The Ghosts of Berlin

If you stand on the steps of the Natural History Museum and look across the street, you will see the building pictured above. This is Invalidenstrasse 104, a house that appears in the story “Séance with the Stasi” from German writer Sarah Khan’s book of contemporary Berlin ghost stories, Die Gespenster von Berlin. I translated this story into English for the new issue of the wonderful literary translation journal Asymptote.

Sarah Khan received a literary prize, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung‘s  Michael-Althen-Preis für Kritik, yesterday — coincidentally the same day the new issue of Asymptote came out.

Above and below are two views of the Hinterhof, the lot behind the house. In the story a woman named Anne lives at Invalidenstrasse 104 and believes her apartment to be haunted by the embittered ghost of a turn-of-the-20th-century servant girl who died of consumption. Anne later tells this story to the author, who does archival research on the house and finds there used to be a paupers’ graveyard (belonging to the Charité hospital) behind it. I stopped by the house and its Hinterhof after I translated the story. I did not encounter any ghosts, unless by “ghosts” you mean “people annoyed that some snoopy lady was taking pictures.”

2 thoughts on “The Ghosts of Berlin

  1. Thank you! So far just the one story has been translated into English. I would love to translate the whole book, but am not sure what the chances of that would be — it’s quite difficult to get English-language publishers (on either side of the Atlantic) interested in translations from German, especially when it’s a contemporary author.

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