Berlin by Rory MacLean
Beyond the guide books, I wanted something to give me a different perspective on Berlin before heading off on our visit. This volume by Rory MacLean, Berlin: imagine a city did just that. I wasn’t sure about its format at first, but a few random chapters in, I tuned into the idea of getting a glimpse of the inside of the city through a series of 23 vignettes.
Each chapter is devoted to a mini-biography of someone, whether famous or unknown, who either had an impact on the city, or who was impacted by the city. From Frederick the Great to Bertolt Brecht, from David Bowie to Marlene Dietrich, from Christopher Isherwood to John F Kennedy….along with unknown nationals and migrants……their lives were all intimately tied up at some stage with the fortunes or misfortunes of Berlin.
This is a city that has had a turbulent recent past. If there had been any vestiges of an ancient and medieval past, they were all successfully wiped away by the utter destruction of the city by allied bombers during the last war…….and its reconstruction developed a city of two halves. During the Cold War years, the political division between east and west spawned two ‘cities’ that were a hemisphere apart……..and since the fall of the Wall, the strip in ‘no man’s land’ that came to be called death strip, became the biggest building site in Europe, and is where some of the most exciting and innovative architecture is to be found today.
This volume is an unconventional way to begin your journey of understanding Berlin, but it makes a very interesting read, nevertheless.