Tag Archive: language

Die Besucherin

Die Besucherin is a great example of how you can modify prefixes and suffixes in German words to create nouns or verbs. With the stem of Besuch, which means simply “visit,” you can create the verb by adding an -en at the end of the stem or -er at the end to describe a person, so Besucher means “visitor.” However, German makes you reference the gender of the person most of the time when you talk about him or her and, in this case, adding -in to the end of the word. Besucher specifies that the person who visited me was female.

My friend since 10th grade, Carmen, decided to  take some time off of school and travel this semester, which included the mandatory Eurotrip. What better starting point than at my place in Berlin?

So, after not seeing each other for more than six months, I got several calls from pay phones on my cell phone after work on Monday. Mind you, Carmen had to rebook her flight because of visa complications, so she wasn’t really sure when she was going to get into Berlin and she didn’t have a stable Internet connection. I ran to the Hauptbahnhof, the main train station  (and, by “ran,” I mean I got into a train and impatiently pushed the green button to open the door when we arrived at my station), which is four stories of trains. Carmen had told me to meet her at the Dunkin’ Donuts she was at, not realizing that there are, like, six of them in the station.

After working up a nice sweat in my business clothes, I finally found her at the Dunkin’ Donuts. Being the awesome person she is, she presented me with a rose her boyfriend had bought from a bum that weekend and a bottle of Kahlua she found at Duty-Free (it was Valentine’s Day when I picked her up). We trudged to my apartment and she unloaded her stuff before we met with some other female interns for delicious drinks made with Polish vodka. Needless to say, we were tired and went to bed relatively early on Monday. Unfortunately, I still had to work every morning, so Carmen was forced to entertain herself during the day. I think she Skyped and slept a lot, and on Wednesday I invited some interns over to  eat chicken cacciatore for dinner, which Carmen had spent all day cooking.

We had a slow week at work though, so I took Thursday off to show her around the city. We walked from my apartment all the way to Charlottenburg, the expensive Southern district of Berlin. It’s always interesting to walk around Berlin with non-Germans, because I’ve stopped noticing the weird little habits German have that I picked up. For instance, drinking in public is legal, and many people will walk around the train stations with an open beer in their hand. So I thought nothing about cracking open a beer after we went grocery shopping and drinking it on the train with Carmen, who may have been a little shocked. I also put my empty beer bottle down on the sidewalk after I finished drinking it, which kind of weirded her out. In Germany, you get money back when you return bottles. Beer bottles will get you eight cents and so it’s not uncommon to see people digging through public trash cans for the bottles to bring back for money and it makes setting beer bottles down in public acceptable.

Carmen was also introduced to the junk food of Germany, which is the Turkish Doener. I realize I write about that a lot, but I absolutely love Turkish food here. Moving on, we decided to check out my district and walk around for her last night before we went back to my place and fell asleep. Sadly, Carmen was going to Switzerland over the weekend, so she left me early on Friday morning. We parted at the train station on my way to work and she somehow made it to the main train station in fifteen minutes, which is quite a feat. Luckily she’ll be coming again in March and so until then I have to say “Bis bald!”

-Miranda Murray

“Room” Book Review

I loved this book! I couldn’t put it down, and finished it in three days.

*Book Description: To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work. 

Told entirely through the perspective of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

The perspective of this novel–young, optimistic, naive and sheltered–is what makes it so great. At first, it is hard to situate yourself in Jack’s voice because he is never grammatically correct. For instance, he says things like, “I get on Rocker to take a pin from Kit on Shelf, minus one means now there’ll be zero left of the five.” Jack refers to objects as if they are people and he tends to speak without conjunctions. After about 15 pages, however, you start to fall in love with his language so much that you miss it during the times when Donoghue falls out of this style.
This is the only criticism I have about the book: Jack’s language is not always consistent–his language suddenly becomes mature during some moments in the novel and it takes the reader away from the story for a second. This only happens a few times, and is not enough to detract from the brilliance of the novel.

The beauty of this novel is rooted in Jack’s discovery of the world. He has lived in Room since he was born and knows nothing except this small, windowless space. In a way, this creates an innocence about him that almost makes us think, maybe it would be nice to be sheltered from a world that can so easily destroy the optimism and fragility that we possess as children. On the other hand, we are reminded of all the beauty in the world that Jack is missing. It seems like a double-edged sword. There are so many great lines from Jack in the novel that capture this disturbing beauty. Jack points out small idiosyncrasies that we would never notice because we are born into this world that he has been hidden from. He questions the small actions in every day life that our society has stigmatized, such as “Why don’t we hug strangers?”

The novel ends in a way that offers subtle closure. It both restores Jack’s innocence and simultaneously gives him a new sense of maturity. It is Jack’s isolation from the world and ultimately his discovery of the world that offers the reader a reminder of what we take for granted. Through Jack’s endearing nature, he rediscovers these things for us and makes them new again. Jack will leave a permanent mark on your memory.

-Sarah Diedrick

*Source: “Room” blurb