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Berlin: Imagine a City

Rory MacLean

4 Reviews

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Prose: non-fiction, European history

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.

A city devastated by Allied bombs, divided by a Wall, then reunited and reborn, Berlin today resonates with the echo of lives lived, dreams realised and evils executed. No other city has repeatedly been so powerful and fallen so low. And few other cities have been so shaped and defined by individual imaginations.

Through vivid portraits spanning five centuries, Rory MacLean reveals the varied and rich history of Berlin, from its brightest to its darkest moments. We encounter an ambitious prostitute refashioning herself as a princess, a Scottish mercenary fighting for the Prussian Army, Marlene Dietrich flaunting her sexuality and Hitler fantasising about the mega-city Germania. The result is a uniquely imaginative biography of one of the world's most volatile yet creative cities.

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Praise for Berlin: Imagine a City

  • This grandly ambitious work has a noble intention: to recreate 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 - SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

  • 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 of its former inhabitants ... This is how I love history to be told, through the people who live it - 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

  • Rory MacLean offers an entirely beguiling and original portrait of Berlin ... a perfect companion for those about to discover, or attempting to make sense of, their own Berlin - INDEPENDENT

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Rory MacLean

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 best seller STALIN'S NOSE; and the unified capital where he lives and works today. His nine books have challenged and invigorated creative non-fiction writing, and - according to the late John Fowles - are among works that 'marvellously explain why literature still lives'. He has won awards from the Canada Council and the Arts Council of England as well as a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, and was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary prize. He has also written and presented over 50 BBC radio programmes and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

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