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#Bookreview Berlin. A Literary Guide for Travellers by Paul Sullivan (@slowberlin) and Marcel Krueger (@kingofpain666) Well researched, detailed and offering great insights into an emblematic city. #Berlin

Hi all:

I am trying to get up-to-date and catch up with the reviews I haven’t shared (I’m sure I’ll miss some but…) so I can start sharing them as I read the books. Today it’s the turn of a non-fiction book that travel and literature fans will love.

Berlin. A Literary Guide for Travellers by Paul Sullivan and Marcel Krueger
Berlin. A Literary Guide for Travellers by Paul Sullivan and Marcel Krueger

Berlin. A Literary Guide for Travellers by Paul Sullivan and Marcel Krueger. 

I.B.Tauris

Description

An alternative guide for those looking for the literary heart of Berlin.

Located at the centre of the ever-changing politics of Europe, Berlin has a rich literary and creative history: from the socialist literary salons of 18th century Prussia and the rise of Expressionism in the 20th century to the explosion of creativity during the Weimar period and those who captured life on both sides of the divided city after the Second World War.

Written by local experts, this new guide offers travellers a glimpse into the compelling body of literature on Berlin, charting the bars, cafes and neighbourhoods in which much of it was created. Here travellers will discover the pub where Joseph Roth wrote The Radetzky March just a year before he left Berlin on the day that Adolf Hitler was elected Chancellor, and the apartment where Nabokov spent some of the most productive years of his career. The authors also chart the up-and-coming neighbourhoods that are enticing writers and artists from all over the world today.

A Note From the Publisher

I.B.Tauris Literary Guides for Travellers were recently voted among the 24 best indie travel guides by FATHOM. Also in the series: Sicily, Florence and Tuscany, Tangier, Venice, Scotland, The French Riviera

Advance Praise

‘A rich and learned companion for every lover of Berlin; bursting with anecdote and alive with history. A must.’
– Rory MacLean, author of Berlin: Imagine a City

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1784536423/

https://www.amazon.com/Berlin-Literary-Guide-Travellers-Guides-ebook/dp/B01LWSKY4H/

A bit of information about the authors:

Author Paul Sullivan
Author Paul Sullivan

Paul Sullivan

Paul Sullivan is a Berlin-based writer & travel photographer and the founder/editor of Slow Travel Berlin. His words and images have appeared in The Guardian, BBC, Sunday Times Travel, The Telegraph, Nat Geo UK and more, and he has written several books on music and travel, including the HG2 Berlin, Rough Guide to Berlin, National Geographic Walking Berlin and Wallpaper Berlin. You can check out his photography galleries here.

Paul on Facebook

All posts by Paul Sullivan

Author Marcel Krueger
Author Marcel Krueger

Marcel Krueger:

Marcel is a writer, translator (German-English / English-German) and editor, and mainly writes non-fiction about places, their history, and the journeys in between.

He works as Content Manager for PayPal and is also the book editor of Elsewhere Journal and the contributing editor of Sonic Iceland.

His articles and essays have been published in the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian, Reykjavik Grapevine, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Le Cool Dublin, Slow Travel Berlin, the Matador Network, CNN Travel and Spotted by Locals, amongst others. He has translated Wolfgang Borchert and Jörg Fauser, and his commercial translation clients include Gidsy, new talents – biennale cologne, University of Bielefeld, Fuhrwerkswaage Kunstraum and the Enveritas Group.

Together with Seamus Heaney, Roddy Doyle and a bunch of other great Irish writers Marcel currently holds the world record for ‘Most Authors Reading Consecutively From Their Own Books’ at the Irish Writers’ Centre.

In 2009, together with the other contributors, he won the Irish Blog Awards for their writings in the Dublin Community Blog.

Marcel is also a graduate of the Matador New Media School for Travelers.

Check his website for more information.

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to I.B.Tauris for offering me an ARC copy of this book that I voluntarily choose to review.

This is a book that does what it says on the tin, and much more. The authors share a great wealth of research that they divide by neighbourhoods, not only of the writers born in Berlin but also of those who emigrated to the city or visited and produced some significant piece of work inspired by their stay or travels. Providing a detailed historical background into the birth and development of the city, it also describes the most important buildings in each area, and their significance to culture, be it official culture or underground and resistance.

