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Berlin: Portrait of a City Through the Centuries

Berlin Portrait of a City Through the Centuries Why are we drawn to certain cities Perhaps because of a story read in childhood Or a chance teenage meeting Or maybe simply because the place touches us embodying in its tribes towers and history an

  • Title: Berlin: Portrait of a City Through the Centuries
  • Author: Rory MacLean
  • ISBN: 9781250052407
  • Page: 360
  • Format: ebook
  • Why are we drawn to certain cities Perhaps because of a story read in childhood Or a chance teenage meeting Or maybe simply because the place touches us, embodying in its tribes, towers and history an aspect of our understanding of what it means to be human Paris is about romantic love Lourdes equates with devotion New York means energy London is forever trendy.BerlWhy are we drawn to certain cities Perhaps because of a story read in childhood Or a chance teenage meeting Or maybe simply because the place touches us, embodying in its tribes, towers and history an aspect of our understanding of what it means to be human Paris is about romantic love Lourdes equates with devotion New York means energy London is forever trendy.Berlin is all about volatility.Berlin is a city of fragments and ghosts, a laboratory of ideas, the fount of both the brightest and darkest designs of history s most bloody century The once arrogant capital of Europe was devastated by Allied bombs, divided by the Wall, then reunited and reborn as one of the creative centers of the world Today it resonates with the echo of lives lived, dreams realized, and evils executed with shocking intensity No other city has repeatedly been so powerful and fallen so low few other cities have been so shaped and defined by individual imaginations.Berlin tells the volatile history of Europe s capital over five centuries through a series of intimate portraits of two dozen key residents the medieval balladeer whose suffering explains the Nazis rise to power the demonic and charismatic dictators who schemed to dominate Europe the genius Jewish chemist who invented poison gas for First World War battlefields and then the death camps the iconic mythmakers like Christopher Isherwood, Leni Riefenstahl, and David Bowie, whose heated visions are now as real as the city s bricks and mortar Alongside them are portrayed some of the countless ordinary Berliners who one has never heard of, whose lives can only be imagined the Scottish mercenary who fought in the Thirty Years War, the ambitious prostitute who refashioned herself as a baroness, the fearful Communist Party functionary who helped to build the Wall, and the American spy from the Midwest whose patriotism may have turned the course of the Cold War.Berlin is a history book like no other, with an originality that reflects the nature of the city itself In its architecture, through its literature, in its movies and songs, Berliners have conjured their hard capital into a place of fantastic human fantasy No other city has so often surrendered itself to its own seductive myths No other city has been so shaped and defined by individual imaginations Berlin captures, portrays, and propagates the remarkable story of those myths and their makers

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    1 thought on “Berlin: Portrait of a City Through the Centuries

    1. Berlin بعد الفراغ من هذا الكتاب اندفعت إلى أمازون بحثاً عن كتب مشابهة، أضفت لقائمتي كتب عن لندن وباريس ونيويورك، ولازلت ابحث عن كتاب جيد عن موسكو، كتب روري ماكلين عن برلين بملحمية، بحب، كتب فصولاً ملتقطة من برلين والبرلينيين، وهي أفضل طريقة لكتابة تاريخ مدينة، لا أجمل من تتبع ا [...]

    2. I should point out that despite my adoration for Wings of Desire, late '70s Bowie, etc I've never actually been to the damn place, so I'm not the best barometer for the "accuracy," especially for a text that doesn't exactly prioritize truth. Hell, I can barely call this book "nonfiction" with a straight face. After all, there are so many fictive devices, so many origin-myth type tales, that Rory MacLean makes Truman Capote look like Edward R. Murrow. But I do know that I was wrapped up in each o [...]

    3. I read the Chinese edition. And I just don’t understand why I can’t find the relative edition every time? It’s good, though I hope it better. I hope the author had found a hard core story and joined all these materials together. This book wrote about fragments and silhouette. I really hope it could be a whole, solid story.

    4. Admittedly this is a hodgepodge of a book, half novel, half biography, half portraiture, and not everything melds together. But when you relax and realise this is going to more abstract than non fiction more Kandinsky than Friedrich then you can have some real fun with it. Okay I admit MacLean's foreshadowing is too much on the nose, it is like having Hitler coming up behind you and going 'Guess Who'. But when we reach the 20th century and his portraits of different members of the city start to [...]

