Peter ­Schneider’s ‘Berlin Now’ and Rory MacLean’s ‘Berlin’

1102-bks-KULISH-master675Nicholas Kulish at The New York Times:

For centuries Berlin has had something of a chip on its shoulder. It lacks the ancient ruins of Rome or the sophisticated beauty of Paris. It is landlocked and flat, with a climate that can be frigid, gray and unpleasant up to eight months out of the year. “Imagine Geneva, lost in a desert,” Balzac wrote in 1843, “and you have an idea of Berlin.”

That quotation surfaces in another book timed to the 25th anniversary of the fall of the wall by the Canadian travel writer Rory MacLean. With a few exceptions, “Berlin: Portrait of a City Through the Centuries” is a series of loose biographical sketches of both famous and everyday Berliners, past and present. The very first concerns a 15th-century poet and singer, Konrad von Cölln, who was prone to debauchery. He had his tongue cut out for defying Prince-Elector Irontooth, and was then executed.

MacLean sees the dualities of sex and violence, freedom and fascism as central to the city’s character and its appeal. A worker in a factory kitchen inadvertently kills herself trying to induce a miscarriage by eating the tips of 160 phosphorous matches.

more here.