A smartly guided romp, entertaining and enlightening, through Europe's most charismatic and enigmatic city
It isn't Europe's most beautiful city, or its oldest. Its architecture is not more impressive than that of Rome or Paris; its museums do not hold more treasures than those in Barcelona or London. And yet, when citizens of "New York, Tel Aviv, or Rome ask me where I'm from and I mention the name Berlin," writes Peter Schneider, "their eyes instantly light up."
Berlin Now is a longtime Berliner's bright, bold, and digressive exploration of the heterogeneous allure of this vibrant city. Delving beneath the obvious answers—Berlin's club scene, bolstered by the lack of a mandatory closing time; the artistic communities that thrive due to the relatively low (for now) cost of living—Schneider takes us on an insider's tour of Germany's rapidly metamorphosing metropolis, where high-class soirees are held at construction sites and enterprising individuals often accomplish more without public funding—assembling a makeshift club on the banks of the Spree River—than Berlin's officials do.
Schneider's perceptive, witty investigations on everything from the insidious legacy of suspicion instilled by the East German secret police to the clashing attitudes toward work, food, and love held by former East and West Berliners have been sharply translated by Sophie Schlondorff. The result is a book so lively that readers will want to jump on a plane—just as soon as they've finished their adventures on the page.
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.