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Berlin Noir

by Thomas Wörtche (Editor)

Other authors: Rob Alef (Contributor), Max Annas (Contributor), Zoe Beck (Contributor), Katja Bohnet (Contributor), Ute Cohen (Contributor)8 more, Johannes Groschupf (Contributor), Kai Hensel (Contributor), Robert Rescue (Contributor), Susanne Saygin (Contributor), Matthias Wittekindt (Contributor), Ulrich Woelk (Contributor), Michael Wuliger (Contributor), Miron Zownir (Contributor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2013842,572 (3.5)10
"A volume of short stories that revolve around the history, geography and literary traditions of Berlin." --New York Times Book Review, "Globetrotting," April 2019 "This collection is very modern, the stories are set now and reflect on contemporary concerns. They demonstrate a dynamism and originality that shows just how important a part of the euro-noir genre German writing is. There are thirteen stories here, as diverse as the city they are set in, each one is from a different part of the German capital, and although they are disparate with very different intentions, a picture emerges of a troubled, multi-cultural, vibrant city that has always had itsown distinct character...A welcome addition to one to the most fascinating long running series in crime fiction." --NB Magazine "The 13 tales are well chosen and the collection skillfully put together by Wörtche...This is definitely a book that should be on the list of all noir lovers." --New York Journal of Books "The 13 stories in this welcome entry in Akashic's noir series, all set in 21st-century Berlin, are less about traditional crime and more likely to involve gentrification, immigrants, or Airbnb...There's more than enough variety to entertain most readers." --Publishers Weekly "A city with a rich noir past looks beyond its history to an equally unsettling present...Wörtche keeps his promise to show Berlin as 'always moving forward in the present' in this determinedly contemporary but genuinely noir collection." --Kirkus Reviews "Dora" by Zoë Beck selected as Robert Lopresti's Best Mystery Story of the Week Akashic Books continues its award-winning series of original noir anthologies, launched in 2004 withBrooklyn Noir. Each book comprises all new stories, each one set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the respective city. Brand-new stories by: Zoë Beck, Ulrich Woelk, Susanne Saygin, Robert Rescue, Johannes Groschupf, Ute Cohen, Katja Bohnet, Matthias Wittekindt, Kai Hensel, Miron Zownir, Max Annas, Michael Wuliger, and Rob Alef. Translated from German by Lucy Jones. From the introduction by Thomas Wörtche: Berlin does not make it easy to write noir fiction--or perhaps Berlin makes ittoo easy. Noir tradition casts a long, influential, and even daunting shadow. Alfred Döblin's and Christopher Isherwood's works, some of Bertolt Brecht's plays, theMorgue poems by Gottfried Benn,M by Fritz Lang, and many other narratives from the first third of the twentieth century, all of which are tinged with noir, set high intellectual standards, and literary and aesthetic benchmarks that are hard to surpass... Neither Döblin nor Benn, Brecht nor Lang, catered to any crime fiction traditions. They merely steeped their literary projects in a great deal of noir. And so it is with most of the stories in our anthology: they do not necessarily follow the usual patterns of crime fiction, but regard noir as a license to write as they wish, a certain way of approaching the city, and a prism through which its nature is viewed...What's left is history. It is omnipresent in Berlin at every turn; the city issaturated in a history full of blood, violence, and death.… (more)

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» See also 10 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
These were all well crafted stories, but very few of them were satisfying. Three of the four on the last section were especially disappointing in their lack of solid endings. Overall, worth the read, but not my favorite of the Akashic Noir collections. ( )
  DGRachel | Jul 9, 2020 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Another Early Reads from Library Thing.

I've read a few other noir collections published by Akashic Books. Each collection is from a different area. This gives not only a different location for the stories to come from, but even different cultures. They may share the noir attitude but each is its own.

The selection of authors in each book are top notch, in my opinion. They write with the atmosphere of noir prevalent through-out their story. There is a subtlely and at time just a slight taste of the darkness of their tale. Sometimes the ending is not what is expected.

