After a lot of presented books here, it is really difficult to find another one in our library which is recommendable for foreign-language people. We have a lot of books, but unfortunately not so much in English. For the presentation today my colleague Melanie found still one. It is not only a book about the GDR; it is a history of Berlin.
“From the moment I first set foot in the city as a young student I became fascinated by Berlin. Like Faust, Berlin can be said to have two spirits in the same breast; it is both a terrible and a wonderful city, a place which has created and destroyed and whose name is both acclaimed and blackened. It is not without reason that Berlin has been called everything from the ‘symbol of German destiny’ to the ‘city of the twenty-first century’. Above all, it is a place where history could not and still cannot be hidden away.” (Preface, vii)
With these words Alexandra Richie begins her history of Berlin. The author lived and worked in East and West Berlin and later in the unified city, so she knows it very well. The title of the book is a little bit strange, but it is explained by the citations out of Goethes’ Faust which introduce every chapter. And of course, she explained in the preface that Berlin is like Faust, with “two spirits in the same breast”.
The history of Berlin starts with the birth of the city and tells in 18 chapters its’ interesting and eventful story. Vivid becomes the story with maps, illustrations and photos of the city, important events or persons. At the end there are a big appendix with notes and an index. So it’s easy to search for specific persons, buildings or events in the big book.
Of course, the difficult time of the city during the post-war era, the division of Berlin and the walled city are topics in the book of Alexandra Richie, too. She deals with that time in five chapters. It is really interesting to experience the GDR history embedded in the whole history of Berlin, because it is a total new point of view. And so I think the book is recommendable equally for Berlin residents, for Berlin lovers and for GDR-history interested people.
The book was published by HarperCollins Publisher in 1999. The ISBN is 0-00-637688-6 and the price is 18.20€ for the paper back.