Schöneberg: A Meditation by André Alexis
A literary exploration in four parts
Commissioned & presented by the Goethe-Institut Toronto with the Berliner Künstlerprogramm of the DAAD
A visual and literary journey from the self to Berlin to the district of Schöneberg: The Goethe-Institut Toronto invited Canadian author André Alexis, who spent 2020/21 in Berlin as a DAAD fellow, to create a personal short film about how he relates to the city he encountered, in particular his neighbourhood of Schöneberg.
Watch for free at instagram.com/goetheinstitut_toronto/ Oct 5, 12, 19, 26
Schöneberg: A Meditation
Part 1: The anxiety of arrival
Part 2: At Home with Jannis
Part 3: Innsbrucker Straße: 4th Floor
Part 4: Berlin-Parkdale
Alexis went outside and inside with his camera to find a possibility of Schöneberg or an imagined re-creation of the neighbourhood, investigating how one can recognize and enter and leave a new space. Alexis’ city encounters are conceptually and formally influenced by the idea of the pamphilm – French artist Stéphane Zagdanski’s 2013 invention of a pamphleteering film – as well as Peter Greenaway’s 1978 film “A Walk Through H,” a symbolic journey through the maps of a fictitious country.
“All four parts are distinct and create a haunting whole. The final section is suitably wistful but livened and leavened by the intriguing question: Can two places merge — not co-exist in a layered manner but actually become one within a person who has experienced both? This curiosity propels us out of the past into the future.” – Martha Baillie, author of The Search for Heinrich Schlögel
André Alexis was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, in 1957. His parents left Trinidad in the late 1950s, and in 1961 Alexis and his younger sister joined them in Canada. He spent his youth in Ottawa. Alexis began his artistic career in the theatre as a dramaturge for the Canadian Stage Company in Toronto.
His first drama premiered in 1995. Entitled Lambton Kent, it is about a Nigerian anthropologist and his view of southern Ontario. With his first collection of short prose Despair, and Other Stories of Ottawa (1994) Alexis was nominated for the Commonwealth Prize. The stories plumb the depths of the human psyche and reveal a surreal image of the Canadian capital. In his debut novel Childhood (1998) Alexis tells the story of a middle-aged man who looks back on his childhood, clearly demonstrating the subjectivity of retrospection. Along with other awards, Childhood was nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.
In Asylum (2008), an astute satire set in Ottawa in the era of PM Brian Mulroney, Alexis tells a story of intertwined lives and fates, of politics and vanities, of the search for refuge, love and a home. Pastoral, the first of a series of five genre novels on philosophical topics, was published in 2014 followed by Fifteen Dogs (2015), The Hidden Keys (2016) and Days by Moonlight (2019), which was awarded the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. The final instalment in the series, Ring, is out in fall 2021.
In addition to his novels, Alexis also wrote the children’s novel Ingrid and the Wolf (2005) as well as a number of libretti, including for James Rolfe’s opera Aeneas and Dido (2007). Alexis works as a presenter for CBC Radio, was a literary critic for The Globe and Mail and taught creative writing at the University of Toronto. His 2020 pandemic audio drama Metamorphosis: a Viral Trilogy garnered wide acclaim. In 2020/21 he was a guest of the DAAD’s Berlin artist program and part of the Canada focus at the Frankfurt Book Fair.