Win a pair of tickets to The Dillinger Escape Plan \m/

by James Glazebrook

@benweinman on instagram

@benweinman on instagram

[EDIT: this competition is now closed. Click here to see if we’re running any open competitions]

WTF. The Dillinger Escape Plan have to be the maddest band on the planet. Have a look at their craziest moments, and scroll down to find how to win 2 tickets to see them test Postbahnhof’s fire codes next Sunday, August 16th.


Want to headwalk your way to Postbahnof next Sunday? Just answer this question in the comments below:

What’s the craziest concert you’ve ever been to?

You have until 6pm on Friday 7th August. Good luck!

The Boring Bit (yawn, RULES):

1. You must be at least 18 years old to enter.
3. We will keep a record of each comment in a database and then a random number generator picks the winner.
4. Remember to include your full (real) name and email address or we won’t be able to put you on the guestlist!
5. We will notify the winners via email.

Wedding: Workers, Foreigners and Beer

by Guest Blogger

Photo by Linka A Odom

Photo by Linka A Odom

[EDIT: this competition is now closed. Click here to see if we’re running any open competitions]

Letters from Berlin is a collection of 12 weekly essays, each focussed on a different district of the city. Bringing together photographers, filmmakers, writers, translators and theatre directors, Letters from Berlin (published by The Pigeonhole) reflects the many creative facets of this uncanny city, creating an album of vivid snapshots. 

Enjoy an excerpt from one of our favourite essays, Marcel Krüger’s walk through Wedding, and enter our competition to win a free subscription to the series.

Links, links, links, links,
Ein Lump wer kapituliert.
Links, links, links, link!
Der rote Wedding marschiert!

– Erich Weinert, 1929

Wedding was a raw expanse of towerblocks, tattoo pits, kebab shops. Nogoodniks in mauve-coloured tracksuits decorated every corner. We had a properly respectful air as we passed through. This was how Berlin was supposed to be. […] The rearsides of the towerblocks loomed either side of a dirt pathway itchy with catkins beneath our sandals, and the word ‘proletariat’ rolled its glamorous syllables over my tongue.

– Kevin Barry, from ‘Berlin Arkonaplatz – My Lesbian Summer’, 2012

…Sometimes I think that while Berlin is the ever-changing Moloch on the plains of Brandenburg and the wetlands of the Spree, its outgrowth Wedding has remained endearingly static over the last fifty years. Maybe it always had a certain roguishness that prevented beautification and change. Wedding is allegedly always up-and-coming. ‘Der Wedding kommt’, Wedding is coming, some of my friends used to say when I visited Berlin for the first time in 2001, staying near the fleshpots of then ungentrified Prenzlauer Berg. Some keep repeating it to this day. Der Wedding kommt.

It’s Sunday, by now after lunchtime and I’ve walked a bit: it’s definitely time for refreshments. I take a detour from Seestraße and step into a neighbourhood brewery, Vagabund Brauerei on Antwerpener Straße. Three American home brewers opened a small taproom here in 2013, and they serve their own craft brews together with classic German and Belgian beers.

Like many other working-class areas, Wedding has a long tradition of brewing, which is slowly being rejuvenated. On nearby Müllerstraße is Eschenbräu, one of Berlin’s first craft breweries, open since 2001, and also close by is the best small beer speciality store in Berlin, Hopfen & Malz. There’s also the VLB Berlin (Versuch- u. Lehranstalt für Brauerei in Berlin), which provides research, training, education and service for the brewing industry. Founded in 1883, it moved to its current location on Seestraße in 1898, and until 1981 it even operated the Hochschul Brauerei, or brewery university, where students could try brewing different types of beer, which were then sold to the public.

Vagabund Brewery has become a poster child for the local craft beer scene. It has been featured in articles in The New Yorker, Forbes travel, Der Spiegel and a plethora of German newspapers feting the craft-beer trend. One could easily say that Vagabund is a pub catering only to moustachioed expat drinkers and not to locals and is therefore a prime example of gentrification pushing out existing social structures, a topic hotly discussed in Berlin. As I enter the bright interior of the taproom, almost deserted so early on a Sunday afternoon, I’m glad to see both Matt Walthall and David Spengler, two of the three owners, manning the bar. We soon start chatting about beer and gentrification.

