Mr Fiction Habit and I are celebrating special birthdays this year and as a gift and treat to ourselves we are heading to Berlin for a long weekend on our own (i.e. ohne Kinder) in May. In preparation for this trip I have been scouring the big river site for books to inspire me ahead of our visit to the culturally blended, historically significant centre of Europe . This city has so much history and hopefully, some Berlin-related literature will get me even more excited than I already am.
I have been to Berlin once before. I was young, still a small girl. The wall still dominated the city and the cold war was very much in full swing. When I was younger I spent many years living in Germany, with my family and as a student. I haven’t lived there for some time but continue to visit regularly. I speak German fairly fluently and sometimes even force myself to read a novel in German, just to stop from getting too rusty. I am in a bit of a vicious circle when it comes to reading in German; I don’t read enough, because I am too slow and I am too slow because I don’t read enough!!
There are a couple of “Berlin” books I already have under my belt:
Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood is a semi autobiographical series of linked short stories relating to his time in Berlin during the inter-war years. A strange time in Germany’s history. The stories describe the decadence and lasciviousness of Berlin’s underbelly against the backdrop of Hitler’s rise to power. There is an underlying feeling of loneliness to this book as the characters struggle to come to terms with how the country’s politics affects their lives.
Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada was one of the hit books of a couple of years ago. It tells the heroic but sad story of an elderly couple who stand up to the Nazi regime in a quiet rebellion of postcard drops after their only son is killed during the war. It is an incredibly moving tale of what grief can do to you.
During my research of other books I could read in preparation for my trip, I mostly came across stories set during the war or spy stories relating to Berlin’s time cut off from the rest of West Germany. I haven’t really come across much about contemporary Berlin. I also haven’t found much by German writers, which is a bit sad. I am happy to read non-fiction aswell.
The few I have found and am considering buying are:
- The Wall Jumper by Peter Schneider (I am thinking of reading the German version of this as it is quite short)
- Stasiland by Anna Funder
- The Berlin Wall by Frederick Taylor
- Berlin Noir by Philip Kerr
- Russian Disco by Wladimar Kaminer
If anyone has any experience of these books and could recommend a couple, that would be great – or maybe you have some better ideas?