Friday, January 24, 2014

Book Notes: Divided City - The Berlin Wall by Jaron Verlag

This A4/50page book is a very useful introduction to the postwar history of Berlin and it iconic and divisive wall. Not a great work of academic historical writing, it nevertheless is well researched and nicely presented and is a great way into the topic. The publishers have also managed to secure rights to some excellent photos from throughout the period of the city's division.

The state of the city after the ravages of war, the combined rule of the 'Big Four Allies', the blockades of West Berlin, the Berlin Airlift, the construction of the wall, the extension of the wall, and escape attempts are all examined as is the final breaching of the wall, the collapse of communism, reunification and the demolition of the wall are all covered here.

The straightforward narrative is helpfully interspersed with eyewitness testimonies of people who experienced the wall in different ways; politicians, ordinary citizens, escapees, Westerners, and Easterners. The final chapter of the book provides a handy 'tourist guide' to where to see bits of the wall today, along with guided tour info, and where to find monuments to the victims of this fortified military border, carving its way through the city's streets.

The only odd thing about this book is the fact that it is completely written in the present-tense, even when describing events of half a century ago! No doubt the intention is to create an immediacy as it reads like an up-to-the-minute news report of an unfolding drama. Unfortunately this linguistic gimmick perhaps loses something in translation, as it distracts from otherwise excellent publication.

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