‘So often people ask us about this “trend” of locally brewed craft beer,’ Matt says. ‘David and I studied history, and that is part of what draws us to brewing: there’s so much history involved. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, every Berlin neighbourhood had its own brewery – so, for us, the whole appeal is not about being trendsetters. We clearly see ourselves as part of a tradition.

‘We didn’t plan to come to Wedding specifically. We looked all over Berlin for a year and a half, but we couldn’t find the right combination of brew room, taproom and a big enough basement. I was actually the one who was the most sceptical of Wedding – I thought of Bernauer Straße, Plattenbauten and so on. And then I moved here and now I’m the biggest promoter. Wedding still has a strong community feel to it, and there are no areas here where whole blocks have been bought by developers, like in Neukölln. And it’s one of the few places in Berlin where the classic population structures have not been pushed out – the majority of our neighbours have been here for twenty or thirty years.’

Indeed, the neighbouring commercial establishments are a strange mix of shisha bars, corner pubs with Sternenburger posters (‘Sterni’ is the cheap and mass-produced Berlin beer preferred by many inhabitants of Wedding) and bookmakers with bright neon signs reflecting off the street’s wet cobblestones. Three years ago, a man ran amok on the street here, armed with two knives and an axe, and was shot by the police. But in general nowadays, things are fairly quiet.

‘We love how laid back the street is,’ David chips in. ‘Sometimes when I’m in some of those “happening” districts down in the southeast of the city, I’m amazed because there’s just so many people. In our little promenade street, it’s much more laid-back and chill. I also like knowing the people from the neighbourhood and even having a drink with them sometimes. I think that might be harder to do somewhere else.’

‘In the beginning I was quite nervous about whether the neighbours would accept us,’ Matt admits. ‘There was this elderly woman walking past the shop every day when we were renovating, and she was always giving us this look, and I thought, “She probably hates us.” Then one day when I was outside cleaning the windows she came up to me and said, “Oh I’m so glad that you kids are here now!” Afterwards we learned that the previous tenants were Hell’s Angels.’

I ask David how he feels about gentrification, especially in Wedding.

‘I guess some people would consider us gentrifiers,’ he says, ‘but really, that word just plain sucks, along with its negative connotations. We didn’t take over the entire block with the intention of knocking down all the old buildings, building new high-rise apartment complexes and charging three times the rent. That, to me, is “gentrification”. We just built a small brewery and bar in a place that once sold heroin out the back door. If a small, independently owned coffee shop or bookstore or chess store opens up, is that also gentrification? Where is the line, the gentrifi-demarcation? I made that last word up, by the way.”

We both laugh, and I drain my glass. Time to walk more of Wedding. I finally hop on one of the trams and travel along Osloer Straße to the former border, clanking past the Currywurst booth on the corner of Prinzenallee, where sausages are served with the hottest sauces in Berlin; they have names like ‘Pain Is Good’, ‘Ground Zero’ and ‘Holy Shit’. We cross the Panke, the small, ancient river that runs all the way from Bernau in Brandenburg through Pankow and Wedding until it ends in the Berlin-Spandau shipping canal, another former border between East and West. I switch from tram to U-Bahn and emerge onto the corner of Brunnenstraße and Bernauer Straße soon after.

After the Second World War, Wedding became part of the French sector of Berlin. French troops occupied a large military complex near Tegel airport and erected a cultural centre complete with a 15-metre-high faux Eiffel Tower on Müllerstraße. They protected the Western Sector, but the development of prospering Wedding still lay in the hands of the West Berlin city council.

The buildings on the north side of Wedding’s Bernauer Straße and the street itself, including sidewalks, were in the Allied sector, while the buildings along the southern side were in Soviet territory. When the Berlin Wall was erected in August 1961, many of those who lived in these buildings frantically jumped from their windows before the buildings were evacuated and the windows bricked up. Wedding was also the western terminus of one of the first refugee tunnels dug underneath the Berlin Wall. The tunnel ran from the basement of an abandoned factory on Schönholzer Straße in the Soviet sector to another building in the West, passing underneath Bernauer Straße. Though well constructed and successfully kept a secret, the tunnel was plagued by water from leaking pipes and had to be shut down after only a few days of operation. Near the spot on Bernauer Straße where the tunnel ended, a section of the Wall has been reconstructed as one of the official memorials to the division of Germany.


