In his book's amusing, knowledgeable essays and dispatches, Schneider unearths much that is fascinating and even beautiful about Berlin.


It isn’t Europe’s most beautiful city, or its oldest. Its architecture is not more impressive than that of Rome or Paris; its museums do not hold more treasures than those in Barcelona or London. And yet when citizens of “New York, Tel Aviv, or Rome ask me where I’m from and I mention the name Berlin,” writes German novelist and journalist Peter Schneider, “their eyes instantly light up.”

On Tuesday, September 30, at 6:30 p.m., Deutsches Haus at New York University will present a reading by Schneider from his new book Berlin Now, and a moderated conversation between the author and Ulrich Baer, New York University, vice provost for faculty, arts, humanities, and diversity, and professor of German and comparative literature.

In his book’s amusing, knowledgeable essays and dispatches, Schneider, who first came to the city as a student in the early 1960s to claim exemption from serving in the Bundeswehr (German defense forces), unearths much that is fascinating and even beautiful about Berlin.

It is ungainly, amorphous, overrun by armies, clotted by construction, inhabited by uneasy neighborhoods of ethnic niches (including Turks, Russians, Vietnamese and Israelis), and still affordable to starving artists and all-night partiers, yet Berlin is a wildly attractive tourist spot, not least due to its dark history.

Schneider examines the conversion of various sections of the city and warehouses, industrial ruins and other structures in what was formerly East Berlin—e.g., Potsdamer Platz, the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport and newly gentrified Prenzlauer Berg. Deeply engaged with friends and colleagues from both East and West, he has written extensively on the ramifications of the removal of the Berlin Wall, not only in the physical revelation that Berlin’s great historic center and grand buildings were all located in the East, but also in the souls of “Ossi” and “Wessi” remnants, now cohabitating a little like oil and water.

In his autobiographical essay, “West Berlin” (“the name…refers to a city that no longer
exists”), the author reaches back into the student movement of the late 1960s and the building of the “wall of the mind” mentality he wrote about in his novel The Wall Jumper (1984). In “The Stasi Legacy,” he writes poignantly of the poisonous effect the secret police had on even married couples informing on each other. Berlin’s “culture of remembrance,” he writes, has also been transformed—e.g., the multitude of Holocaust commemoration exhibits and memorials paying quiet tribute to a vanished community.

Events at Deutsches Haus (42 Washington Mews, New York, N.Y., tel. 212 998 2660) are free and open to the public. If you would like to attend this event, please send us an email to Space at Deutsches Haus is limited; please arrive ten minutes prior to the event. Berlin Now is a DAAD-sponsored event. Additional support was provided by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Deutsches Haus at NYU would also like to thank the American Council on Germany for their support.

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Robert Polner
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