BERLIN by Giles MacDonogh


A Portrait of Its History, Politics, Architecture, and Society
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Another addition to the recent spate of books on the new (old) German capital. It should come as no surprise that since June 1991, when German politicians in the Bundestag voted that Berlin would again be the capital of a united Germany, scholars have turned their attention to that city. Ronald Taylor’s Berlin and Its Culture (1998) focused on a rich heritage of art, architecture, music, and theater; Faust’s Metropolis by Alexandra Richie (1998) borrowed the brilliant motif of Faust to explore and explain Berlin’s identity. No doubt this latest contribution to a growing genre will be compared with the predecessors; written by MacDonough, a British journalist for the Financial Times and the author of well- regarded historical works (A Good German: Adam von Trott zu Salz, 1992, etc.), his rendering of the city more than holds its own. Berlin, according to the author, is now reinventing itself for precisely the ninth time. No wonder recent tourists have marveled at all the physical construction (and renovation) going on. More important, though, as the author points out, Berlin is rethinking its position as the capital of a united Germany in a united Europe. MacDonough does a fine job of balancing matters of chronology with thematic issues; he gracefully synthesizes social, cultural, and political history. The author of several works on food and drink, he’s roundly unapologetic about devoting an entire chapter here of nearly 50 pages to the topic—one must conclude that cuisine is an excellent means through which to approach history and urban biography. What emerges from the tapestry? “Berlin was and is a city of villages, each with a different character and political complexion.— While many in Europe look on in apprehension as Berlin burgeons, MacDonough feels confident of the future of —the inextinguishable city.— (16 pages b&w illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 14th, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-18537-5
Page count: 540pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1998


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