Cristina García is the author of seven novels: Here in Berlin; King of Cuba; The Lady Matador’s Hotel; A Handbook to Luck; Monkey Hunting; The Agüero Sisters, winner of the Janet Heidiger Kafka Prize; and Dreaming in Cuban, finalist for the National Book Award. García has edited two anthologies, Bordering Fires: The Vintage Book of Contemporary Mexican and Chicano/a Literature and Cubaní simo: The Vintage Book of Contemporary Cuban Literature. She is also the author of three works for young readers, Dreams of Significant Girls; The Dog Who Loved the Moon; and I Wanna Be Your Shoebox. A collection of poetry, The Lesser Tragedy of Death, was published in 2010.
Lilacs were blooming in Cracauerplatz. The Visitor felt disoriented and alone, an outsider, lost without a map. Her atrophied German stuck in her throat. Thirty-one years had elapsed between her last stay in Germany (for an ill-fated job in Frankfurt) and her return to Berlin in late middle age. The city struck her as post-apocalyptic—flat and featureless except for its rivers, its lakes, its legions of bicyclists. She found herself nameless: nameless in crowds, nameless alone. Another disappearance in a city with a long history of disappearance acts.
I think that’s the nature of immigration, dislocation, exile. I always thought of this title of this book by Cuban writer Gustavo Pérez, Life on the Hyphen. You can hang on one end of the hyphen or the other, you can walk and talk and do it, but your sense of belonging is more tangible. That you’re not really ever at home, completely accepting, in this in-between state. I think that’s probably truer for my parents in a way. I grew up in New York. I feel I belong here but I also think it’s given me a privileged position because I’ve been downwind of this dislocation craziness my whole life. It’s a privileged position from which to tell stories about identity and belonging or lack thereof.
The stories that comprise Here in Berlin are beautifully related with a perfectly pitched sense of melancholy and pathos, bound into a delicate yet powerful whole by The Visitor’s own struggles to preserve and renew her sense of self while forming a new perspective to live by. As Kaspar, an amnesiac photojournalist, explains to The Visitor, “Our last redoubt in the world is wonder. Wonder and unknowing.”