Cristina García: Here in Berlin



Tory length but readers o get a brief feel for how the city has coped with its collective pathos following World War II Normally I read memoirs and history books about the Holocaust but never from the German perspective as it is Loveknot (Welcome to Tyler, difficult for me to sympathize with her people Yet here individuals state that they were not members of the Nazis and even gentiles were targeted by the government had they chosen to support the wrong people Many Cubans ended up in East Berlin as supporters of the Soviet Union and Garcia sought out her countrymen as well The result was a wide variety of memories from inhabitants of Germany s capitalA few stories stood out for me because they represent the variety of people who make Berlin their home Djazia Alves is an eyeoctor originally from Luanda the product of an African named Mae and her one night lover an unnamed Cuban soldier Mae and her The Perfect Blend daughter eventually escaped Africa and wind up in Germany Mae going through a series of lovers Djazia eventually gains independence from her unreliable mother and goes to medical school in Berlin settling in the German capital as a respectable ophthalmologist She resurfaces in other vignettes as senior citizens note their eyeoctor is an African lady pointing out that even in the current climate of Europe there are perhaps few African or female eye octors living in Germany Yet Alves appears to enjoy her life in Berlin pointing out that it is still a better existence than the one she would have had she stayed in AfricaAnother snapshot that spoke to me was Signals a story about two Russian soldiers who were sent to the Berlin front Yelena tells of how she and Raya stuck together as their were few women in their battalion and they craved female companionship A superior officer got Raya pregnant but he was killed leaving Raya to suggest that she and Yelena should become a couple and raise their children together Yelena never had children but the two women brought up Raya s son together neither choosing to marry as they ealt with the ghosts of their past Also meaningful to me was the story of a Cuban prisoner of war on a German U boat who won over the hearts of the crew and was allowed to return to Cuba rather than Germany Eventually he attended school in Germany and married a Berliner raising their children bilingually I thought that Garcia gravitated to the Cubans she encountered in Berlin as they were a reminder of the comforts of home the people choosing to commiserate with one another These encounters with other Latinos brought out the best of Garcia s Cuban culture which I am familiar with from her other books in a way that her vignettes of native Germans Wanted (Sealed with a Kiss did not As a result the snapshots here seem as rushed as her visit to the country making me long for her earlier books which took place on Cuban soilHere in Berlin may not have been as moving to me as Cristina Garcia s earlier books but I still feel that it is a meaningful read Germans are still coping with the baggage of World War II even seventy years later While the country as a whole has been friends to the Jews individuals still feel the wrath of Nazism In her encounters with Berliners Garcia paints a picture of the city that in the 21st century is home to a vibrant immigrant culture A short book which I read in the course of aay Here in Berlin makes me long for Garcia s magical realism yet is still engaging in informing her readers of the current social situation in Germany3 stars 35 A unknown unnamed visitor arrives in Berlin and sets off to Rayuan Sang Bos [Seduced By the Boss] discover exactly what this city has gone through and become It is 2013 and as she travels she talks to manyifferent people Bachelor to the Rescue (Home to Dover, discovering their stories writing themown She calls them by Secrets At Maple Syrup Farm different titles such as nurse just putting their real names in small print shove the titles Many of those she talks to hadifferent roles Whispers Of The Heart during WWII and some are Cubans who moved hereuring that timeThese are vignettes snapshots of the people who make up this city They come from all walks of life and many of their roles The Dukes Gamble during the war are ones I had never heard about before In the vignette simply called Preachers a young girl working as a linguistic anthropologist fluent in seven languages is sent by the Nazis to the American South to study the oratory skills of the Black preachers The young Jewish woman who was hidden in a tomb for severalays until her husband could get them passage to England Many other stories so many all so very interesting seeing the city through these snapshots History s long shadow cast over a burgeoning city that has changed much Uncovered stories and unforgotten memories very well Unmasking the Marquess (Hold Your Breath, done I believe the visitor is a stand in for us the readers and the thing she sees and thinks are inserted between the vignette. Oung nurse with a checkered past who joins the Reich on the Russian front at a medical facility intent toispense with the wounded than to heal them; and the son of a zookeeper at The Berlin Zoo fighting to keep the animals safe from both war and an increasingly starving populaceA meditation on war and mystery in the spirit of Christopher Isherwood and Robert Walser's classic Berlin Stories this an exciting new work by one of our most gifted novelists one that seeks to align the stories of the past with the stories of the futur.

