making the leap from cold history to something that feels more alive”

Posted on November 30, 2008 by

The recently published “Berlin – City of Smoke”, playing in 1929/30, is the second book in an eventual graphic-novel triology. Its creator, Jason Lutes, talks about diving into German history without speaking German.

You hadn’t been to Berlin before you started the comic – How did you make a picture for yourself?

I did about two years of research before I started the project. My research consisted of just reading everything I could find about German history, Berlin, etc. All the texts I did consume were translated from German into English, so that limited the material that I had at my disposal. But I just got everything I could from books of art, to maps of the city, books of photographs, novels – anything I could get my hands on. It was until 4 years after I started the project that I actually visited Berlin for the first time – so from beginning researching the project to actually visiting was a period of about six years.

Did you recognize the city from your research?

I did, I was a little apprehensive, no, I was more than apprehensive, I was very anxious — almost terrified — to see the real place, because I was very worried that it would be so different from the story I was trying to tell that it would render what I’d done useless.
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Opening up your ears and letting it make sense: Interview with Berlin novelist Anna Winger

Posted on November 9, 2008 by

Anna Winger, novelist, photographer, mother and all-around Berlin renaissance woman, talked to Babbel Blog about her recent novel “This Must be the Place”, writing between languages, multi-lingual motherhood, and her new US National Public Radio series “Berlin Stories”. She will be doing a live reading at 9:30 pm on November 26th at Kaffee Burger in Berlin.

Click here to hear the interview with Anna Winger – (Right click to download mp3).

Babbel Blog: You wrote a novel called “This Must be the Place” which came out in August of 2008. The book takes place in Berlin, and has two main characters: Hope, an American, and Walter, a German. Could you briefly describe their relationship with each other and what part the German and English languages played?

Hope and Walter are neighbors in the same building in Charlottenburg, they have no prior knowledge of each other before they meet in the elevator of their building. I guess I chose specifically these two characters, one who is a German, who kind of lives a fantasy of the United States in his mind, so he has this idea of America, he fantasizes about going back to live in America –he lived there once when he was young and actually had an American mother who died – so he has this fantasy idea of America in his imagination, and then an American character who has never really been outside of the United States so she has never seen the US from the outside before. She doesn’t speak any other language and it’s really her first time being alone in a foreign country, so the German language is very opaque for her, it sort of increases her sense of isolation that she can’t understand even basic information. (more…)

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