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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Back from Berlin

I arrived at the Gropiusstraße 2 Thursday 30 October, 2014.

On the first night, while walking around on Museum Island, we saw concrete slabs with dicta on them, one was by Seneca, new to me: "No great genius was without a mixture of insanity".

We ate Japanese. In the evening we went to the Amerika Haus Berlin and saw a Magnum Photos retrospective.

Friday morning, visit to the Reichstag, than visited the Berlin Victory Column, than the Gemäldegalerie (which houses paintings from the Renaissance to the 18th century) where I saw Vermeer's Woman with a Pearl Necklace and almost cried. I also saw Jean Foucquet's left panel of the Melun Diptych with a Saint Stephen bleeding from the head. I was completely blown away by Saint Stephen's golden collar.

In the afternoon we went to the Alte Nationalgalerie which is the 19th century collection. Highlight is Caspar David Friedrich and personal favourite Arnold Böcklin (including one of the famous Isle of the Dead). New to me was Adolph Menzel. His The Artist's Foot (1876) is quite the work.

The most kitsch painting there is Pontine Marshes at Sunset[1] by August Kopisch.

Another notable painting there is Mademoiselle Rose by Eugène Delacroix.

In the evening we went to an English-language cinema and saw Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars (more a Greek tragedy than a film) which features the poem "Liberty", unwitting incest of brother and sister, six or seven deaths, Russian roulette, lots of pills (tranquilizers such as Klonopin, painkillers such as Vicodin), child actors, ghosts, Hollywood satire, music by Howard Shore and acid cynicism chilled by the occasional laugh.

What's Berlin like? It's not like Paris nor London. Traffic lights switch quickly. Lots of bullet holes in the few remaining old buildings, I imagine the entire old city was destroyed, people drinking beer on the subway, no jaywalking, dirty, cheap (went out with two to a Vietnamese restaurant for €15), full of graffiti, lively and friendly. Oh yeah, and there are sparrows, which have died out in our parts. And there is techno music everywhere.

While I was there, I read Simenon's La Vérité sur Bébé Donge and Nietzsche's Twilight of the Idols.

The Simenon novel is excellent. You get a feeling you understand but not quite understand the characters. I love his writing.

The Nietzsche book the one with the dictum "Plato is boring" but also with the one "Socrates is an eroticus." There is one part ("The sick are parasites of society") in which I can see that the Nazis would have found gefundenes fressen (see Nietzsche and fascism). Also, some criticism of Kant and criticism on contemporaries such as Sainte Beuve.

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