from Today We Are Brothers by LEO LANIA, translated by Ralph Marlowe
MIDNIGHT was drawing near. Wearily I dragged myself along the Friedrich Strasse. A bad day, nothing had gone right. No one had been interested in my pencils; my three directors had suddenly left town for a week, and I had been unable to ask them for the advance I needed to pay the rent. How should we get through the next few days?
I approached the 'Passage.' The strident shouts of the 'literature' vendors sounded above the night traffic. The same words, over and over, cast into the crowd like bait. And the crowd snapped it up avidly.
'The Queen's Stand-In!'--'Children's Brothel on the Alexander Platz!'--'Adventures of a Sadist!'
Outside the shop windows, the human stream was blocked and swirled about in an eddy. A portrait of the Kaiser was flanked by photos of nude women; the Crown Prince of Meiningen stood cheek by jowl with 'documents of feminine beauty.' A synthesis of Byzantinism and pornography! A few steps farther down you were invited to behold the 'Anatomical Wonder Cabinet.' 'No children admitted.'
Prostitutes, pimps, 'flying' peddlers. From raincoats to cocaine, from jewels to love--everything on hand, immediate delivery. Boys with painted cheeks and mascara, wearing tight-fitting jackets and pointed shoes; they looked like wax mannequins come to life. Girls, bloated and pale, slipped along the walls like hungry cats.
In the side streets to right and left, police cars stopped. Policemen with shouldered carbines marched by. The windows of the food stores were boarded up. Somewhere in the neighborhood there had been plundering in the afternoon, somewhere there had been shooting.
The exchange booths were still open. Figures with many digits were inscribed on the blackboards, and tireless hands were writing new zeros. The dollar was soaring.