Berlin: Imagine a City
The first single-volume biography of Berlin, one of the world's great cities - told via twenty-one portraits, from medieval times to the twenty-first century.
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 a Wall, then reunited and reborn as one of the creative centres of the world. Today it resonates with the echo of lives lived, dreams realized and evils executed. No other city has repeatedly been so powerful, and fallen so low; few other cities have been so shaped and defined by individual imaginations.
Rory MacLean assembles a dazzlingly eclectic cast of Berliners over five centuries, from the wild medieval balladeer to the ambitious prostitute who refashioned herself as a royal princess, from the Scottish mercenary who fought for the Prussian Army to the fearful Communist Party functionary who helped to build the Wall. Alongside them we encounter Marlene Dietrich flaunting her sexuality in The Blue Angel, Goebbels concocting Nazi iconography, Hitler fantasising about the mega-city Germania and David Bowie recording 'Heroes'.
Through these vivid portraits, Rory MacLean masterfully evokes the seen and the unseen, in a richly varied, unexpected tour of Berlin's history. The result is a unique biography of one of the world's most volatile and creative cities.
The intimate biography of one of the world's great cities - from medieval times to the twenty-first century
This grandly ambitious work has a noble intention: to re-create through art and imagination the whole historic presence of a great capital, from its beginnings to its present day...Maclean's book is a wonderful achievement, not justly to be summarised in the few hundred words of a review. but hauntingly representing, as in a tangled dream, 600 years of history. — THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH - Jan Morris
I loved it. It is such a beautiful way of understanding history, its stories are so vivaciously told, it is so heartfelt, so intelligent, and so talkative a book. So many of the characters do end up talking to each other, and the author is eavesdropping. It paints the past and the present, portrays Berlin as a portrait of someone you love. It is beautiful. — Jay Griffiths
A brilliant new history of Berlin...What makes MacLean's history of Berlin stand out is that this is an intensely human document, a rich tapestry spanning five centuries and woven together through intimate portraits of 21 if its former inhabitants which collectively reveal the narrative of the city....This is how I love history to be told, through the people who live it...a fascinating book. — THE OBSERVER
The best history is biography: the story of the people who shaped and destroyed, entertained, beautified and murdered. Rory MacLean imagines Berlin through its inhabitants. — THE TIMES
Berlin takes the form of 23 portraits of individuals...the text sings. A compelling piece about the industrialist and Weimar foreign minister Walter Rathenau is full of auguries of the nightmares of the 30s and 40s. — THE GUARDIAN
Rory MacLean's Berlin: Imagine a History is intelligent, entertaining and ambitious...MacLean has written a great book about Berliners. — NEW STATESMAN
Rory MacLean offers an entirely beguiling and original portrait of Berlin. His is a highly unusual history told in a variety of forms by 'vital anonymous players in history's grand drama' alongside some of the major thinkers, dreamers, artists, warmongers and idealists who have shaped this eternally enthralling metropolis....a perfect companion for those about to discover, or attempting to make sense of, their own Berlin. — THE INDEPENDENT
Rory MacLean has known three Berlins: West Berlin where he made movies with David Bowie and Marlene Dietrich, East Berlin where he researched his first book, STALIN'S NOSE, and now the unified capital where he lives. He is the author of eight previous books and has written and presented over 50 programmes for BBC radio. Born in Canada and resident for many years in Britain, he lives in Berlin. http://www.rorymaclean.com http://blog.goethe.de/meet-the-germans