City of Exiles: Berlin from the Outside In
£18 pb, 304 pp, 9780994326805
Berlin is built on sand, says Stuart Braun in City of Exiles; it is 'never far away from darkness'. It is a city of tolerance, which exerts a psychic pull for anarchists, artists, and those who become Wahlberliners: 'the people who choose to live in Berlin.'
City of Exiles' own sandy foundations make it difficult to find anything solid to hold onto in the early chapters, where Braun is more historian than journalist. There is little narrative other than a kind of wading forwards through time, split with reflections on the city. Braun introduces a cavalcade of exiles and luminaries who hang around for a paragraph and then fall back into Berlin. This idea of names and faces surfacing and sinking runs through City of Exiles, both in the art Braun discusses and the anecdotes he relates. It is an 'image montage' that can suffocate.