The book contains brief biographies of the authors it discusses, from the Grimm Brothers, Mark Twain, David Bowie and Iggy Pop, to writers published within the last five years. It illustrates the city with quotes and extracts from a variety of works, from poems, songs, novels… I’ve personally discovered fascinating stories of parks housing suicidal literary lovers, of breweries that became hubbubs of culture and neighbourhood life through the centuries, of resistance on both sides of the wall, of writers who continued to create no matter how dire their circumstances, of heroics and controversies, and of a city that has suffered and endured as much as its citizens. Destroyed and rebuilt, fragmented and reunited, it has provided fertile ground for literature and artistic creation through its history and this guide offers the reader a taster that is sure to encourage further exploration.

I haven’t visited Berlin personally, but I finished the book with an urgency to go, and with the feeling that anybody who visits Berlin taking this guide with them will see it through a myriad of perspectives and live an unforgettable experience.

I hope to read more of these literary guides and to be able to take them with me on future trips. Highly recommended to lovers of travel and literature alike.

Thanks to NetGalley, I.B. Tauris and to the authors for this book, thanks to all of your for reading, and remember to like, share, comment and CLICK!

Categories
Book reviews New books

#Bookreviews THE ART OF EXILE. A VAGABOND LIFE by John Freely (@ibtauris) An Extraordinary Life Dedicated to Knowledge, Travel and Writing

Hi all:

As you know on Fridays I share new books and writers (today more than usual, but it’s a busy month). John Freely is not a new writer, far from it, but this is the first book I read by him and I expect now that I’ve discovered him, it won’t be the last one. In case you want to check a bit about him, you can check in Wikipedia or all his books (so far) in Amazon.

The Art of Exile. A Vagabond Life by Dr John Freely
The Art of Exile. A Vagabond Life by Dr John Freely

The Art of Exile. A Vagabond Life. By John Freely

As you set out for Ithaka Hope your road is a long one, full of adventure, full of discovery… ‘ Constantine P. Cavafy. By the time he was six, John Freely had crossed the Atlantic four times. His childhood was spent on the mean streets of 1930s Brooklyn, where he scavenged for junk to sell and borrowed money for books; his first love being Homer’s Odyssey. He was 15 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and 17 when he enlisted in the US Navy and embarked on the first great adventure of his life: joining a clandestine unit that helped the Kuomintang fight the Japanese. He served for two years, 96 days in combat and a total of 344 days overseas, which sparked a lifelong passion for travel. Returning home after the war, Freely fell in love with a beautiful girl who sang the blues. His own Penelope. Together they signed a blood pact to spend their life travelling the world. This unforgettable memoir takes the reader from the streets of New York to the corridors of provincial campus life; from World War II in the Pacific to the shores of the Bosphorus and from Ancient Troy to the isles of Dionysus and Ariadne. It is the story of a remarkable odyssey that has spanned nine decades, several continents and one great love. And still the odyssey continues, “as I ponder the meaning of an Ithaka and of exile as an art that takes a lifetime to master.”

Description

John Freely is a renowned travel writer and, as the first to popularise the history of Turkey and the Ottoman Empire for a general audience, he is one of our last great globe-trotting storytellers. After returning home from WW2 aged just 19, he fell in love with a beautiful girl who sang the blues. His own Penelope. Together they signed a blood pact to spend their life travelling the world.

This unforgettable memoir takes the reader from the streets of New York to the corridors of provincial campus life; from World War II in the Pacific to the shores of the Bosphorus and from Ancient Troy to the isles of Dionysus and Ariadne. It is the story of a remarkable odyssey that has spanned nine decades, several continents and one great love.

Advance Praise

“Imagine Zorba the Greek as a wandering Irishman from Brooklyn and you have the beginnings of John Freely. His odyssey has been a wild ride across continents, a microcosm of modern history. Freely is a born storyteller and an expert on everything from mysticism to physics to the back streets of Athens, Istanbul and Venice. The only danger of reading this book is envy for such a dazzling life.” – Stephen Kinzer

“John Freely provides a wonderful portrait of Istanbul and Athens in their bohemian heyday” – Philip Mansel
My review

Thanks to Net Galley and to I.B.Tauris for offering me a copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

I wish (like many of us) I was more of a traveller, but when I received an e-mail about this book, a memoir of sorts of John Freely, I was interested for many reasons. Although I hadn’t read his books, I’m always interested in books about writers (professional deformation, I guess). He’s written extensively about travelling, and as I said before I have a long list of places I’d love to visit, among them many Dr Freely has written about (and I’m always happy to be inspired and encouraged to take up more travel). And the title of the book, ‘the art of exile’ appealed to me because I’ve lived away from my own country for many years and I always feel an affinity for those in similar circumstances, even when their lives and mine couldn’t be more different.

John Freely has written many travel books, although as I understand from his own and others’ descriptions, they are not your standard travel book, but rather investigations and reflections about culture, architecture, literature, music, and he has researched extensively the topics of Istanbul, Greece, Physics, classical history, literature… He is a true polymath, a born lecturer and teacher, and knowledge pours out of every page.