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Every morning I look in the mirror and see arkness where my face should be Is there any greater freedom than that writes Garcia In this interrelated set of short set pieces a visitor tours Berlin and tells the story of many WW2history torn characters Will this visitor be released from the past or will this person join those who can t get away from a world of pain I enjoyed this work although sometimes the pain felt to real but that s the point This is an interesting collection of short histories and stories from fictional individuals living in Berlin There is a wide and surprisingly vast cast of stories all ifferent enough to keep it going but believable enough that you aren t shaking your head I will say the one thing that Chatsfields Ultimate Acquisition did start to great was the grandiose statements at the end of each segment These were 3 4 maybe 6 or 7 page stories and each one ended on some profound metaphor or statement Every story had one of these to tell probably the most fourth wall breaking parts of this collection Besides that it was a fast and engaging read looking past those reuiredeep statements I would Major Westhavens Unwilling Ward (Hh definitely pick up from this author The topic and time is one I m not hugely familiar with and I would also be interested in read there Childhood is a city you never leaveMiddle aged San Franciscan woman of Cuban origin moves to Berlin to look for stories There is no shortage Plenty of history provides a large reservoir of storiesHer own life gives the framework her second marriage just failed her relationship with her mother is broken beyond repair that with heraughter is on pause After a lonely beginning she starts talking to people She never talks about herself in first person only as the visitor Most of the stories however are told in first person by the interviewees Some narrators and characters show up in supporting roles in other stories That makes much sense since they all must have moved in the author s social circles Assuming the stories are real life stories If they are not they are well invented The stories are of an autobiographical nature people mostly elderly ones talking about their lives All stories are very short That creates an impression of a large mosaic consisting of small tilesWhom Major Westhavens Unwilling Ward do we meet War time zoo keeper Cuban pow on German U Boot Jewish woman hiding in sarcophagus Legalefender post war of nazi criminals Stasi officer Nurse at the Eastern Front GDR cultural official with hilarious failure Nazi sex club operator Angolan eye surgeon Little woman meets Oskar Matzerath Captain of a fatally torpedoed holiday ship Eva Braun Doppelg nger Grand aughter of Spanish SS soldier Lesbian tango ancer Vietnamese Kiosk owner Former photographer with amnesia Dealer of Cuban antiues Linguistic anthropologist Woman born in Lebensborn Former Air Force pilot sells shoes to Max Schmeling Kiosk owner at central station Hunter of nazi criminals Nazi criminal Primaballerina with limp Russian kids abducted for adoption Sachsenhausen guard s How to Disappear daughter Unemployed 29y old living with grandmother Homeless KZ survivor Nazi movie star with mirror fetish Cuban volcanologist Russian female soldier couple stayed on in East Berlin with baby Ex Stasi punk rocker Admirer of Red Army General Cuban musician unhappily married toivorce lawyer Philharmonic clarinetistIs this a novel as the title page claims Hardly It is a strong collection of moving tragic absurd repulsive or sometimes humorous stories within a slender frame Towards the end the visitor feels overwhelmed by all the war and Act Like You Know destruction that her conversations have fed her She uits after less than a year An impressive panorama of Berlin and its history As an international observer she finds international tentacles unavoidably Relations to Cuba come up freuently unsurprisinglyAn excellent bookBut the bread is called Vollkornbrot not Volkenbrot A middle aged woman The Visitor goes to Berlin learns the language and then begins to ask people to tell her their stories I m not sure I consider this a novel because it seemed like a collection of vignettes bound only by the impact of WWII on their lives and the fact that the Visitor was present in all of them I found the snippets interesting and theevastation of war will never cease to break my heart but I had trouble feeling immersed in the book as a whole Well written with some beautiful prose 35 stars There is the air of A Guide to Americas Sex Laws documentary about the format of this novel which is a compilation of 35 imaginary interviews elicited by a Visitor to Berlin who wanders the city to plumb itsepths by speaking to its residents Berlin is the kind of place where almost everyone has a story to tell and therein lies the sense that this might all be trueThe unnamed Visitor is Cuban American and the one uirk of these. Here in Berlin is portrait of a city through snapshots an excavation of the stories and ghosts of contemporary Berlin; its complex troubled past still pulsing in the air as it was Agewise during the years of World War II Critically acclaimed novelist Cristina Garcia brings the people of this famed city alive their stories bristling with regretesire and longingAn unnamed Visitor travels to Berlin with a camera looking for reckonings of her own The city itself is a character vibrant and post apocalyptic flat and featureless except for

