This article is contributed by the irrepressible and ever curious Ms Cindy Su and is copyrighted to its owner OTA-Berlin GmbH. OTA-Berlin ……the intelligent Apartment Alternative to Hotels in Berlin – with affordable serviced apartments and Berlin accomodation in the districts of Berlin Mitte / Prenzlauer Berg – areas where many of the plots and activities of the following books take place!
This article may be reproduced or copied – but only with the prior written permission of OTA-Berlin GmbH. www.ota-berlin.de
The illustrations added to the written article are from Wikipedia unless otherwise noted. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of OTA-Berlin but of the contributor
Three Great Books Starring, or At Least Co-Starring, Berlin
Berlin has inspired music and dance galore, some quite great and some truly terrible, but that is very obvious and can be seen in a disco any night or heard online. What about books, which capture onto paper or onto a Kindle, the essence of one side of an era? Have you ever read a book featuring Berlin? If not, this list is for you and if yes, then you can either disagree or agree with the sentiments below.
1. BERLIN, ALEXANDERPLATZ
The most obvious choice for a Berlin novel is Alfred Doeblin’s masterpiece, Berlin Alexanderplatz: The Story of Franz Biberkopf. No other book so seamlessly captured the collective spirit of the epoch of 1920s Berlin. At the time it was published it was a Best-Seller. The protagonist, Franz, is a good-natured war veteran released from jail after accidentally killing his girlfriend, he is now trying to start over. He is struck down by a series of blows on his quest to become an honorable man and loses his arm and the woman he loves. She is a prostitute and he is her pimp, but you won’t love their characters any less for that.
Franz runs around the streets of Berlin that a reader today would most certainly recognize, though at that time they were different kinds of streets. It’s fascinating to see Rosenthalerplatz as it was painted by Doeblin. The narrative format of the book – it’s written as a mixture of objective and subjective sentences that are not separated, quotes sometimes with and sometimes without quotation marks, song lyrics or newspaper headlines in the middle of a sentence, streams of consciousness etc, may addle your brain at first, but if you stick with it – meaning the first hundred pages or so to be exact, you very likely won’t regret it. Berlin wouldn’t be what it is today without its past, and that alone is a reason to cherish the experience of reading this book.
2. RUSSIAN DISCO
Vladimir Kaminer has made a name for himself in Berlin, for both his books and the disco party he is responsible for bi-monthly. Even when he tells sad stories he uses his wit to make it so that they no longer seem so forlorn, by doing so he uses the tragic to form the comic without you even noticing that he is doing so. Russian Disco consists of 50 vignettes that portray the daily life of Berliners and make them interesting – whether or not the people living them find them to be interesting themselves. It’s not a classic like Doeblin’s novel, but in the current climate of Berlin, especially among ex-pats, it’s a block-stone of life.
Another Vladimir, this time Mr. Nabokov, also wrote a book about Berlin that was later translated to English, Despair. Most of Nabokov’s more famous novels were written later in his career and in English but this gem was before his English was sufficient for that, and so was penned in Russian (he did not like German and barely spoke it, he would never have deigned to write in it despite having lived in Berlin.) Despair is quite an intriguing novel, led by an unreliable narrator – sort of a less crazy version of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s inimitably schizophrenic Underground Man from Notes from the Undergound. The protagonist, Hermann, decides a man he encounters named Felix is his double, convinces him of it, and schemes with him before backstabbing and murdering his supposed doppelganger. Of course the whole thing was so artistic it couldn’t be a crime, right? If you like Nabokov, you simply must read this book.
Cindy Su, January 11, 2011
Previous blog article by Ms Cindy Su – http://www.ota-berlin.de/blog/berlin/2011/01/18/how-not-to-handle-your-boyfriends-berlin-%e2%80%a6-asks-ms-cindy-su-%e2%80%93-ota-berlin-constituency-blog-contributor/
Three Great Books Starring, or At Least Co-Starring, BERLIN – by Ms Cindy Su, ‘OTA-Berlin Constituency Blog’ contributor from OTA Berlin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Germany License. If you use this article or parts of it, please refer to http://www.ota-berlin.de.