A few weeks before my walk, I was talking to Sven Goldmann, a journalist for the Berlin newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, who remembers growing up in Wedding during the Cold War: ‘My grandmother often reminded us how good we had it,’ he told me. ‘In the Thirties, Wedding had been a communist area and dangerous. People were shot here. Every third man was out of work and the women were sitting at home. Well, my grandmother was old. The younger generations had a better time: all the communists were living behind the Berlin wall, and there were no people out of work here. As kids we were happy: our parents worked at the Wittler bread factory in Maxstraße or at the Rotaprint printing press, and we played football on the many empty spaces among the buildings. Well, at least until the builders came and we had to find another pitch.’

As Annett Gröschner writes in City Spaces: Filling in Berlin’s Gaps (Readux, 2015; trans. Katy Derbyshire), when the Wall was built, the neighbourhood around Brunnenstraße ‘lent itself to urban planning experiments. For the reconstruction of Wedding, soon revealed as its eradication, a gigantic money-wasting machine was set in motion, private land was bought up by non-commercial housing associations, old houses demolished and new ones built that looked thin-skinned and made only for sleeping in.’ Today, this is known as Brunnenviertel, a striking conglomeration of 1970s concrete and plastic.

‘One day our teacher took us to one of the watchtowers for tourists, from where we could observe East Berlin,’ Sven Goldman said, ‘and she told us how lucky we were to have all the new buildings here while the people in the East had to live in the shabby old houses.’

After the Wall fell and capitalism had defeated communism, Wedding suffered. In a united Germany, Berlin companies no longer received state subventions, and many of the factories in Wedding closed as business was outsourced. In the last twenty-five years, unemployment in Wedding has been at a steady fifteen per cent, and even though there are initiatives by both state and city to tackle this, it seems many people here will remain without jobs for the foreseeable future. Petty crime is also widespread. Soldiner Straße near Gesundbrunnen, for example, had such a bad name that footballers at the 2006 World Cup described it as ‘Berlin’s Soweto’. Around the turn of the millennium, various groups were formed in an attempt to bring some positive energy to the area. The arts initiative Kolonie Wedding, founded in 2001, set up studios and galleries in what would be otherwise empty shop fronts and once a month hosts coordinated vernissage weekends with walking tours between the different venues.


I take the U-Bahn and re-emerge from its depths on Nauener Platz, where the owner of the local kebab shop calls me ‘neighbour’ every time I stop by, and where a punk with beer on his breath once helped me out with washing powder at the laundrette. I reach my little apartment building again, the grey, two-storeyed one, nestled between the five-storey Wilheminian buildings to its left and right. The sun is finally out and the drunkard/madman gone, and on the other side of the street Turkish teenagers sit on benches in the park tilting their sunglassed faces skywards. As I enter the building, I find a poster hung there by Berlin police, informing me that someone has broken into our building while I have been out.


This is Wedding: fifty-year-old corner pubs that once catered to off-shift workers and now serve those in need of a drink at ten in the morning; communists, resistance fighters and morphine addicts; a mini Eiffel Tower and young Americans reanimating the age-old brewing tradition of Prussian Berlin. It’s not a particularly nice place, but it is a prime example of the fascinating ruggedness often associated with Berlin that is fast disappearing from many other places throughout the city.


Just leave us a comment below. The first 10 comments get a free subscription!

You have until 6pm on Friday 24th July to enter. Good luck!

The Boring Bit (yawn, RULES):

1. You must be 18 years or older to enter.
3. The first 10 comments win. Simple as.
4. If you win, we’ll let you know by email how to claim your prize.

City of Exiles

by Guest Blogger

[EDIT: this competition is now closed. Click here to see if we’re running any open competitions]

Berlin: no man’s land, frontier, a city adrift in the sands of Central Europe. Destroyed, divided and held captive during a century of chaos and upheaval, borderless Berlin has yet remained a city where drifters, dreamers and outsiders can find a place — and finally run free.

