Going Dutch with German Writers (6) : We talk about porn

Erotic novelist Anna Blumbach knows her way around Berlin’s bars, and she and Katy Derbyshire both enjoy cocktails and dancing and slagging off bad sex in German fiction. A fabulous girls’ night out with a decidedly literary note to it.

No ladies, just drinks.
No ladies, just drinks.Foto: Privat

Who?
Anna Blumbach has written two erotic novels, Kurze Nächte and Glitzerregen. They’re both about a woman called Eva with whom both of us have a fair amount in common: among other things, she shares custody of her son and likes going out drinking and dancing. Anna Blumbach is a pseudonym.

Where?
Wohnzimmer, Schwarzsauer, CCCP, Bassy Club, all Prenzlauer Berg/Mitte

What?
We start with cocktails – Anna has pina coladas and I have mojitos – then we switch to a shandy and a Coke, then beer, then we get a shot of vodka as part of the entrance fee at CCCP, and I have a last Club Mate with vodka at Bassy.

What did we talk about?
What did we not talk about? We start by talking about Anna’s work, pretty much. She writes about sex, but also about life in general. She tells me it annoys her when people ask her how authentic it is. Did anyone ask Stanislav Lem if he’d been to the moon? No. But people – men, in fact – who’ve read her books often want to talk about sex with her. I say I find it impossible to switch off my curiosity about how much of literature is “authentic”, how far a character’s ideas reflect the author’s opinions, whether the writer has experienced similar emotions, that kind of thing. But I don’t necessarily want to know about specific situations, I think I said rather coyly. In the end, Anna admits, everything in her books is related to her because it’s a product of her imagination. Maybe she has a sick imagination. I suspect no more than most people.
Yes, she says, it’s really hard to write about sex without it getting embarrassing to read. Her way of dealing with it is avoiding toe-curling euphemisms altogether and using colloquial language. Had I noticed that when Eva’s not really all that hot to trot she analyses the sex much more than when she’s totally turned on? Now that she mentions it… And when it’s really amazing all Eva can say is: Oh oh oh my God. Sometimes she laughs out loud while she’s writing it. It’s a lot of fun to read.
We talk about porn, the visual kind. Anna tells me about the first time she saw a porn mag, at the age of 16, and how shocked and horrified she was. I talk about a similar experience at a playground when I was about 12. We found a porn mag under the roundabout and all it reminded me of was the display in a butcher’s shop. Anna worries about her son growing up surrounded by porn, picking up unrealistic ideas about sex. I say it’s hard to cope with sex as a commodity because there’s an expectation that it has to be perfect, like a shiny supermarket apple. Women have to have great bodies and men always have to perform. Our parent’s generation was more laid back, she says. I’m not sure. Maybe they were in Germany. I love that kids here grow up with Bravo magazine with its naked photo stories and out-and-proud sex tips – it was such a shock to see that for the first time.
It’s not like I’ve never watched porn in my life, I say, but I don’t want those pictures in my head while I’m having sex myself. And that’s where erotic fiction is fantastic, because you come up with your own pictures. Anna tells me she read Henry Miller at 18 and loved it, although now she thinks he was a terrible macho. We talk a little about sex in German literary fiction – how very few women dare to write about non-traumatic sex but men are quite happy to do so. We’ve talked about it before though. The bar is filling up. We lean in close on our totally cute courting chair; we don’t really want anyone listening in on the conversation. As it turns out though, almost everyone around us is speaking English. As we’re leaving, Anna overhears a tourist’s scathing judgement on the bar and its crowd: overhyped and underfucked. She’s putting that scene in a book, she tells me, pleased as punch. She’ll kill me for stealing it.

The Blogger: Katy Derbyshire

Katy Derbyshire is a London-born translator who moved to Berlin in 1996. She has translated many contemporary German writers, including Felicitas Hoppe, Francis Nenik, Clemens Meyer, Inka Parei, Dorothee Elmiger, Simon Urban, Sibylle Lewitscharoff and Christa Wolf. She likes talking about books.

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