    5. I received a free copy of Berlin through the First Reads program.The author is a good writer. He is very knowledgable about his subjects and adds a lot of detail.Overall, I was disappointed however. I was hoping for a biography more of the city itself, particularly its origins and how Berlin grew into the city it is today. The majority of the text is dedicated to the 1800s and beyond; it was not very balanced. Additionally, as an avid nonfiction reader, the recreated conversations were very dif [...]

    6. It takes a bit of time to get into, but its worth persevering. Berlin is illustrated through the engaging, detailed, almost novel-like portraits of the characters that have inhabited the city over hundreds of years, and how their presence impacted the city and Germany and vice versa. Highly recommend this to anyone who likes reading about cities and urban life.

    7. Rory MacLean’s latest book is a significant departure from the travelogues with which he made his reputation. In some ways travel still sits at its core – MacLean, after all, is Canadian by birth – but there is very little travelling involved. Not in the spatial sense. What he attempts in Berlin: Imagine a City is instead, in many ways, a kind of time travel. Collected between its covers are a series of short biographies of the artists and personalities who have shaped Berlin across the ce [...]

    8. Art, architecture, literature and moreStarted reading this book weeks or months before heading off to Berlin. Finished while I was in the city. Couldn't be more pleased that I did that because what I read and saw just made the experience of this wonderful city so much better. The book provides some of the meaning you will attempt to grope at particularly in some places and spots where some of the unthinkable happened. Nevertheless it is a city that one would want to return again and again.

    9. Part potted history, part fiction. The Isherwood and Dietrich (the latter includes charming of the author meeting her late in her life) chapters were tremendous; the Fritz Haber chapter is an excellent summary. The wheels really fall off in the last few chapters, even on David Bowie, which also benefits from the author's personal experience. Of the fictional chapters, only the Brecht chapter stood out.

    10. Interesting enough, but probably shouldn't have been billed as a "portrait through the centuries" if ~250/400 pages were going to be about 20th century Berlin. I wanted to know more about Berlin's formative years, not have yet another retread of the 1920/30s and the Third Reich.

    11. Odd book. Lots of little stories of Berlin personalities through history. Doesn't explain the relevant history very well, so it's all very confusing. Style tries to be touchy-feely and personal and dramatic, which doesn't work. I gave up after a while.

    12. This book is 500 years of Berlin history. I got it because I thought I would visit there this year. As it turns out we are not going. There is a quote at the very beginning that says, "Why are we drawn to certain cities? Perhaps because of a story read in childhood." That is almost exactly why I thought I wanted to go to Berlin---as a teenager I saw the movie The Big Lift and was fascinated by Berlin. But I knew nothing about its history until reading this book. It is an odd history in that each [...]

    13. Great context for understanding BerlinThe author uses a historical fiction approach to sharing the history of Berlin and how it has been built up and torn down throughout history. In taking this approach, focusing on famous figures, and lesser known ones, he also provides an understanding of the psyche of Berliners.I found this book very useful as a backdrop to my first visit to Berlin. Any visitor guide can tell you what to visit; this book provides historical context.

    14. For anyone who wants to know more about Berlin but doesn't want to slug it out with Faust's Metropolis, MacLean's book is a good choice. The structure is a bit like Edward Rutherford's novels but rather than the contrivance of serial generations of fictional characters, MacLean has chosen historical figures for the most part, that exemplify generations of the city. I think any past visitor to Berlin will recognize the city portrayed in this book.

    15. Brilliant history of a brilliant cityA different take on the history of Berlin. The author recounts the story of Berlin by writing a series of short stories. He uses fact but by writing as if fiction we get a more vivid and emotional history. We see Berlin, warts and all, as a living entity, shaped and shaping it's population.

    16. I think the first few chapters are the weaker ones, but once you get into the late 19th century the book picks up speed and becomes really good (or it may be that I'm not interested enough in the earlier periods!). The 20th century chapters are, I think, excellent. If you're interested in Berlin, go for it

    17. So good, such an innovative way to approach a city one of the few books I would actually read on location.

    18. I received this book for free through First Reads.In some ways I feel like Rory MacLean's Berlin: Portrait of a City Through the Centuries doesn't quite know what it wants to be. It is obviously very focused on the city of Berlin, but I come away from the book with less of an understanding of the city. It seeks to be a "portrait" of Berlin, but so many of the stories MacLean uses are from modern perspectives and gloss over large periods of the city's history. It is a non-fiction work, but most [...]

