Books

Top 5 books set in Berlin, chosen by Emma Venables

The writer and academic selects five books set in the German capital

Berlin television tower

Image: Qubes Pictures from Pixabay

Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada

Based on the story of real-life resisters, Otto and Elise Hampel, who dropped anti-fascist postcards around Berlin, this novel vividly depicts life under national socialism. The prose is raw, gritty, and at times heartbreaking.

Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood

This novel captures Berlin on the cusp of national socialism – the cosmopolitan capital becoming a
city of censorship and fear. The writing is sparse yet evocative as we navigate this changing landscape through the eyes of Chris, an English writer living in Berlin, who was based on Isherwood himself. 

West by Julia Franck

This depiction of a mother’s escape with her children from East to West Berlin and their time interned in Marienfelde, a refugee camp, is at times harrowing and startling.

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The Spring of Kasper Meier by Ben Fergusson

Set in 1946, this novel brings postwar Berlin to life in all its darkness and desperation. Its bomb-blitzed, war-torn, streets form the perfect backdrop for this story of friendship, murder and betrayal.  

The Artificial Silk Girl by Irmgard Keun

Doris heads to Berlin in search of stardom but is met with the dark underbelly of the city in the early 1930s. The prose is classic Keun: razor-sharp and witty, not a word is superfluous.

Fragments of a Woman cover

Fragments of a Woman by Emma Venables is out on 1 June (Aderyn Press, £8.99). You can buy these titles from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

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