Winter is coming, so it’s the best time to pick up a real good book again. And what could be nicer than getting lost in on of our ten favorite Berlin books: books from Berlin, about Berlin for Berlin. It should be clear now what ten tomes will wait under your Christmas tree. This week we present you the places 10 to 6:
place10: RUSSIAN DISCO (Wladimir Kaminer)
Since the movie of the same name from 2012, starring glamour boy Matthias Schweighöfer, the slightly older narrative by Wladimir Kaminer has been back on the display tables of the book stores. With good reason, since the bizarre and funny short stories about a Jewish-Russian band of buskers, coming to Berlin after the collapse of the Soviet Union, draw a heartwarming image of the unfinished everland Berlin in the early 90s, and they deal with the grand questions of immigration and the life of an outsider in a country in transition. Believe me, after a few pages you have forgotten blond Schweighöfer.
place9: FABIAN (Erich Kästner)
“Anything that assumes gigantic proportions may be imposing, even stupidity,” realizes Erich Kästner alias Fabian in the name-titled novel of 1931 and draws a touching, ironic but also very thoughtful image of the German metropolis between the golden twenties and the cruelties of the Nazis. Fabian strolls through the vibrant nightlife of Berlin, through bawdy houses, grimy bars, and artists’ studios, and he observes, gets cynical, and philosophizes on morals. Of course, there is a moving love story, much subtle weltschmerz and a huge amount of lostness in an ever-changing world full of entertainment, immorality and with no meaning. Sounds surprisingly up to date, like techno scene and subculture in Berlin. Only that we’re not on the eve of Hitler’s rise…
place8: STASILAND (Anna Funder)
When the GDR took its last breath, the accounting for the Stasi past started quickly. But no one was really able to approach the issue objectively and unemotionally. Too vivid were the memories, too many victims and offenders met in public life – the issue has been loaded with emotional cargo ever since. Australian writer Anna Funder was able to approach the past in her documentary Stasiland of 2003 from the outside: With no personal boundaries and void of all nostalgia she followed the experiences and biographies of individuals, interviewed offenders and victims. She brought up a painful subject, and she gave us an insight into a difficult chapter of German history that has long been missing – remarkable reading material!
place7: ZOO STATION (Christiane F.)
The reference to the author is already misleading, the book, that was published by German magazine Der Spiegel in 1978, was actually written by the journalists Kai Herrmann and Horst Rieck. For two months they interviewed 15 year-old drug addict and prostitute Christiane Felscherinow, only to serve her biography to the German establishment for breakfast: pleasantly shocking, with a nice fear factor and a lot of moral decline in the Moloch of West Berlin. The “non”-fiction has since been read for drug education and deterrence in schools and has done its job due to the ever-same formula for success: comfortable disgust of the human abyss. Looking at the book with a bit of distance you realize that it mainly proves German bourgeois hypocrisy. Considering the huge reception it somehow still is a must-read.
place6: DIE KÄNGURU-CHRONIKEN (Marc-Uwe Kling)
The first part of the semi-biographical trilogy about the communist kangaroo (yes, a kangaroo, and it’s a communist) as flatmate of the Kreuzberg-based Artist Marc-Uwe Kling enjoys cult status: All three prose collections as well as the belonging audio books are selling like hot cakes. In short episodes the narrator and the kangaroo (yes, still a kangaroo), who is a Vietnam veteran (guess on which side) and leader of an anti-fascist boxing club, stroll through Berlin, the world and life, observe ironically, and become the funniest witnesses of our time. It’s a pity the books have not been published in English yet, though they are worth learning German for anyway. Funny as hell, very Berlin – iconic.
Itchy bookmark? Next week you’ll get the second half of our Top10 Berlin Books!
Blogger at Industriepalast Hostel
is Berliner by choice and a passionate backpacker himself. As a receptionist he knows the real hostel life; as a blogger he's been writing for Industriepalast Hostel's Berlin blog since 2014.