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Peter Wortsman

Peter Wortsman's recent works include a travel memoir, Ghost Dance in Berlin (Travelers' Tales, 2013)--for which he won a 2014 Independent Publishers Book Award (IPPY); a novel, Cold Earth Wanderers (Pelekinesis, 2014--a finalist for 2014 Foreword Reviews' Best Science Fiction Book of the Year--and an anthology which he selected, translated and edited, Tales of the German Imagination (Penguin Classics, UK, 2013). Forthcoming are a book of short fiction, Footprints in Wet Cement (Pelekinesis, 2017) and a translation, Konundrum, Selected Prose of Franz Kafka (Archipelago Books, 2016). He was a Holtzbrinck Fellow in 2010 at the American Academy in Berlin.


He was an Ethiopian prince and she the daughter of a wealthy widower, an Egyptian merchant, who, for reasons unknown, had settled in Vevey, Switzerland. They met one evening at a diplomats’ ball.

Selected Observations on Urban Fauna

“What are you doing?!” I ran forward, peering nervously into the pit of the tunnel. “I dropped my license,” she matter-of-factly replied, bent over, and fished among the refuse and debris.

The Apotheosis of the Smile

It was the Fifties, the era of enforced happiness. The smile was the face of the moment and those who refused to conform were coerced into an obedient butterfly flutter of the lips or else denied their Bosco.

Epiphany of a Middle-Aged Pilgrim in Tea-Stained Pajamas

Convalescing from recent illness, comfortably ensconced in a black leather easy chair at home, I sit perfectly still, the paper spread open on my lap, careful not to spill the steaming contents of the tea cup resting on the crook of my knee or stain my fingers on the ink of distant unrest.

Rough Cuts

Today the surgeon cut a little cancer out of me. A parcel of myself that had grown wild and threatened to consume the rest. Hair has that tendency too if left to its own devices. Barber and surgeon are historically related at the root. Only the instruments have changed. Cut it out, you insist, cancer is no laughing matter. Cancer kills you if you don’t uproot it. It’s a kind of shoot-out at the O.K. Corral, the surgeon a high-paid gunslinger, or rather knife wielder, hired to have it out with my renegade cells.

Chosen, A Jewish Joke

It’s an unlikely story, I know, but history is full of the unlikely. Look at David and Goliath. Look at Jonah, the reluctant prophet, ferried to his destiny in the belly of a whale. Look at Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe, for heaven’s sake!


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2023

All Issues