These two high-spirited essays present a pedestrian’s-eye-view of 1920s Berlin, a city that is simultaneously down-on-its-luck and booming. Francophile writer and translator Franz Hessel brought the role of the flâneur to the streets of Berlin, capturing the rhythm of city life in his perceptive writings, and recording evidence of the seismic shifts shaking German culture. Hessel presents glimpses into the exploits of his bohemian friends, as well as encounters with working people struggling to adjust to the new times. Gently ironic, yet with much affection for his subjects, Hessel’s sterling prose is at once classic and fresh. Praised by Walter Benjamin, In Berlin is a dazzlingly complex tapestry of life in the vibrant, turbulent capital of the Weimar Republic.
Exciting news: if you love Readux’s teeny Hessel translation, the complete book from which it is taken, Walking in Berlin, will be available in English from Scribe Publications in 2016!
was born in 1880 to a Jewish banking family and grew up in Berlin. After studying in Munich, he lived in Paris from 1906 to 1914, moving in artistic circles in both cities. His relationship with the fashion journalist Helen Grund was the inspiration for Henri-Pierre Roche’s novel Jules et Jim (later filmed by François Truffaut). Their son Stéphane went on to become a diplomat and author of the world-wide bestselling Time for Outrage! In the 1920s and 1930s, Hessel worked as an editor at Rowohlt Verlag in Berlin. Simultaneously, he wrote novels and essays, which were widely praised for their poetic style. He also translated two volumes of Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu into German together with Walter Benjamin, as well as works by Casanova, Stendhal, and Balzac. In 1938, he fled with his family to Paris, then to Sanary-sur-Mer. In 1940, he and his son Ulrich were sent to the internment camp Les Milles. Franz Hessel died in early 1941, shortly after his release from the camp.