Illustration by arch. Matteo Pericoli
I try to ignore this view. When I’m at my writing desk I turn my back to it. When I look up — though these days one no longer looks up from his work, but merely past the monitor — I see only the spines of books along their shelves. What I don’t see is the pitched window of the attic, the bend that the Spree, Berlin’s main river, makes behind me, the distant facade of the magnificent Bode Museum; above all I don’t see the three bridges with their streams of cars and pedestrians under which pass huge barges headed in both directions. Some of the barges carry freight, while others blast music as people dance and raise beer bottles on the deck, although on most of them sit tourists with their cameras, attentive as schoolchildren. I always wonder what they are photographing. The majority probably photograph the so-called Palace of Tears, that glass border-crossing station that once sat between East and West Berlin; today it is empty, although it will soon become a dance club. A few will also photograph the Berlin Ensemble, originally a theater founded and run by Bertolt Brecht; it is to the left of my window and visible only if I lean out. The most important thing, however, cannot be photographed: the invisible line where the Berlin Wall once stood. Absence can’t be captured, not even with the best camera, and so the tourists turn their helpless devices to the gray facades of the new buildings, to the rows of identical windows, one of which, high up near the roof, stands open, and behind it a barely visible figure quickly turns away and goes back to work at his desk.