In This Review

Faust's Metropolis: A History of Berlin
Faust's Metropolis: A History of Berlin
By Alexandra Richie
1168 pp, Carroll & Graf, 1998

This stunning volume's size should not deter readers. It is a work of colossal erudition, with a rich and fascinating narrative that is hard to put down. Making excellent use of cultural and political sources, Richie debunks many of Berlin's myths and leads the reader through a historic panorama: the flowering of Romanticism around the Napoleonic occupation; the city's evolution into a grim imperial capital after 1871; the hypernationalism of World War I; the Weimar turmoil and the horrors of Nazi rule; the equally appalling horrors of the Soviet conquest; the dramas of the Cold War and the Wall; East Germany's police state and West Germany's Ostpolitik; and finally, reunification and Berlin's massive transformation into a new capital. Richie does not believe that the "Berlin Republic" will subordinate itself willingly to Brussels bureaucrats. She calls for Germany to build on the Federal Republic's legacy and regain a sense of national identity without succumbing to "the worst elements of the German national identity." Her book attempts to remind Berliners of their troubled past, so that they will "accept its consequences" and avoid its excesses, faults, and crimes. Let us hope that this masterly summa will have the impact it deserves.