An ambitious undertaking, Faust's Metropolis : A History of Berlin aims to chronicle the history of Germany through the microcosm of its most dramatic city. Alexandra Richie's thousand page tome spans from the time of Nero to Helmut Kohl. It is an encyclopedic description of the Schicksal Stadt Deutschlands--the City of German Destiny--filled with the politics of rulers and the ideology of artists.
Richie doesn't romanticize Berlin; early on, she invokes Goethe's view of the city as bourgeois, brash, and onerous. "Like the metropolis in Faust it has always been a rather shabby place," Richie comments. "It is neither an ancient gem like Rome, nor an exquisite beauty like Prague, nor a geographical marvel like Rio. It was formed not by the gentle, cultured hand which made Dresden or Venice but was wrenched from the unpromising landscape by sheer hard work and determination." By placing her historical account in a world-encompassing perspective, the culture described in Faust's Metropolis comments on the whole of Germany and its people.
The author is most eloquent in describing the recent history of the city. As a resident during its divided years, she describes Berlin as the ultimate "border city," on the frontline of the dueling Weltanschauungs of the Cold War. Her tone is familiar in describing the changing face of the city, and her enthusiasm evident as the book moves into the modern era. Filled with the insights of its unique and myriad residents, Faust's Metropolis recounts Berlin's culture, providing the reader with a thorough history and authoritative analysis.
'Thoroughgoing and engrossing. Modern Berlin was the hub of commerce, centre stage for politics, mecca for high culture, and a haven for extravagance and eccentricity. Alexandra Richie controls all this material superbly.' Peter Gay 'A wide-ranging book, full of fascinating detail, and compellingly written.' Robert Conquest 'A unique combination of an analysis of Berlin with a study of the entire history of Germany and of Germany's problems of national and linguistic self-definition.' Harold James
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