Accompanying The Shadowboxing Woman

Welcome

This is a site to accompany the novel The Shadowboxing Woman by Inka Parei, translated from the German by Katy Derbyshire and published in the spring of 2011 by Seagull Books. One summer day in 2010, Katy Derbyshire and Jason Danziger visited four of the book’s locations and captured them on film. The site will show how Berlin looked that day, matched up with quotes from the novel.
  • Plänterwald
  • Plänterwald
  • Plänterwald
  • Plänterwald
  • Görlitzer Park
  • Görlitzer Park
  • Görlitzer Park
  • Görlitzer Park

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On Plänterwald

Plänterwald, a wooded area on the edge of the River Spree, was the site of an amusement park from 1969 to 2002. The big wheel in the photos actually dates back to the GDR, and was still in working order in 2009.

The park was privatized in 1991, when it was sold to the current owner. He added new attractions but went bankrupt in 2001. The owner shipped a number of the rides to Lima, and was then caught attempting to smuggle 167 kilos of cocaine back to Germany inside one of them in 2003.  He was arrested and imprisoned in Germany but has since been released, while his son is still serving a long prison sentence in Peru.

The park has been closed since 2002, although many people have entered the site and photographed the bizarre scenes of plastic dinosaurs, abandoned rides and tumbledown buildings surrounded by trees and long grass. Until a few weeks before we went there, the public could visit the site for guided tours every weekend.

Plänterwald

Plänterwald

In the far corner, just before the end of the fence, is a roller coaster put out to storage, dark red, egg-shaped cars stuck fast forever in the curves of a tower of rusted, steeply convoluted struts.

Photo: Jason Danziger

Plänterwald

Plänterwald

She wanted to take me on the big wheel. We walked through the whole park and then into the woods. By the time we’d arrived the thing was closed down for the night.

Photo: Jason Danziger

Plänterwald

Plänterwald

The fence around the fairground begins on the land side, a barrier wrapped in rotting basketwork, dampened screams penetrating from the other side, music, the grinding and rattling of the rides.

Photo: Jason Danziger

Plänterwald

Plänterwald

A shadow separates off from one of the woodpiles, not even twenty yards away. I can make out legs feeling their way ahead, a head emerging from the undergrowth, then come the body, shoulders and back.

Photo: Jason Danziger

On Görlitzer Park

The railway station Görlitzer Bahnhof was in Kreuzberg, the southeastern-most corner of West Berlin. The station building was demolished in the late 1980s, as it was no longer in use. For a time, the site was an unofficial park with a tunnel cutting underneath it. People held impromptu gatherings and sought shelter from the police there during the first of May riots that began around the same time.

Now the site is an official park, on summer weekends spilling over with friends and families holding barbecues, playing football or just splashing in puddles like when we went there. A bridge links to the former East Berlin borough of Treptow, and the remains of the pedestrian tunnel are still visible. A few former railway outhouses have recently been converted to cafés and venues.

The strange amphitheatre-like construction on the hill is all that’s left of an attempt to recreate the Pamukkale terraces in Turkey, a tribute to Kreuzberg’s many Turkish residents.

Görlitzer Park

Görlitzer Park

I run through the cool hollow strewn with glass, crumpled tissues and drink packs, clamping off my nasal breathing as I used to as a child to avoid the pissy stench of corners like this.

Photo: Jason Danziger