The Ghosts of Berlin - Confronting German History in the Urban Landscape (Paper) (Anglais) Broché – 15 novembre 1998
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Berlin is complex, historically and culturally - from its imperialist days to Hitler's capital to the scarred divided city just now seaming together. Germany is the embodiment of ambiguity - which is made abundantly evident by its very structures throughout the wide city. Brian Ladd's photography is unobtrusive and tasteful, illustrating his thoroughly researched work. He compares an old photograph to one taken recently by him to study, at one point, how unchanged some parts of the city have been in the midst of constant upheaval in the last century.
It is remarkable how entertaining the book is, as well as its vitality in its examination of Berlin. It was, quite simply, such a pleasure to read. The Ghosts of Berlin takes in the large picture, of a country uniting, political ideologies - past and present, and the significance of massive structures - standing and ruined. It also encompasses details in exquisite ordinariness, like street corners, department stores, and public transportation. All this is told in an appealing style that is accessible (so you don't need any background in Germany or Berlin), but not overly casual (Ladd is informed and comprehensive).
The book focuses on the last 125 years or so of Berlin's extremely diverse and chaotic past. Ladd writes in a very detailed, yet concise manner. Berlin has had virtually every type of government known to man rule over it and an entire chapter is devoted to the most vital eras in the city's history; namely, the Imperial City from the late 19th century until the end of WWI, the Weimar republic in the '20s, Nazi Germany from 1933-1945, the divided city during the Cold War (with an entire separate chapter dedicated to the the Berlin Wall), and the capital of a reunified Germany. The focus is as much on the changing architectural styles as well as the social and political outlooks of the day. There is much symbolism in the buildings Ladd writes about and we get a great interpretation of what they mean. Ladd illustrates his work with some nice black and white photos, so we do not have to rely on his descriptions alone.
While this book isn't quite a tour book reagarding which restaurants to visit or tourist attractions to avoid, it is a great book to learn about one of the most prominent European cities. So why only four stars instead of five? Well, I did have a deadline to meet and had to rush through this book in about 2 days. Maybe I didn't appreciate as much as I should have.
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