"I Spy With My Little Eye" is about a film critic who has maybe viewed too many movies and is now not able to distinguish life from film.

"Fashion Week" takes place during Fashion Week in Mitte. Can fashion be ecological, progressive, politically correct and still keep on top? Or does the dark side carry more weight and pulls fashion down to the corrupt level that has always been?

There are 13 stories, grouped into 'Stress In The City,' Cops & Gangsters' and 'Berlin Scenes.' There is also a section with a brief bio on each of the writers, giving their creds in the writing world. More interesting reading.

All in all, some excellent reading....and food for thought. ( )
  ChazziFrazz | Mar 23, 2020 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is a collection of crime-oriented short stories written by authors living in Berlin. Chosen and edited by Thomas Wörtche, the stories range from solid to very bad, but the overall quality is a bit lower than has been the case with the other books in the Akashic Noir series. The center of the collection is padded with lazy entries, including a few that could have been set anywhere, with a simple alteration in the street names. I will admit that I expected more than this collection given Germany's love of crime novels and Berlin's reputation as an artistic center. Berlin is such a unique and vibrant city and it's a shame that some of the stories could have easily been set elsewhere.

Most of my dissatisfaction boiled down to one story that irked. I fail to see the value of writing a story from the point of view of a violent misogynist if the payoff is just to read a graphic description of the narrator achieving his dreams. It's 2019, and this read as both tired and exploitative, and I question the value of reading the ways a man might find women to be gross and disgusting and murder-worthy. This was an author looking to be edgy, while walking down an well-worn path.

Complaints aside, there were some stand-out stories, primarily Local Train by Mark Annas, in which a group of football fans plan the murder of a fan from the rival team. Their comic ineptness doesn't hide the brutality of what they are doing. I Spy with My Little Eye by Ulrich Woelk concerns a reporter drawn in to the story of a missing schoolgirl and thinking hard about his relationship with his own daughter. This story managed to both show a heart underneath a callous exterior and delivered a surprising ending. And while the ending of One of These Days by Robert Rescue was tacked on as an afterthought, the picture Rescue drew of the working class neighborhood of Wedding was wonderful. ( )
  RidgewayGirl | Oct 13, 2019 |
Berlin Noir, edited by Thomas Wortche, is another wonderful addition to the Akashic Noir series.

While most of the volumes that I have read so far make an effort to interpret noir in a broader scope than the narrow "dark and crime" definition, I think this one succeeds better than most. Noir is definitely dark, no matter how else one considers it. But the more interesting stories tend to play with the ideas of ethical/unethical, moral/immoral, and of course legal/illegal. Ideally, more than one of these. The better crime based stories look at the crime through a dark lens of ethics or morals, not simply dark criminal activity. And the more peripheral any crime is to the story the better (most of the time).

As a collection from different writers this will likely have stories the reader will like more and less. That is normal and generally can't be avoided. this collection is a strong one and one story has stayed with me for the past month since I read it (yes, I'm late posting this, life happens). The others have come and gone numerous times, usually if something in life makes me think of it. But the first story in the collection involves the ideas I mentioned before coupled with familial obligations and what one must do for a family member. I admit, I didn't anticipate the resolution of the story.

If you like short stories and noir, I would recommend this collection. You may, as I did, discover a couple new writers you want to check out.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via Edelweiss. ( )
  pomo58 | Aug 25, 2019 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Merriam Webster’s online dictionary defines noir as “crime fiction featuring hard-boiled cynical characters and bleak sleazy settings.” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/noir). That definition applies to the collection of stories in Berlin Noir, edited by Thomas Wortche and published as part of the Akashic Noir Series. These stories go a bit further, though, as Wortche notes in his Introduction: “they do not necessarily follow the usual patterns of crime fiction, but regard noir as a license to write as they wish, a certain way of approaching the city, and a prism through which its nature is viewed.” (12)

