ZOO STATION: Adventures in East and West Berlin by Ian Walker
Kirkus Star

ZOO STATION: Adventures in East and West Berlin

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A supercharged account of life in the Berlin underground by a British journalist with a vagabond soul. Walker, former Central America correspondent for England's The Observer, spent most of five years between 1979 and 1984 shuttling between East and West Berlin in search of newspaper copy, good parties, and presumably, material for this book (first published in England in 1987). The result is a spectacularly entertaining mÉlange, an anarchist's travel book of the world's most schizophrenic city. For Walker, divided Berlin is a symbolic map whose major coordinates--capitalism, hedonism, and the sills of war in the West; Marxism, cultural sterility, and bureacratic terrorism in the East--represent a microcosm of the world at cold war. Between the two, Walker moves with keen reportorial instincts and a talent for compassion and irony. Amidst the ""zonies"" in the East, he shacks up with a houseful of displaced misfits--including Pint, a political refugee, and Wolfgang, a shockingly outspoken film director who, in the midst of heavily rendered repression, is suspected of being a spy. When the libertine urge strikes, Walker ups and leaves for the other side of the Wall, swinging wildly through West Berlin's neon-lit disco district, where he comes instantly to loathe western excess. The point for Walker is how sadly absolute these cultural and political divisions are. As the book progresses, he succumbs to extreme mixed emotion and eventually flips out, drinking heavily, wrestling with guilt about his own place in a foreign world, losing his British girlfriend, whose sustaining hold on him is the book's subplot. In the end, leaving is only salvation. Walker's confessional tone and psychedelic prose may have forged a new literary stance: Eurogonzo. Regardless, his book is a winner--an inebriating antidote to the sometimes tired travel-book genre.

Pub Date: May 23rd, 1988
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly--dist. by Little, Brown