Berlin

In This Review

Berlin
By Jason Lutes
Drawn & Quarterly, 2018
580 pp.
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Berlin under the Weimar Republic was a crucible that helped forge modern society and politics. Its violent partisan conflicts, extreme disparities between social classes, floods of rural and foreign migrants, and fluid cultural and gender identities set the tone for urban life ever after. Lutes, a legendary artist, devoted two decades to this magisterial graphic novel. Its multilayered story line follows a set of loosely connected characters in Berlin between 1928 and 1933. A young girl from the provinces arrives in Berlin and is swept up in a world of convinced Communists, militant Nazis, disillusioned Social Democrats, conservative businessmen, impoverished workers, dissipated elites, spirited youth exploring new life-styles, and Jews seeking to preserve ancient identities—as well as cruel police, tortured drug addicts, wounded veterans, black jazz musicians, and closeted gay people. Some of the events Lutes portrays are grim, others inspiring, and still others confusing and troubling. Throughout, one is constantly aware of an eerie resemblance to today’s world.

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