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Berlin Pop Culture

You could spend most of the rest of your life reading all that’s been written about Berlin, particularly its days under the Nazis. So an anthology is probably the best place to start. An excellent one is "Berlin (City-Lit Series)” (Heather Reyes & Katy Derbyshire; 2009), a compact paperback featuring some hundred pieces that explore the city’s history and evolving culture through the eyes of various historians, journalists and writers. Among them are Christopher Isherwood , Ian McEwan and David Bowie. On celluloid, try seeing three recent German films set in Berlin which all enjoyed considerable international success: “Run Lola Run” (Tom Tykwer; 1998) is an edgy, faced-paced thriller with a pounding techno soundtrack; “Good Bye, Lenin!” (Wolfgang Becker; 2003) offers a melancholic yet quirky and fun look at the demise of the GDR; while The Lives of Others” (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck; 2005) is a revealing dark drama set in the East Berlin of double-agents, secret police and bugging devices. It’s harder to get a handle on Berlin via its music. For a pre-war feel, try Marlene Dietrich who sang of still keeping a suitcase in Berlin (Ich hab noch einen Koffer in Berlin); or the cheeky ditty’s of barbershop sextet The Comedian Harmonists. Post-war Berlin was famed for the experimental music of 1970s heavyweights Tangerine Dream, who helped spearhead a whole genre called Krautrock. More recently, something of today’s edgy graffiti-ridden Berlin is in evidence to German-speakers in the city’s Hip Hop; with Sido’s “Mein Block” (2004) perhaps the most famous track.

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