In City of Exiles, Stuart Braun evokes the restless spirits that have come and gone from Berlin across the last century, the itinerants who are the source of the Berliner Luft, the special free air that infuses this beguiling metropolis.

Read more about City of Exiles here, attend its launch at Agora, read an excerpt below and, after that, find out how to win a signed copy of the book. 

I needed to get out of
Australia, and Berlin had
long been my Plan B.

It was, I’ll admit, a pretty vague plan. I’d spent some inspired weeks in Berlin in ’96, had often professed love for the city. But I was young then. The years passed. That fabled summer was fading into the mists of my wasted youth.

Yet out of all the cities I had travelled and sometimes lived in, Berlin was the one that gave me hope. It was my promised place — the salve for my savage restlessness.

In Australia, I’d been making documentaries about the Aboriginal people I had met on the streets of inner-city Melbourne. Maybe I was trying to belong, trying to connect with the indigenous history of a land I believed was not really mine.

I was also doing bits of writing but it hadn’t quite clicked since I’d returned from Tokyo—the city I escaped to in the early 2000s, and where I consolidated my career as a journalist and writer. Melbourne was a nice change from my hometown of Sydney. I had many friends in the city. I had found love in Melbourne. But I kept dreaming of escape. I kept dreaming of Berlin.

What was the problem? Hard to say. Australia’s beautiful. It’s supposed to be wild and free. I find it very controlling. Too many rules. And competitive. Stressful. Trying to get ahead. To fulfil the dream of owning a big house — two big houses, preferably.

Melbourne was once a little like Berlin. It was affordable, sort of European, home to many artists. But these days you need a million bucks to live in Melbourne. It started to feel segregated, as my Aboriginal friends who were getting kicked off the streets they call home will confirm. And you had to drive. You sat in traffic a lot with all the people trying to get back to the safety of their big house. I don’t know. I suppose I’d always felt a kind of anxiety in Australia.

It was 2006, and like a good citizen I got a bank loan and bought a house. Mine was off-grid, fitted with a couple of solar panels, the cheapest one bedroom in the state on a dirt road to nowhere. A little cottage in the mountains where I could escape the city, write and build some kind of foundation. It was paradise up there in the rainforest with the kookaburras. A real sanctuary. But I kept thinking that I needed to move to Berlin.

I was making a documentary about the Aboriginal community in the Fitzroy district of Melbourne—the Black Mile that was being recolonised through gentrification — when I decided it was finally time to go. Luckily, my partner Melisa agreed.

It had been 13 years. I could barely remember Berlin. But I had a strong sense of it. As we flew in over the outlying forests and lakes in the autumn of 2009, I felt like I was coming home. People welcomed us into the city, angels on trains and sidewalks showing us the way. After a week in Berlin, I wrote this in my notebook.

In the city where Walter Benjamin and the National Socialist Party were born, a city of great humanity and horror, my companion and I have decided to create history. One is only as good as his and her address, and so our metropolitan moment can now be had, our time on the good strasse where the world has come to meet, merge, emerge. It’s the time of the gypsies and we’ve made it, just, easily, not knowing how, when, where, why, but staying on track, on song, en route to this prehistoric, predestined, preternatural gathering in the land of the goths.

The National Socialist Party was born in Munich (something Berliners are proud of), but what did I know? I was writing crap in a 30-cent exercise book I’d recently purchased in India, about a city I had been in for exactly seven days. But looking at the words again a few years later, I’m struck by the line about the place where the world has come to meet, the words “preternatural gathering”, words that resonated and seemingly inspired me to write this book.

Subconsciously, I knew that I was now living in a city of exiles. I was one of many. I was among people who had nearly all come to Berlin from elsewhere. Some were privileged soul-searchers like me, some came because this long divided and bankrupt city was relatively empty and cheap and gave people the freedom to do their own thing, to make their art. Some were real exiles: refugees from war-torn Sierra Leone; Palestinians who had lost their home forever; Germans who had escaped to a walled, demilitarised city in the 1970s to avoid joining the army; Greeks and Spaniards fleeing austerity and unending deep recession. Oh, and don’t forget the dogs. Many are refugees, like our Spanish street dog who was rescued from certain death. We take him to bars, restaurants, the office, on the train. He’s somehow free here and like many of Berlin’s exiles, he needed to get out of somewhere.