I’ve been attracted to Berlin—the city and the idea—since a friend of mine moved there a few years ago and regularly wrote about her adventures learning German and navigating the notorious German bureaucracy. I’ve never been there and so, until now, it has remained exotic in my imagination, as do most foreign cities that I’ve never visited. Reading about Berlin through this collection has made the city appear less exotic and more familiar. I live in Florida and when Wortche writes that “Berlin is a city that ‘is not,’ a city that ‘is always on the move, always in the process of changing’” (12), it begins to feel familiar as Florida in general and my home city Tallahassee is “always on the move, always in the process of changing.” Yet, with all this changing, some things remain the same, at least in Florida. Berlin regains some of it’s differentness when Wortche points out that: "Berlin is a relatively peaceful city, at least compared to other capitals around the world. This is partly because organized crime—which is just as endemic here as elsewhere—observes strict rules that aim to inflict as little collateral damage on bystanders as possible (14)."

This is not to say that Berlin does not have its share of “disorganized” crime. Imagination is important for any kind of writing, perhaps more so with fiction, but facts, the “ring of truth” is still necessary to read fiction as representational of reality. The stories in Berlin Noir all conspire to reveal a Berlin that might be “relatively peaceful” on the surface but still contains vestiges of Nazism, xenophobia and white supremacy as well as the expected domestic violence and misplaced ethics. Of the thirteen stories, I’ll highlight my favorites.

At the top is “Dora” by Zoe Beck, which also happens to be the first one in the collection. The first two lines captivated my attention:

Take a look at her. Even if it’s hard.
You won’t want to look at her because she stinks and is filthy from head to toe. You think you know what you’ll see but take a look anyway. (19)

Dora is a young woman, once bourgeois but now homeless, we assume in large part because of a psychotic break she experienced in South America. The narrator is Adrian, an older brother who feels responsible for her, tries to keep tabs on her, to help her, as does their brother Bela. It’s a chilling story, less about crime than about the seeming impossibility of helping a loved one who has become mentally ill, who sees threats in the steam from hot tea, who can almost always be found at the zoo because she listens to the animals, who has long since stopped feeling shame for living on the streets. “She wouldn’t hurt a flea,” says one character and yet eventually, unintentionally she does. Adrian and Bela’s efforts to help their sister, her lack of compliance and the incompetence of some in the therapeutic community will be familiar to anyone who has had similar struggles. That the story ends with a tragedy will not be a surprise.

In “I Spy With My Little Eye,” Ulrich Woelk tells the story of a movie critic who volunteers to write a report on a missing little girl for his newspaper. The assignment is a distraction he needs as he tries to cope with losing custody of his teenage daughter who, he eventually learns, has always felt estranged from him, much to his surprise and anguish. He throws himself into the case, interviewing the mother and grandmother of the little girl as well as her presumed sister. In looking back through the story, I see where Woelk gave ample clues for the surprise ending, the twist that I should have seen coming but didn’t, the revelation a slow build to a heartbreaking end.

Kai Hensel’s “Cum Cops” uses as backdrop a notorious true story about Berlin police who had been sent to support Hamburg police forces during the G20 Summit in 2017 but who were then expelled for lewd behavior. Hensel takes this true news story and presents a fictional scenario of one police officer’s “rehabilitation” from the scandal. Jens’s bad behavior of pissing in a line was far less worse than his colleague Steffen’s public display of adultery; yet, both men are on fragile ground with their wives. Jens in particular has a little son old enough to read headlines and ask, “what are Cum Cops?” (101). His marriage on the rocks, Jens risks further scorn from his wife by trying to help Steffen save his own marriage. In the process, he unwittingly risks his own life. “Cum Cops” could be read more as a comedy than crime fiction, providing some relief from the bleakness of the other stories.

Finally, “Fashion Week” by Katja Bohnet left me feeling glum as the story too closely mirrored that of women I’ve known who killed the men who abused them. There’s no spoiler here: at the outset we know that Thea Stauffer has killed a man. We have all the clues early on that he lived with her and, as their relationship is revealed, we learned the degree to which he abused her. Not only was the abuse physical, sexual, and emotional, the level of abuse we expect in domestic violence; but he also betrayed her fashion ethics, purporting to traffic in only humanely created fabrics when he was, in fact, an exploiter. “Fashion Week” goes deep into Thea’s vulnerabilities, her preference for independence but her precipitous yielding to Ansgar until all that was left was kill or be killed. Her final display—a showcase during Fashion Week—is poignant as it comes too late to stave off financial ruin; yet there is one remaining horror that seals Thea’s fate. An intersecting story of Omari, a young Sudanese man, contrasts Thea’s loss of control and descent into violence as he struggles to control his own violent tendencies, beaten into him as a child soldier in the Congo.

