NEWS: A new book of literary non-fiction, My Grandfather’s Knife, will be published by HarperCollins and The History Press in April 2022! More information to follow…
Berlin is a party in a graveyard. It is Europe’s youth capital, and its guilty war conscience. It is a disputed construction site, built on the ruins of regimes. Today’s diversity – refugees, immigrants, arty expats, East and West – emerges from a history of violence. Berlin is as cutting-edge and contemporary as it is wary of its extreme past.
Berlin is a comprehensive short history and portrait of the German capital today. The story of Berlin’s vagaries over nine centuries – from a dry place in a bog to the control centre of modern Europe – is expertly portrayed by historian Joseph Pearson. The dynamic present is a palimpsest on this unsettling past. A long-time flâneur of Berlin’s streets, Pearson explores how the city’s history is visible today in bombsites, museums and industrial club spaces (and a lake hosting a man-nibbling monster).
In this book, we find that elements of the city that for some can be unnerving – its emptiness, its provincialism, its ramshackle industrial eclecticism, its sexual freedoms, its confrontation with a murderous past – are precisely what give the city its charge. Pearson poses provocative questions as he reveals the city’s many layers and varied neighbourhoods. He argues, ultimately, that Berlin’s centrality in European and cultural affairs is only just beginning to be felt.