When I wrote those words about the time of the gypsies, I didn’t know what I was saying. But now that I think about it, I wrote those words because I quickly felt that a certain kind of vagabond, of free spirit, was drawn to this city. Maybe I was writing in my notebook about the meeting of another Lost Generation, like the one after the Great War, all those disillusioned souls who wanted to be writers and artists and sometimes ended up in Paris, but also Berlin, as I’ll explain later. Maybe Berlin really was a great open street where the world had come to “meet, merge, emerge”. Maybe Berlin was a place where people try to be poetic.

What will I do in Berlin? I thought. Will I write about the Stasi, or the Wall, or drinking and dancing and going to darkrooms and living on very little and having so much fun and losing my soul like they talked about in all the magazines? Berlin was having another mythological moment; it was the golden 1920s all over. But there was something else about this city, something that hadn’t really been written about.


Berlin reminded me of the places in inner Melbourne where my Aboriginal friends had long gathered. They originally came from different tribes across the state, and many ended up in Melbourne after escaping missions, jails and children’s homes in which they’d been imprisoned—often after being stolen from their parents. They gathered in these once working-class streets of Melbourne and set up a meeting place for a displaced generation. They created this place on their own terms, taking back squares and parks for themselves. They were still marginalised of course, and there were drugs, alcohol, fights and police harassment. But there was a freedom, a kind of self-determination that I could identify with, that I was looking for I suppose.

It’s a hazy comparison; but many people had similarly come to Berlin to live on their own terms. It was also a meeting place. Berlin was open to these exiles; it gave them space to build their world from the ground up. Not always. But the potential was there. Like the indigenous people from diverse regions who came to Melbourne and created a pan-Aboriginal identity, a necessary solidarity, Berlin’s global tribes were also getting together. Here you had no family structures to fall back on. You had to work together. Plus there was no corporate money, no big investors or sponsors around. The good money went south to Munich and Frankfurt during the war and wall years and never came back. That’s why all the enterprise — the bars, galleries, clubs, outdoor markets and bookstores — seemed to be independent collaborations. You still don’t see many chains. Meeting people who’d been here a long time, they all talked about this idea of a Berlin family.

As I started to think about Berlin as a sanctuary, and remembered that, in the 1980s, a band of Berlin exiles, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, recorded an old blues song here called “City of Refuge”, I started to realise that people had been coming to Berlin for similar reasons for a long time.

It was 2010, and the American photographer Nan Goldin was in town to promote an exhibition of images taken during her Berlin years in the 1980s and ’90s. She is a legend among some of my friends, and I’d seen her very candid portrayals of the people she knew intimately in Berlin, some dying of AIDS, others living in squats. I attended the retrospective on the day that Goldin delivered a talk, and was struck by the following words:

The best years of my life were here in Berlin. I don’t say that lightly. I’ve been looking for a home all my life. The only place I feel myself and comfortable and feel real love for my friends is Berlin.

Goldin had been a runaway since she was a teen, finally escaping to New York before moving to Berlin. She now lives in Paris with her girlfriend. But Berlin remains the only true home she’s ever had.

My father, who, aged 16, fled Hungary as the Red Army put down the 1956 revolution, told me he could live in Berlin as he walked the city for the first time. He says it every time he returns. If only he had the means, he’d move here. But why would he leave the sparkling east coast of Australia for this dark, decrepit city? Sure, the linden trees remind him of his village in Hungary. Yet it’s difficult to say. He just feels good here.

So I had something to write about: this idea of a city of exiles, this place where different kinds of people didn’t necessarily just fit in, but felt good — not always, but in a fundamental way, a way that had long eluded many of them. I read about the Czech-Jewish writer Franz Kafka and his obsession with finding sanctuary in Berlin, the city that remained his mythical escape until his death, his ‘antidote’ to his despised hometown of Prague.


