REVIEW by Chris Moss

NWR Issue 106

Berlin: Imagine a City

by Rory MacLean

We love to respond with shock, disdain – and occasionally, delight – to how our respective home cities are evolving: London’s morphing from melting pot to bloated banking ghetto; Cardiff’s swapping of industry for flatpack gentrification; Edinburgh, the sometime gay mecca, drug den and fringe city, now a tartan touristopolis.

But Berlin’s convulsions make these changes seem petty and parochial. Between 1900 and 2000 it became the third most populous city in Europe (during the 1920s and 30s) before shedding half of that population. It was the capital of Hitler’s ‘1000-year Reich’, and then the Fuhrer’s rat-hole and eventual tomb. It was bombed to near-oblivion and divided to become the front line in the Cold War. It is now the capital of Europe’s most powerful economy, while only the fifth city in Germany in terms of GDP and home to fewer people than Athens – which it recently bailed out, or bullied into austerity, depending on your take on events post-2008.

Rory MacLean, who has lived off and on in Berlin since the 1970s, begins his story in the fifteenth century..

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previous review: Carnival China: China in the Era of Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping
next review: Other People's Countries: A Journey into Memory


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