IN THIS VOLUME, Peter Schneider, Cees Nooteboom, Vincenzo Latronico among other German writers tell of a youthful city that doesn’t cling to its “poor but sexy” past.
“Berlin is too big for Berlin” is the curious title of a book by the flaneur Hanns Zischler, who joked about the low population density of a city so spread-out and polycentric—one of the reasons why it still inspires feelings of freedom and space. But the phrase also carries a symbolic, broader meaning: how can a single city encompass and sustain such a weighty mythology as that of contemporary Berlin, “the capital of cool”?
In order to find out, it is necessary to go back to the origins of today’s Berlin, when time seemed to have stopped. The scars of a century of war were still visible everywhere: coal stoves, crumbling buildings, desolate minimarts, not a working buzzer or elevator. To visit the city then was a hallucinatory experience, a simultaneous journey into the past and into the future. The city’s youth seemed to have appropriated—and turned into a positive—the famous phrase pronounced by Karl Scheffler at the beginning of the 20th century: “Berlin is a place doomed to always become, never be.”
“These books are so rich and engrossing that it is rewarding to read them even when one is stuck at home.”—The TLS
“It has a strong focus on storytelling, with pages given over to a mix of essays, playlists and sideways glances at subcultures and thorny urban issues.”—MONOCLE, The Stack
“Half-magazine, half-book… think of [The Passenger] as an erudite and literary travel equivalent to National Geographic, with stunning photography and illustration and fascinating writing about place.”—Independent.ie (Best series of the year – 2021)
“The Passenger readers will find none of the typical travel guide sections on where to eat or what sights to see. Consider the books, rather, more like a literary vacation--the kind you can take without braving a long flight in the time of Covid-19.”—Publisher's Weekly
“Fresh and diverting, informative and topical without being slight or ephemeral [...] This supremely well-edited combination of current affairs, journalism, commentary, and fun facts is perfect for our pause-button moment.”—Australian Financial Review (Best Books of the Year)
“Tremendously eclectic and classily produced...each volume gets under the skin of a country or a city in a multifaceted way that feels essential in these times of narrowing national horizons.”—The Bookseller