Many have come to Berlin and have disliked it, or have just found it okay. They have not had the epiphany that Goldin or Kafka had. Some had little choice in coming to Berlin. Like the French Huguenots, who were escaping religious persecution in the late 1600s. They were offered sanctuary. They couldn’t say no. They helped establish a template for tolerance in Berlin that I will get to later, and which partly explains why Jewish people were so integral to this city until 1933 — the year Hitler came to town from Munich, the year Berlin officially marks as the “destruction of diversity”.

In the 1970s, David Bowie, like the Huguenots, found refuge in Berlin. I shouldn’t mention Bowie. His Berlin story is cooked. I can hear my friends now — no you didn’t, of all the people, in the prologue! But Bowie loved this town because he, like everyone else, could just be a Berliner. He moved around as he pleased. He was taken at face value. “I just can’t express the feeling of freedom I felt there”, he said a little predictably.

But what exactly is this feeling of freedom, and why has it endured? Why this city, built on a sandy swamp, a no man’s land bordering East and West Europe? Why, despite the decades of conflagration, the crushing continental cold?

Hundreds of books have been written about a Berlin that grew up so fast, flowered so brilliantly, that was burnt, divided and held prisoner for half a century. They have inevitably pored over its restive history, its cultural effusions and totalitarian darknesses, its decadence, its ghosts, its secret police.

But as my earlier notebook ranting about preternatural gatherings and the time of the gypsies alluded, I believe that Berlin is Berlin because of its strangers, its wanderers, its many displaced people who have come to build a kind of safe haven. These free-flowing exiles are the source of the freedom so many feel when they come to Berlin — they are the city’s substance in a sense.

I know; I’m making a huge generalisation. But it’s a means for me to explain why, as I walk and bicycle Berlin’s cobbled and increasingly renovated streets, I feel so settled, more than I’ve ever felt before. By trying to understand how this city of exiles came to be, maybe I can also hope to understand the place I left behind, and to one day go back.


Just leave us a comment below with the answer to this question:

(apart from Bowie, Kafka, Nan Goldin and Nick Cave)
Who do you think is the quintessential Berliner-in-exile?
And why?

Our 2 favourite answers will win a signed copy of City of Exiles.

You have until 6pm on Tuesday 19th May to enter. Good luck!

The Boring Bit (yawn, RULES):

1. You must be 18 years or older to enter.
3. Our favourite comments win. Simple as.
4. If you win, we’ll let you know by email and get your postal address.

Win 2 tickets to Torche at Bi Nuu!

by Guest Blogger

by Mike T West.

EDIT: this competition is now closed. Click here to see if we’re running any open competitions]

Sweet Männertag/Vatertag/Christi Himmelfahrt we’ve got another long German weekend coming up. That’s why we’re especially pumped to be giving away two pairs of tickets to see the crushing crushdom of sludge-stoner crushers – Torche!


Formed ten years ago in Miami, Florida, Torche have just released their fourth doom-pop opus, Restarter. The album finds them laying down some of their heaviest material to date and continuing to refine the band’s defiant metal-non-metal attitude.


We are teaming up with Landstreicher Konzerte and giving away two pairs of tickets for Torche’s show at Bi Nuu next Saturday. Just leave us a comment below with the answer to this question:

If you could invent a German public holiday to replace Männertag, what would it be called?

You have until midnight on Tuesday 12th May to enter. GOOD LUCK!

The Boring Bit (yawn, RULES):

1. You must be 18 years or older to enter.
3. We will keep a record of each comment in a database and then a random number generator picks the winner.
4. Remember to include your full (real) name and email address, so we can contact you if you win.
5. We will notify the winners via email on Wednesday 13th May.

Giveaway: win 2 tickets to EYEHATEGOD!

by James Glazebrook


EDIT: this competition is now closed. Click here to see if we’re running any open competitions]

EYEHATEGOD are fucking legends! A cornerstone of the New Orleans metal scene, their caustic fusion of breakneck hardcore and crushing sludge spawned a generation of crusty-ass, iconoclastic riff monsters. Next Monday, the boys from the bayou are back in Berlin, knocking our socks/cocks off at Cassiopeia – and we have 2 pairs of tickets to give away! For a quick education on EYEHATEGOD, watch this stellar short documentary from Noisey, and scroll down to find out how to win two tickets to next week’s show!


Just leave us a comment below with the answer to this question:

(apart from EYEHATEGOD) What’s the best thing ever to come out of New Orleans?

