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Here in Berlin

door Cristina García

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745285,123 (3.68)15
An unnamed visitor travels to wartime Berlin, where she learns about the city through the things she sees and the disparate people she meets.
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Toon 5 van 5
I really liked the concept of this book with its myriad vignettes, and many of them were very compelling. But I think that also hurt the book--with the sheer quantity of stories being told here, they were frequently not explored fully enough (for my preference at least). The audio would have benefited from multiple readers as well. Its sole reader, Joan Walker, was good, but didn't offer enough variety for the amount of accounts within this short book. ( )
  LibroLindsay | Jun 18, 2021 |
I'm a little in love with Berlin. It's this modern, bustling, multi-cultural city, festooned with building cranes that is also haunted by history in a way no other city is. It's full of art and grime and people getting on with their days. You can grab a döner, see an exhibition of pretty much any kind of art you like, encounter a gathering of Stolpersteine in front of a building you've passed a dozen times unaware, browse in an English-language bookshop and catch a train going anywhere in Europe all in the same afternoon. And so it happens that I will buy pretty much any book with Berlin in the title.

In Here in Berlin a middle-aged Cuban woman goes to Berlin. She's looking for a new beginning, but finds herself lonely and without focus in this city she's unfamiliar with. But as she becomes more fluent in German, she begins talking to people, usually older people, usually living in nursing homes, about their pasts. And in short chapters, they tell their stories. So there are former Nazis and former Stasi agents justifying their pasts, women remembering their fear of the Russians, Cubans who fought for the Nazis on behalf of General Franco and who stayed behind after the war, circus performers and musicians, Stalinists and lesbians. It's an interesting format that is hampered only by its reliance on the voices of the elderly so that the novel feels more like an elegy for a disappeared city than a reflection of Berlin today. ( )
  RidgewayGirl | Aug 22, 2020 |
I won this in a GOODREADS giveaway. ( )
  tenamouse67 | Jan 6, 2018 |
3.5 A unknown, unnamed visitor arrive in Berlin, and sets off to discover exactly what this city has gone through and become. It is, 2013 and as she travels she talks to many different people, discovering their stories, writing them down. She calls them by different titles such as nurse, just putting their real names in small print shove the titles. Many of those she talks to had different roles during WWII, and some are Cubans who moved here during that time.

These are vignettes, snapshots of the people who make up this city. They come from all walks of life, and many of their roles during the war are ones I had never heard about before. In the vignette simply called Preachers, a young girl working as a linguistic anthropologist, fluent in seven languages, is sent by the Nazis to the American South to study the oratory skills of the Black preachers. The young Jewish woman who was hidden in a tomb for several days, until her husband could get them passage to England. Many other stories, so many, all so very interesting seeing the city through these snapshots.

History's long shadow cast over a burgeoning city that has changed much. Uncovered stories and unforgotten memories, very well done. I believe the visitor is a stand in for us, the readers and the thing she sees and thinks are inserted between the vignettes. ( )
1 stem Beamis12 | Oct 26, 2017 |
The anonymous visitor in Cristina Garcia’s Here in Berlin seems a stand-in for the reader. She is anonymous, faceless, unknown. She has just arrived in Berlin in 2013 and wanders the city talking to people. The book is a collection of short narratives, her conversations with the people she encounters in the different parts of the city.

She must talk to lots of old people because many of the narratives are of World War II. She also talks to many fellow Cubans, people who emigrated to East Germany when it was allied with Cuba. The individual stories are compelling. The people are more self-analytical and self-aware than people usually are in conversation, but then the Visitor is anonymous and self-revelation in anonymity is easier.

It would be misleading to call these stories, they are vignettes. Short conversations, soliloquies, seemingly disconnected, their only common thread their location in Berlin. But then, while reading, the Reader will begin to form connections, relating one story to another, weaving together the disparate threads into a more coherent story. It is almost as though Garcia is asking the Reader to write the story from the Visitor’s notes.

I liked Here in Berlin quite a bit. It is very experimental in form, demanding a lot of its readers, but I like books that ask more from me than passively reading and receiving information. It is slow to coalesce into a novel, though. Until I reached the critical mass of conversations necessary for the narrative threads to become visible, it was all too random. I was asking myself, “What am I reading?” Without a narrative thread, it could have been boring, except, of course, the stories were so dramatic, so violent, so painful.

Of course, not all stories are stories of World War II, and not all World War II vignettes were tragic. There is an amusing story of a young man captured by a German submarine crew who comes back months later and no one believes him. He parleys his experience in captivity into a fortune. It is amusing. Others are far more cruel and painful.

This is a novel whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts – if the reader reads actively, weaving together the disparate conversations. Garcia has an amazing ability to capture a person in just a few quick sentences.

I received an e-galley for review from the publisher through Edelweiss.

https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2017/10/20/9781619029590/ ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | Oct 20, 2017 |
Toon 5 van 5
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An unnamed visitor travels to wartime Berlin, where she learns about the city through the things she sees and the disparate people she meets.

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