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Archive for November, 2009

A German Affair

Germany’s most characteristic contributions to nineteenth-century world culture, music and speculative philosophy, are so thoroughly romantic that they alone would give the whole movement a German flavour. But in Germany romanticism did not stay within the boundaries of art and philosophy, it gave momentum to political nationalism, to an irrational Lebensphilosophie and to a fatal departure from the path of the Enlightenment. In his new book, “Romantik: Eine deutsche Affäre” (Carl Hanser Verlag, Munich, 2007), Rüdiger Safranski travels into “Germany’s heart of darkness”, but, says reviewer Hans-Dieter Gelfert, is missing out on the social dynamics of the romantic value system, which English writers were the first to respond to in the early eighteenth century.

Of Pencils and Pixels

Sonja Neef’s ‘Abdruck und Spur’ (‘Imprint and Trace’, 2008) offers a sweeping re-evaluation of the relationship of handwriting and technology. While the historical part of the book may be overambitious, insofar as it discusses even the evolutionary origins of handedness, reviewer Frank Berzbach applauds Neef for successfully defending her claim that ‘there is no final dichotomy between, on the one hand, printing as a mechanical, technical, or digital way of writing and, on the other hand, handwriting as an individual, unique, and singular trace’; instead, the two have been historically and systematically intertwined, and the Manual continues to survive in the Digital.

A New Grammar of Images

German filmmaker Werner Herzog — this year’s President of the International Jury at the Berlin International Film Festival 2010 — has long been as famous for his statements about film and culture as he has been for his actual movies. In his book ‘Conquest of the Useless: Reflections from the Making of Fitzcarraldo’, Herzog chronicles his experiences between 1979 to 1981 while shooting (or, more often, waiting to shoot) his acclaimed film about a bombastic anti-hero in the Brazilian jungle. The journal form, writes reviewer Laura Kolbe, may well be the genre to which his writing is best suited: it provides an inherent structure, in which seasons change, personalities clash and reconcile and clash again, and budgets dwindle.

Where Techno Lives

After a much publicised boom in the 1990s, Berlin’s club culture has received comparatively little attention in recent years. However, as reviewer Norbert Niclauss writes, a new book by Tobias Rapp (“Lost and Sound”, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt 2009) shows that, despite its reduced ‘surface visibility’, the culture of techno music in Berlin is alive and well. Indeed, Niclauss argues, Rapp’s book should not only be of interest to aficionados of techno music, but also to cultural policy-makers, since the current flourishing of medium-sized clubs and venues can only be understood against the backdrop of the wholesale failure of earlier urban redevelopment efforts.

The Passion of Thought

Share By Sara Farris Intellectual voyeurism is alive and well, especially when it is permitted to intrude into the private life of a classically repressed personality like Max Weber. Joachim Radkau’s biography accomplishes the task of scholarly snooping well, and will satisfy even the most prurient curiosity. In this 700 page work we are informed […]

Letter from the Editor

Dear Readers, It is with great pleasure that I welcome to you the website of The Berlin Review of Books. The goal of the BRB is to publish essays and reviews of the highest quality, in an effort to promote intellectual curiosity and intelligent debate. In pursuing this goal, we are open to global perspectives […]

“Typocalyse Now?” The Legacy of Jan Tschichold

Jan Tschichold is best-known as one of the great typographers of the 20th century. A recent book (“Jan Tschichold, Master Typographer”, Thames and Hudson, New York 2008) traces his personal and artistic development from the ‘New Typography’ of the 1920s to his late (post-war) appreciation of classical typography. First and foremost, however, writes reviewer John Holbo, this “prodigal son of classical typography and design” is a man of paradox, who is forever grappling with the question of how to identify rules in what is essentially an uncodifiable art.