You have until midnight on Friday 10th April to enter. GOOD LUCK!

The Boring Bit (yawn, RULES):

1. You must be 18 years or older to enter.
3. We will keep a record of each comment in a database and then a random number generator picks the winner.
4. Remember to include your full (real) name and email address, so we can contact you if you win.
5. We will notify the winner via email on Saturday 11th April.

Raw Material

by James Glazebrook

EDIT: this competition is now closed. Click here to see if we’re running any open competitions]

Jörg Fauser is one of Germany’s most overlooked countercultural icons. He “drank more beer than Bukowski and shot more heroin than William Burroughs”, yet still found time to write Raw Material, a savage satire about the decay of the dreams of the sixties. Originally published in German as Rohstoff, this semi-autobiographical masterpiece was translated into English last year. Find out how to win one of 5 copies we’re giving away, after this excerpt in which our protagonist takes to the Berlin streets for a radical protest, with a pocket full of LSD trips:

The auditorium maximum of the Technical University was packed. That evening’s topic for debate was the forthcoming vote for federal president, which was taking place in Berlin. As ever the list of speakers was endless. Practically no-one was thinking of Heinemann as a candidate. I was standing right at the back of the room amongst the rank and file, taking care not to become separated from Sarah. Sarah was nineteen and reminded me of the Song of Songs: “Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes within thy locks: thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead.” Last summer she’d sent me a photo of herself to Istanbul; she was leaning against a tree in the Englischer Garten in Munich, and when Ede saw it he said, “If there’s anyone who’s going to pull you out of the shit, it’ll be her.” Now she was in Berlin too, and I was determined not to be parted from her again.

The crowd jeered and shouted down a young socialist. It was all part of a ritual in which the leaders of the radicals played at being the Bolshevik bosses, and the students and dropouts in the auditorium the riotous masses of St Petersburg. In truth it was much simpler: the leaders were enthroned on the podium and engaged in high politics, while the rank and file stood below, believing in the historical moment. Skilful direction brought the room to boiling point and at the decisive moment the slogan was uttered: “Onto the streets!”

We were still a tight mass in Hardenbergstrasse, but when we got to America House, where the police lay in wait, the crowd soon dissipated. It struck me that I had twenty LSD trips in my pocket, which I’d swapped for a few of the blocks I’d got off the Turk. As I hurried away I looked around for Sarah. She was behind me, being shoved along rather than moving of her own accord. In the police floodlights and nocturnal glow of Hardenbergstrasse Sarah looked far too beautiful and fragile. I tried to grab her and battle my way out to the side, but those advancing from behind dragged me along with them. Stones were being hurled at America House, but word got around that we were to take the Kurfürstendamm, and so we charged onwards, past Zoo station. Stones were everywhere on the ground; I picked up a couple myself – smooth, grey cobbles. I’d soon forgotten the LSD, and Sarah too. I charged with the crowd. There was the Ku’damm, the colourful façades, the onlookers, the massive vehicles with their water cannons, we were coming from all sides, we were storming. There was Café Kranzler, temple of the bourgeoisie, there were the police, chains of uniformed men that entangled us. No sooner had the echoes of our war cries died down than the first screams of those being beaten by truncheons resounded in the street. I threw a stone, then turned around and saw a policeman charging towards me at full pelt. I dropped the other stone and ducked. The truncheon only hit me as I bent down, a second blow found my arm, and another policeman hauled me off to a patrol car, but let me go when a new troop of assailants broke through and made for Kranzler. Cautiously I stood up again. No one appeared to be watching me. I slipped through a kind of no man’s land to the corner of Joachimsthaler. There were stones everywhere, protesters bent over injured bodies, those arrested held temporarily in wrist locks by the police. I felt cold and thought that our attempt to take the Ku’damm had been a complete farce and would be far better without me. I looked for Sarah and found her at a metro station. I took her in my arms. She was wearing a fur coat and I an old, thick cloth jacket, but through all our winter clothes I could still feel her breasts which bore the promise of springtime.

