Peter Schneider; Translated from the German by Sophie Schlondorff
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
It isn’t all that easy to answer the question of why, for some time now, Berlin has been one of the most popular cities in the world. It’s not on account of its beauty, for Berlin is not beautiful; Berlin is the Cinderella of European capitals.
Gazing out from a roof deck here, you won’t see anything like the domes of Rome, the zinc roofs of Paris, or the architectural canyons of New York. There is nothing spectacular, in any way exciting—or even atrocious—about the view. No pool on the seventy-second floor, no palm garden
Praise for Berlin Now:“In this enlightening collection of essays, Berlin resident Schneider unearths the city’s charms and hazards. Journalist Schneider (Eduard’s Homecoming; The Wall Jumper) first came to Berlin from Freiburg as a student in 1962 and has since seen enormous changes, the most shattering of which was the tearing down of the Berlin Wall after the earthshaking events of November 1989. Apart from the subsequent building projects that have transformed the city, such as the development of Potsdamer Platz and the shifting of the historic Mitte (middle) toward what was once East Berlin, Schneider is intensely focused on the East-versus-West dynamic. He describes East Berliners as dragging their Communist ideals and Stasi legacy, and resenting Western democratic standards, and he says that East Berlin women are ‘self-confident and divorce-happy,’ as more of them have been forced to work than their Western counterparts. Moreover, the once-ostracized Turkish ‘guest workers’ now make up a largely assimilated minority, with Vietnamese, Russians, and Jews nestled in far-flung neighborhoods, despite lingering episodes of racist violence. Covering the city’s grim history as well as its current night clubbing, these essays reveal an authentic city that does not bother being more lively than beautiful.” —Publishers Weekly“An intriguing journey through Berlin by a longtime interested observer. Ungainly, amorphous, overrun by armies, clotted by construction, inhabited by uneasy neighborhoods of ethnic niches (including Turks, Russians, Vietnamese and Israelis), and still affordable to starving artists and all-night partiers, Berlin is a wildly attractive tourist spot, not least due to its dark history. In these amusing, knowledgeable essays and dispatches, German novelist and journalist Schneider (Eduard's Homecoming, 2000, etc.), who first came to the city as a student in the early 1960s to claim exemption from serving in the Bundeswehr (German defense forces), unearths much that is fascinating and even beautiful about Berlin. He examines the conversion of various sections of the city and warehouses, industrial ruins and other structures in what was formerly East Berlin—e.g., Potsdamer Platz, the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport and newly gentrified Prenzlauer Berg. Deeply engaged with friends and colleagues both East and West, Schneider has written extensively on the ramifications of the removal of the Berlin Wall, not only in the physical revelation that Berlin’s great historic center and grand buildings were all located in the East, but also in the souls of ‘Ossi’ and ‘Wessi’ remnants, now cohabitating a little like oil and water. In his autobiographical essay ‘West Berlin’ (‘the name . . . refers to a city that no longer exists’), the author reaches back into the student movement of the late 1960s and the building of the ‘wall of the mind’ mentality he wrote about in his novel The Wall Jumper (1984). In ‘The Stasi Legacy,’ he writes poignantly of the poisonous effect the secret police had on even married couples informing on each other. Berlin’s ‘culture of remembrance,’ he writes, has also been transformed—e.g., the multitude of Holocaust commemoration exhibits and memorials paying quiet tribute to a vanished community. A seasoned journalist conveys the charms and perils of this ‘Cinderella of European capitals.’” —Kirkus
Praise for The German Comedy
“Peter Schneider is a masterful guide who wields a wicked blade—one that cuts through cant and pretension with wit and precision.” —Josef Joffe, Los Angeles Times