cover of book

by Joseph Pearson
Reaktion Books, 2017
eISBN: 978-1-78023-766-4 | Paper: 978-1-78023-719-0

As Joseph Pearson poetically puts it in this rich look at one of Europe’s most fascinating cities: Berlin is a party in a graveyard. Europe’s youth capital, Berlin is also beset by sustained guilt for the atrocities that were ordered by its Nazi officers during the Third Reich. Built and rebuilt on the ruins of multiple regimes, Berlin in the twenty-first-century houses an extraordinary diversity of refugees, immigrants, and expats. Offering a comprehensive but concise history, Pearson tells the story of Berlin’s past over nine centuries while also painting a portrait of the vibrant German capital today.
Pearson describes the rise of Berlin from a small settlement surrounded by bog to one of the crucial economic and political centers of Europe. Berlin is a palimpsest of a cutting edge and dynamic modern culture over a troubled history, one that is visible in bombsites, museums, late-night clubs, and even a lake that allegedly hosts a man-eating monster. He ultimately shows how the city is imbued with an array of unnerving elements: emptiness, provincialism, ramshackle industrial eclecticism, lurid and lascivious counter-cultural expressions, and a tremendous history of violence—but also that these are precisely the sorts of things that give the city its unique charge. Posing one thought-provoking question after another, Pearson walks the city’s neighborhoods, peeling back layer upon layer of history in order to reveal a Berlin that few of us know.

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