Via a circuitous route we arrived at the flat near Savignyplatz, where Boleslaw and his girlfriend, Sylvia, were waiting. They’d been living in a commune in Potsdamer Strasse and had now moved into this grand, nine-room apartment belonging to two scientists who worked at Siemens and were trying to find a synthesis between computer science and anarchism. As far as I was concerned, their flat was paradise: an enormous kitchen where everything functioned, a refrigerator filled to the brim, tiled stoves, comfortable sofas and leather armchairs everywhere, pictures hanging from the panelled walls, two bathrooms, two cats, books. I offered them all a trip. Sarah was still together with a friend of Boleslaw’s, an ascetic philosophy student in his seventeenth semester, who lived in a tiny hovel without any hot water in Steglitz. I wanted, of course, to prise her away from him. That night we all took a trip, and in such surroundings I sensed I was coming closer to the world of literature.

I sat with Sarah in Bolesaw and Sylvia’s room. To my mind these were the nicest people I’d come into contact with in Berlin. They were good-looking, they were educated without trumpeting it, they’d travelled widely, and they had artistic leanings without pretending to be artists. Their anarchism was an intellectual provocation, but they, too, had picked up stones in the street, and told the state precisely what they thought of it in court. And one day there was no doubt that this society would give them the space they were asking for. I looked down at myself. I felt like a filthy little drug-dealer from Tophane. I could sense the dirt oozing from my every pore. “2,000 light years from home.” That’s how I perceived myself too. Sarah lit an incense stick. She was so breathtakingly beautiful; how could I imagine that she’d be the one to save me from all this shit? The beauty of the Orient flowed in waves from her face and transformed the wall into the Taj Mahal. Sylvia snuggled up to Boleslaw, who smiled at me. I was sweating. I rolled a joint. That was one thing I could do. Although it was good to be able to do at least something, I felt I’d have to demonstrate a little more if I was going to win over Sarah, Boleslaw and Sylvia. The three of them seemed to be fusing into one, together with the candlelight, the music, the smell of the incense. I was sitting beside them like a lump of frozen spaghetti. I was sitting beside them like a heap of unsellable copies of The Function of the Orgasm. I was back in Istanbul, sitting on the roof, the snow seeping through the walls, the foghorns wailing, the pigeons scrabbling at the holes in the plaster, the schoolchildren below filing into the playground and singing the national anthem. Were I sitting there I could write again. Although I didn’t have my notebooks or a radiograph, this biro would do, this sheet of paper with computer formulae on the back. I started writing.

The following morning Sarah went to fetch her things from Steglitz, and we moved into the maid’s room beside the kitchen. Heinemann was elected president.


If you were going to take to the streets, what would you protest against?

Our 5 favourite answers will win a copy of Raw Material.

You have until 6pm on Sunday 29th March to enter. Good luck!

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1. You must be 18 years or older to enter.
3. Our favourite comment wins. Simple as.
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Win tickets to Open Mike Eagle and Homeboy Sandman at Berghain

by James Glazebrook

[EDIT: this competition is now closed. Click here to see if we’re running any open competitions]

Open Mike Eagle and Homeboy Sandman are two of the hottest rappers on the US hip hop circuit, and they’re headed to Berlin! The Swim Team crew member and Stones Throw’s Sandman are part of that amorphous emcee scene which the former likes to call “art rap”. And they’re bringing their intelligent, intense brand of wordplay to Berghain’s little sister venue Kantine next week. Scroll down past Open Mike Eagle’s video for “Dark Comedy Morning Show” to find out how to win a pair of tickets!

Speaking of comedy, Open Mike’s also performed at shows by hilarious people like Matt Besser (UCB) and Paul F. Tompkins because, hey, these dudes are pretty fucking funny too. For proof, just check out his and Homeboy’s appearance on our favourite hip hop podcast, Shots Fired:


Just leave us a comment below with the answer to this easy question:

Who’s the funniest rapper you can think of? Drop us some lyrics that will make us LOL.

You have until midnight on Thursday 13th November to enter. GOOD LUCK!

The Boring Bit (yawn, RULES):

1. You must be 18 years or older to enter.
3. We will keep a record of each comment in a database and then a random number generator picks the winner.
4. Remember to include your full (real) name and email address, so we can contact you if you win.
6. We will notify the winner via email on Friday 14th November.