Interviews is the regular appearance of Berliners with Cuban connections products of the time when East Germany and Cuba were both prized client states of the Soviet Union In many ways this angle is the most interesting and unexpected part of the novel probably because the perilous history of 20th century Berlin has been otherwise so well ocumented Among the narratives there are former Nazis former Stasi agents and elderly women who had been raped by Russian soldiers but they pretty much had to be part of the story The thirty five stories are jewel like beautifully written and captivating Yet they are so short that as I moved uickly from one to another I felt that I was giving them short shrift in the process I wished to hold on than a few minutes to each member of this eclectic cast As they flash by we have a fleeting view of the ghosts that haunt individual Berliners survivors of a peculiar history The istinctive voices are occasionally linked an eye A Village with My Name: A Family History of China's Opening to the World doctor for example is referenced by several patients for these story tellers are all elderly Oneiminutive inmate of an insane asylum tells of being matched up with one Oskar Matzerath who was also Anthropology as Cultural Critique dwarfish and the owner of a set ofrums Readers of G nter Grass will recognize the appearance of the fictional character from The Tin Drum It was a marvelous and even funny momentI believe it would be better to read this book than to listen as I Anyone did to the audio version I think it impaired my experience that the movement between interviews was occasionally confusing I understand that intermittent chapters about the Visitor our interviewer were in italics and that visual cue would have been helpful In addition the narrator of the audio while generally effective simply butchered much of the German Oddly she seemed to have received pronunciationirection on occasional phrases but not on most othersUltimately I found the format not entirely satisfying It seems like a compilation of too many short short stories There is no arguing that Cristina Garcia is gifted with exceptional ability to craft a sentence I think my experience with Here in Berlin a little confusing because it s not uite what I expected I thought Berlin itself was going to become almost a character I m not sure it id The ust jacket promised a meditation on war and mystery I m not sure having finished the words meditation and mystery uite suit it It is terribly interesting though The premise is of a Visitor who travels the city taking photos and talking to various Boggs dwellers of the city Their stories are the short vignettes making up the book It s Berlin of course but there s a strange Aelightful meandering and novel book Christina Garcia has produced a compelling novel made up from a patchwork of mainly Berlin based stories observed by an unnamed visitor that are somewhat intertwined yet separate Reflecting on the personal stories of Berliners from Cuban migrants to the Stasi and the Nazis she has produced an unlikely composition of semi fictional short biographies that show the varied population and the upheavals of Berlin s recent history It took a little while to get into this but once in I was hooked Thanks to Edelweiss for the review copy I was not obliged to write a favourable review I won an ARC of this book in a goodreads Battleground Chicago drawingA literary novel about a visitor who comes to Berlin with a camera and traces the history of the city through the last 80 years or so There s a lot of shifting viewpoints that leads to the narrative of the novel I know some peopleon t like this techniue but it seems en vogue just nowI enjoyed it though I thought it took a while to really get going Albert Camus despite being a fairly slim book I have enjoyed the work of Cristina Garcia since I read her Dreaming in Cuban for the first time when she first published it Chock full of the Latina brand of magical realism that I enjoy I went on to read Garcia s subseuent books most notably The Aguero Sisters When I saw that Garcia had written a new book I could not resist Here in Berlin however is not full of magical realism but a series of vignettes focusing on the people of Berlin as told to a visitor who is most likely Garcia herself While not the genre I was expecting I gleaned much from reading snapshots of German people who have lived with their memories of the Holocaust for over seventy yearsGarcia at the coaxing of her friend Alfredo Franco who encouraged her to spend time in Berlinecided to spend a summer in the city While in Berlin she visited tourist sites as well as locales freuented by locals to get a feel for the city In the course of her encounters she jotted notes on each resident which would be the basis for the book Each snapshot is only a few pages in length and Bitter Choices does not even approach short Ts rivers its lakes its legions of bicyclists Here in Berlin she encounters a people's history the Cuban teen taken as a POW on a German submarine for five months only to return home to a family whooesn't believe him; the young Jewish scholar whose husband hides her in a sarcophagus until he can find them safe passage to England; the female lawyer haunted by a childhood of Bill Veecks Crosstown Classic deprivation in the bombed out suburbs of Berlin who stillefends those accused of war crimes setting personal guilt against the larger flow of history; a

After working for Time Magazine as a researcher reporter and Miami bureau chief García turned to writing fiction Her first novel Dreaming in Cuban 1992 received critical acclaim and was a finalist for the National Book Award She has since published her novels The Agüero Sisters 1997 and Monkey Hunting 2003 and has edited books of Cuban and other Latin American literature Her fourth