"Readers in search of tips about the best techno clubs or falafel stands will have to look elsewhere. Schürer’s refreshing disregard for hipness sets his account apart from most others written in English. What the book does offer is a richly textured and idiosyncratic take on the city of Schürer’s childhood, as if the reader were surveying Berlin in the company of a friend who grew up there."—Times Literary Supplement
“To say that Berlin has a complicated history is an obvious understatement. Here author Norbert Schurer offers a cultural history of the dynamic city with a troubled past. Looking beyond its status as the former capital of Nazi Germany, Schurer examines all sides of Berlin throughout the ages, from its medical origins as a walled city to its modern 21st-century renaissance.”—Chicago Tribune
Berlin is much more than the former capital of Nazi Germany—it is often described today as innovative, fast-paced, avant-garde, rough, exciting, and even sexy. At the political and geographical centre of the Second World War and the Cold War, the city had already been at the cultural heart of Europe for hundreds of years—and continues to set architectural, musical, literary and fashion trends in the twenty-first century.
Berlin has been shaped by politicians such as Frederick the Great, dictators like Adolf Hitler and architects such as Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Hans Scharoun, and it boasts icons including the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag. Yet no one individual put a decisive stamp on the city, which had to reinvent itself again and again because of its turbulent history. The staid baroque capital of Prussia was succeeded by the up-and-coming capital of newly united Germany; village homes replaced by tenement housing in the nineteenth century; the hierarchical orderliness of the early twentieth century followed by the unconventional statements of modernism. After the destruction of the Second World War, the Berlin Wall cut the city in half and created the brooding image of the Cold War frontier, and since the dramatic collapse of the Wall the latest version of a unified Berlin has arisen as new Germany’s capital.
Even today, the various communities that now make up the city have their own distinctive identities. Norbert Schürer’s cultural guide explores the juxtaposition of Berlin’s past and present in history, architecture, literature, art, entertainment and religion and offers an insider account that provides contexts to make sense of Berlin’s dazzling variety.
Norbert Schürer, a long-time resident of Berlin, currently lives in California and teaches English literature at California State University, Long Beach.
InnerCities Cultural Guides Series
£9.99 paperbackBuy now
30 May 2014
16 pages of colour illus