    19. I really enjoyed this history of Berlin. It was a very interesting read and I felt I learned a lot about Berlin's culture and past. One of the downsides to the book would be the author's inclusion of personal narrative at random times within the book and without any forewarning. Although I understand that the author might have wanted to give it a personal touch, none of his stories seemed to move the book forward in any significant way. There were also other things about the narrative that didn' [...]

    20. British author Rory Maclean has written a "history" of Berlin, that is really not straight history. It is, instead, a series of short "glimpses" at the city and its people, beginning in the Middle Ages when Berlin was just a settlement. He continues in time to today, mostly focusing on the last four hundred years.Maclean writes his story in both fiction and non-fiction; from straight prose to play-form he tells the stories of the unknown Berlin resident to the well-known Berliners who have contr [...]

    21. p. 395 "To tell Berlin's story, to reflect its creativity and reveal both its seen and unseen sides, I have used some of the techniques of the novel. I have developed characters from historical sources, selected and tailored personal experience, arranged the action as so as to give the narrative shape and momentum. My aim is to make the place and its history more engaging and accessible, to mirror the city's essence of perpetual reinvention." ". the bottom up."For years my opinion has been that [...]

    22. What a disappointment of a book. 1. There is little about the city of Berlin, its history and its streets. Instead, the reader will learn a lot about who slept with who over the course of German history.2. The author is not a true historian. He does little research of his own. In most cases he rather subjectively retells what is written in other books by other authors. Maclean does that without even bothering to carry out fact checking. (some examples: no, Goebbels could not stand at Friedrich I [...]

    23. MacLean tells the tale of the history of Berlin in a chronological order through a cast of characters as eclectic as the city itself. He tackles larger, more historical figures of varying degrees of both fame and infamy, such as Frederick the Great and Josef Goebbels and also tells the stories of lesser known Berliners. He also creates stories of composite characters which reflect the historical time period. MacLean is a gifted writer and these histories read like chapters in a novel. Though I i [...]

    24. What a disappointment this book was to me.The opening jacket description of the book reads, 'A bold and imaginative history of one of the world's greatest cities'.I don't see the boldness; the author does a mist-thin imitation of Edward Rutherfurd, leaping quickly to the 20th century.I don't see the imaginative; poetic language often, yes, but as the author uses these to describe his own experiences or those of historical characters (okay, he imagines how they may have felt), but nothing truly o [...]

    25. I did not like this book. It isn’t that McLean can’t spin a yarn, because he can. He has a talent for quickly engaging the reader into a storyline with a captivating plot. He can craft story arcs with limited time which is a challenge. My problem with his book overall is its bleakness. Everyone is miserable. Everyone is tormented. Everyone is horrible. Berlin is a dark place ever changing into more darkness. There are also wide gaps between the history and the fantasy particularly when Marle [...]

    26. This was an interesting means of telling history and exploring the culture of a city - primarily looking at key individuals in Berlin across several centuries, exploring how they both reflected and changed their times. My only complaint with the book was finding it hard to understand how much might have been fictionalized/dramatized. There are some obviously made up details or conversations, and several of the earlier characters are probably inventions, but the device (mostly) works in terms of [...]

    27. The framework for this book is rather good - each chapter is a sneak peek into the life of one person during a certain period of Berlin's history, famous or not. For the most part, I really enjoyed this as I learnt a lot of new stuff, especially from the chapters focusing on female figures. It took me a while to get into this style, though; the medieval chapters at the beginning threw me off.However, when I got to the David Bowie chapter, I couldn't help wondering whether the whole book had been [...]

    28. This is a book about Berlin and its history. MacLean's approach is to take various characters from significant times in the history of the city and relate their stories as a kind of semi-fiction. This can mean that either the character is real and a real segment from their life in Berlin is related as a story, or else the character is a construct designed to depict or highlight some aspect of the city. The pitfalls of the approach are that the strength of the stories can be patchy, that, in adhe [...]

    29. The subtitle of the book says that it is a portrait of a city through the centuries. This is a portrait of mythos, of story, of legend. It is not concerned with rigorous historical accuracy, which I found problematic right from the beginning. I enjoy historical fiction and I enjoy fantasy, so I have no problems with authors rewriting history to suit their story. But I do find it annoying when people infuse fiction into a work of nonfiction. A particularly glaring example of this is the author wr [...]

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