A Cultural Guide
published 2015 • 5.25" x 8" • 254 pages • color illustrations • maps
ISBN 9781566569385 • paperback • $17.95 •
“Norbert Schürer’s new cultural city guide…points out iconic features…but he also ventures into quirkier territory….The perspective of a West Berliner, an observer who knows the city intimately… suffuses his Berlin… Sociological sections of the book benefit most from the depth of Schürer’s relationship with the city. He writes compellingly about the living conditions of first-generation Turkish Gastarbeiter in West Berlin and their Vietnamese counterpart in the East… The book’s best chapter, on Berlin’s ‘dark side,’ treats not only the Nazi era, but also an unexpected combination of other ‘dark’ topics, from street prostitution to famous criminals of Berlin history to the current and projected effects of climate change on the city… 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
EXPLORING THE CULTURAL HEART OF EUROPE INSIDE OUT
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 center 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, lives in California and teaches English literature at California State University, Long Beach.
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