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Berlin verkar fortfarande ha en viss dragningskraft (trots Fotografiska), att döma av antalet fack- och skönlitterära böcker som tar staden som sitt ämne eller skådeplats. Jag läser recensioner (i TLS – 1 och 2 – båda bakom betalvägg) av två nya fackböcker: John Kampfners In Search of Berlin: The Story of a Reinvented City och Roman Utkins Charlottengrad: Russian culture in Weimar Berlin. Av dessa två verkar den senare vara mest intressant:

In what is perhaps the most groundbreaking chapter Utkin attempts to make visible the Russian experience of Berlin’s sexual emancipation. During his two-year sojourn in the city the writer Andrei Bely described it as a place of the “most perverse abominations”, “a bourgeois Sodom” where “hundreds of homosexual and lesbian cafés operate openly”. […]

For the sexual minorities of the Russian emigration Berlin, despite still criminalizing homosexuality, offered an early opportunity for more open selfexpression. Utkin uncovers a previously unseen cache of the correspondence between the poet Sergei Nabokov (brother of the more famous author) and Prince Dmitry Shakhovskoy, who would go on to become the Orthodox Archbishop of San Francisco, which offers a revelatory, if highly coded, glimpse of the former’s experience of “queer exile”. Paired with this is a welcome look at the poet Vera Lourié’s lesbian memoir Letters to You, which appeared in print only in 2014 and gives a somewhat franker treatment of the subject.

Bryan Karetnyk, “Barrack, zoo, living hell?“, TLS, 5 januari 2024.

Här några andra böcker om eller som utspelar sig i Berlin från den senaste tiden/åren som jag har noterat: Berlin: Life and Loss in the City That Shaped the Century av Sinclair McKay, The Undercurrents: A Story of Berlin av Kirsty Bell*, Berlin av Bea Setton, Y/N av Esther Yi och Sojourn av Amit Chaudhuri.

* Det var i den här jag lärde mig om ursprunget till namnet Berlin och dess skamfyllda historia:

Berlin was not named after the bear it later adopted as its mascot, but after the Slavic name for swamp: brlø. This etymology is a two-fold source of shame: firstly, the admission of the city’s Slavic roots, when all things east were considered uncivilized, and the dynastic claims of the Hohenzollern monarchs were emphasized instead. Secondly, the swamp, both geographically and metaphorically, is bad news. Stinking and heavy, a swamp conceals filth. To the upright Prussian mentality, obsessively concerned with the hygienic removal of bodily fluids, the swamp is the worst possible state. Swamps, floods, morasses, mire, slime and pulp were all anxiety producing substances that cast fear into the Prussians’ erect, soldierly morals, according to Klaus Theweleit in Male Fantasies.

Kirsty Bell, The Undercurrents: A Story of Berlin, 2022, loc. 756.