Freely structures the book as an autobiography, and I found the story of his upbringing very touching, as it reflected that of many emigrants from Ireland (but not exclusively) who sailed away searching for a better life elsewhere. History has a way of changing settings and actors but it does indeed repeat itself, as we can see in the continued story of both emigrants and refugees that carries on to the present.

The author doesn’t dwell too much on the difficult circumstances of his childhood and family, lack of money, working as a child and living hand-to-mouth. That was how things were at the time and he was expected to live with it and did the best he could. He went to war when he was only 17 after dropping out of high school, and that was the beginning of a life of travelling. Even in those circumstances he loved books and reading (he had studied with fascination a book about the wonders of the world his grandfather had brought back to Ireland from the Crimean War as a young boy) and he educated himself by reading a catalogue of recommended lectures a military priest gave him whilst traveling to China. Mr Freely is a connector and communicator who made (and I’m sure still makes) friends everywhere he went and was lucky to get and take good advice. He decided to follow some such advice and took advantage of the GI bill; he studied Physics and he did well, as he reflects upon, with surprise, a few times throughout his life. His love for knowledge and his thirst for travelling combined into a lifelong journey and he found a more than willing partner in his wife, Toots.

Although he does not talk in detail about such things as feelings, it’s not difficult to read between the lines and sometimes he says more when he doesn’t elaborate on topics that when he does (his muted comments about his son’s difficulties are an example). His vignettes of early married life and his love for his wife come through loud and clear.

Once the couple move to Istanbul and Dr Freely starts his international teaching career the book becomes a catalogue of trips, not in detail but mostly as itineraries, interspersed with references to his career moves and to his published books. There are brief moments of lyrical descriptions that hint at wonders to be had in the full books, and he ponders upon those moments when they were the only western travellers in some of the locations and they could feel history at its fullest. He quotes the classics and is happy to share the experiences and moments he lived with his friends and collaborators, always giving credit where credit is due. He talks with warmth and affection of the institutions he’s worked in and is always grateful and happy to mention others’ achievements. I could not follow all the itineraries in detail and didn’t always know who everybody was, although it didn’t seem that important. I’m convinced the book would be a great read for those familiar with his work or interested in it that would be able to provide the background and fit all the pieces of the puzzle in, but it would also work well as an introduction to the topic of his books and his life.

There are moments that will feel familiar, easy to connect with and will touch everybody, like his visits to Ireland, back to the old family home, the autobiographical details of life in Ireland and old New York when he was a young man, and the latter part of the book, when his wife becomes ill and dies and he has to carry on the journey alone (not a spoiler as it’s not that kind of story).

I thought I’d share some of his comments towards the end of the book, which I must admit had me in tears (as by then I’d become another exile and vagabond with them). He is talking here about writing this book:

When the book on Homer was finished I began working in earnest on the story of our own odyssey, The Art of Exile, particularly after I looked at a photograph of Toots taken on her 80th birthday, when the sight of her wearing a Byzantine tiara reminded me once again that she was in fact my queen, though I’d had no kingdom to offer her, just a lifelong journey.

Now I have become my own Homer, composing the story of a life perpetually on the move, always an exile…

I’m not sure this is a book for everybody, as it’s full of brief descriptions, names, quotes, dates, and travels, although some parts of it would be enjoyed by most people. Personally, I’d love to go for a walk through Istanbul, Naxos, or anywhere with Dr Freely as a guide, telling me all he knows about the many places he’s visited, and with classical references thrown in too. As I don’t think that’s likely to happen, this book provides a good substitute, and has encouraged me to look into his other books.

And here, I share Dr Feely’s quote of the Odyssey that is perfect for the book.

As you set out for Ithaka

Hope your road is a long one,

full of adventure, full of discovery…

May there be many summer mornings,

when, with what pleasure, what joy,

you enter harbours you’re seeing for the

first time… But don’t hurry the journey,

at all,

Better if it lasts for many years.

So you’re old when you reach the island

… Ithaka gave you the marvellous

journey.

Without her you wouldn’t have set out.

Link:

The book is currently available in hardback copy here (I’m sure it will be published in other formats soon):

https://www.amazon.com/Art-Exile-Vagabond-Life/dp/1784534986/

I read an e-version of the book so I cannot comment on the possible differences between the versions, although being familiar with I. B. Tauris and their work I’m sure it won’t disappoint.

Thanks to I.B. Tauris and John Freely for sharing this journey with us, thanks to you all for reading and please, like, share, comment and CLICK!

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