[UCP Books]: Berlin for Jews
“What a delight this book is! Unlike all those Companions and all those travel guides, here is a real companion with whom you want to journey: witty, conflicted, amused, amusing, insightful, smart. This book provides a wonderful sense of how place and stories go together—all touched with an elegant melancholy for a lost world and our part in making its memory still sing.”
Simon Goldhill, author of Freud's Couch,Scott's Buttocks, Brontë's Grave
A Twenty-First-Century Companion
|Publication date: November 4, 2016||ISBN-13: 978-0-226-1066-3|
|International publication date: November 28, 2016||Cloth $27.50/£19.50|
What is it like to travel to Berlin today, particularly as a Jew, and bring with you the baggage of history? And what happens when an American Jew, raised by a secular family, falls in love with Berlin not in spite of his being a Jew but because of it? The answer is Berlin for Jews. Part history and part travel companion, Leonard Barkan’s personal love letter to the city shows how its long Jewish heritage, despite the atrocities of the Nazi era, has left an inspiring imprint on the vibrant metropolis of today.
Barkan, voraciously curious and witty, offers a self-deprecating guide to the history of Jewish life in Berlin, revealing how, beginning in the early nineteenth century, Jews became prominent in the arts, the sciences, and the city’s public life. With him, we tour the ivy-covered confines of the Schönhauser Allee cemetery, where many distinguished Jewish Berliners have been buried, and we stroll through Bayerisches Viertel, an elegant neighborhood created by a Jewish developer and that came to be called Berlin’s “Jewish Switzerland.” We travel back to the early nineteenth century to the salon of Rahel Varnhagen, a Jewish society doyenne, who frequently hosted famous artists, writers, politicians, and the occasional royal. Barkan also introduces us to James Simon, a turn-of-the-century philanthropist and art collector, and we explore the life of Walter Benjamin, who wrote a memoir of his childhood in Berlin as a member of the assimilated Jewish upper-middle class. Throughout, Barkan muses about his own Jewishness, while celebrating the rich Jewish culture on view in today’s Berlin.
Leonard Barkan is the Class of 1943 University Professor at Princeton, where he teaches in the Department of Comparative Literature. He is available for interviews.