Jackals in a fox den

“You’re going to have explain that one to me,” laughed my friend. “A pub quiz? In a bookshop?”

To my British brain, this was a perfectly normal evening, but apparently my born-and-bred Berliner companion couldn’t contemplate such scenes. Yet upon arriving at the Curious Fox, the steadily filling tables were evidence that I wasn’t alone in my quest for light-hearted trivia questions on a Tuesday evening.

The Irish pair running the event cheerfully helped our group find chairs to perch on around a small table. The event proved so popular that every square inch of the room was occupied, leaving a cosy nook by the door for us. With beers at just 2 euros and walls piled with niche literature, there was certainly enough to entertain ourselves with before the quiz really got underway. First task was to pick a team name, with bonus points for wit. Thus the Disinterested Jackals were born, in opposition to the Curious Fox itself.

My cohort may have been largely British but the flurry of languages I heard around the room, from French to Spanish to an Asian language I couldn’t identify, showed that Berlin’s diversity was truly represented. Luckily so, as from start to finish the questions flew the quiz around the world, from local references to Guatemalan volcanoes.

A break between rounds gave me the opportunity to dash into the back and use the bathroom. Yet even my bladder after two beers could wait a little longer when I spotted the back room with even more books on offer. The twisting layout of the shop gives the place a cosy atmosphere with the space to host genre upon genre of books. The nerdy child in me lit up when I came back to the main room and found a section dedicated to graphic novels. An entire wall was dedicated to modern fiction, but only a few of the names were already known to me. The hand-drawn signs identifying each section and amiable smiles of the owners made it clear; this bookstore was born from bookish love, a far cry from the tightly-packed order of chain bookshops.

The full array of literary gems was hard to investigate with so many people sitting on every surface possible, and I had my Jackal allegiance to remember. Seeing the quiz master shuffling his questions papers in preparation, I quickly asked the woman behind the cashier about their weekend opening hours. I would have to return to explore again.

Sure enough, the lure of well-priced and unique books pulled me back. Now not filled to the brim with drunken quiz-goers, it was much easier to track down the literary niches that caught my fancy. My attention was only pulled away from LGBT+ graphic novels by a sign promising Asian feminist literature from the 1700’s. Genres and periods came together in combinations that I had never previously considered.

Unsurprisingly, I left weighed down with more books than either my tote bag or my bank account could realistically handle. The irony of finding English and American authors that I had never heard of in all my traversings through bookshops across English-speaking countries in a graffiti-covered side street in Neukolln did not escape me. Berlin is truly the city of expats, and I’ve never been more glad to be one.

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