The stories in Berlin Noir are at turns bleak, gritty, and dark, some with comedic angles, most with not. I would categorize them more as literary crime fiction since they force the reader to consider the human condition, with crimes often times just a vehicle to reveal our vulnerabilities and prejudices. I recommend this collection to anyone who enjoys noir and especially those who enjoy when writers use noir as “a license to write as they wish.” (12) ( )
  BaileyBrown | Jul 4, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Wörtche, ThomasEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alef, RobContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Annas, MaxContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Beck, ZoeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bohnet, KatjaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cohen, UteContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Groschupf, JohannesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hensel, KaiContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rescue, RobertContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Saygin, SusanneContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wittekindt, MatthiasContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Woelk, UlrichContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wuliger, MichaelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Zownir, MironContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jones, LucyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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"A volume of short stories that revolve around the history, geography and literary traditions of Berlin." --New York Times Book Review, "Globetrotting," April 2019 "This collection is very modern, the stories are set now and reflect on contemporary concerns. They demonstrate a dynamism and originality that shows just how important a part of the euro-noir genre German writing is. There are thirteen stories here, as diverse as the city they are set in, each one is from a different part of the German capital, and although they are disparate with very different intentions, a picture emerges of a troubled, multi-cultural, vibrant city that has always had itsown distinct character...A welcome addition to one to the most fascinating long running series in crime fiction." --NB Magazine "The 13 tales are well chosen and the collection skillfully put together by Wörtche...This is definitely a book that should be on the list of all noir lovers." --New York Journal of Books "The 13 stories in this welcome entry in Akashic's noir series, all set in 21st-century Berlin, are less about traditional crime and more likely to involve gentrification, immigrants, or Airbnb...There's more than enough variety to entertain most readers." --Publishers Weekly "A city with a rich noir past looks beyond its history to an equally unsettling present...Wörtche keeps his promise to show Berlin as 'always moving forward in the present' in this determinedly contemporary but genuinely noir collection." --Kirkus Reviews "Dora" by Zoë Beck selected as Robert Lopresti's Best Mystery Story of the Week Akashic Books continues its award-winning series of original noir anthologies, launched in 2004 withBrooklyn Noir. Each book comprises all new stories, each one set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the respective city. Brand-new stories by: Zoë Beck, Ulrich Woelk, Susanne Saygin, Robert Rescue, Johannes Groschupf, Ute Cohen, Katja Bohnet, Matthias Wittekindt, Kai Hensel, Miron Zownir, Max Annas, Michael Wuliger, and Rob Alef. Translated from German by Lucy Jones. From the introduction by Thomas Wörtche: Berlin does not make it easy to write noir fiction--or perhaps Berlin makes ittoo easy. Noir tradition casts a long, influential, and even daunting shadow. Alfred Döblin's and Christopher Isherwood's works, some of Bertolt Brecht's plays, theMorgue poems by Gottfried Benn,M by Fritz Lang, and many other narratives from the first third of the twentieth century, all of which are tinged with noir, set high intellectual standards, and literary and aesthetic benchmarks that are hard to surpass... Neither Döblin nor Benn, Brecht nor Lang, catered to any crime fiction traditions. They merely steeped their literary projects in a great deal of noir. And so it is with most of the stories in our anthology: they do not necessarily follow the usual patterns of crime fiction, but regard noir as a license to write as they wish, a certain way of approaching the city, and a prism through which its nature is viewed...What's left is history. It is omnipresent in Berlin at every turn; the city issaturated in a history full of blood, violence, and death.

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