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Berlin Cantata Paperback – April 24, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 237 pages
  • Publisher: Haus Publishing (April 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1907822437
  • ISBN-13: 978-1907822438
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,177,745 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"The novel begs to be read more than once, to savor every nuance of expression, inner conflict, and resolution." - The Jewish Book Council

"Thirteen narrators comprise the choir of Lewis's newest, a story of a city and its inhabitants seeking atonement for the past. A chain of events is set into motion when Holly, a Jewish American woman, travels to Berlin soon after the fall of the Wall to reclaim the house from which her parents were expelled during the Holocaust. In the decades since her parents lost the property, both Nazis and Communists owned the house, and Holly finds it currently occupied by the remaining members of the "old East German Writers Union." The quest to repossess the home, and thus gain closure for the horrors inflicted on her parents, is far more complex than she expected. Whilst in Berlin (which one narrator describes as "a hothouse, that had grown under the Cold War's searchlights exotic flowers of every inappropriate variety"), she meets a fraudulent war hero and a local journalist, both of whom, in their respective narratives, reveal or withhold secrets that inform the relationships between them. Linked by a history of shifting loyalties and deceit, the narrator's stories are filled with the agony of loss and the desperate search for identity. By giving voice to his characters, Lewis navigates their tales with compassion and fully explores the complications of living in a city haunted by its violent past."
-Publishers Weekly


"The great strengths in Jeffrey Lewis' previous four novels have now been brought together in such a happy way in Berlin Cantata, with striking characters, atmosphere and plot, that a clear career arc emerges. He has been painstakingly, novel by novel, constructing an oeuvre that puts him in the ranks of the country’s must-read authors. In Berlin Cantata Lewis plays his multifarious voices like a conducting maestro with the instruments in his orchestra. You never know what the next voice will say until he or she says exactly what you suddenly realize you've been waiting to hear. Read on."

- Peter Davis, director of Hearts and Minds, and author of If You Came This Way

"In BERLIN CANTATA, Jeffrey Lewis has written a stunning novel, as deep and intriguing as the city itself. The varied cast of characters tell their own stories as they wind their tortured and tortuous way through the dark past toward some kind of understanding, if not atonement. I was utterly absorbed by this book.

- Lee Smith

About the Author

Jeffrey Lewis has won numerous awards for his novels, including the Independent Publishers Gold Medal for Literary Fiction. He is the author of Meritocracy: A Love Story, Adam the King, Theme Song for an Old Show, The Conference of the Birds - four novels that together comprise The Meritocracy Quartet -, Berlin Cantata, and The Inquisitor's Diary. He has also received two Emmys and the Writers' Guild Award for his work as a writer and producer on Hill Street Blues. Lewis lives in Los Angeles and Castine, Maine.

More About the Author

Jeffrey Lewis is the author of Meritocracy: A Love Story, The Conference of the Birds, Theme Song for an Old Show and Adam the King - four novels that together comprise The Meritocracy Quartet - Berlin Cantata and, most recently, The Inquisitor's Diary. Lewis has twice won the Independent Publishers Gold Medal for Literary Fiction as well as two Emmys and the Writers' Guild Award for his work as a writer and producer of the critically acclaimed television series Hill Street Blues. He lives in Los Angeles and Castine, Maine.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 12, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jeffrey Lewis's novel, "Berlin Cantata", is written like a cantata, a tale told in many voices. Set in Berlin in 1991, Lewis writes about a woman who returns to Berlin in order to claim some pieces of property her parents had lost during the war. As Jews, Holly Anholt's parents had hidden during part of the war til they had been betrayed and been sent to Auschwitz with their daughter, Helena, who died on the way. Somehow, Holly's parents had survived and moved to the United States, where they settled in California and had a second daughter. Holly, who has already traveled once to Berlin with her widowed mother at the invitation of the German government, returns after her mother's death to make her legal claims on the lost property.

Holly Anholt comes to live in 1991 Berlin, a city being reunited with the former GDR into a larger German nation. Berlin, always a quirky and edgy place, seems filled with local "characters", from all segments of Berlin society. Returning Jews, Soviet Jews, skin-heads from the east who are learning to be capitalists, writers, lawyers, and communists and Nazis - some repentant, others not; all seem gathered around Holly's quest to learn about her family from their lost Berlin property. The country house had been turned into a "writers' colony" under the GDR rule and the residents are upset that they're probably going to be asked to vacate.

Many of the characters in the book are hiding from their own pasts, both unacknowledged and unaccepted. Former relationships and alliances - both political and personal - dominate the book. There's not too much of a plot to "Berlin Cantata". Instead it is a caustic and penetrating look at how a "new" city and society - Berlin after the fall of the Wall and unification - tries to come to terms with its past and make some headway to the future.

It's a simple and beautifully written novel, even with all 13 characters talking.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Howches on May 12, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Really a good book. Thirteen distinct voices layer an enlightening and lively portrait of second generation German post-holocaust angst. Lewis' writing is elegant and although it takes a little while to for the story to gel, the tale gathers meaning and motion as the Rashomonic approach tantalizingly constructs a web of character and history. The story of Jewish repatriation is sometimes disturbing, sometimes elliptical but is propelled by a strong overarching plot and piquant story reveals that compensate nicely for the absence of a central narrator. I would say it is more aptly described as closer to a symphony than a cantata. It has a complex, synergistic structure with strong rhythms and intricate interconnectedness of themes. The whole is more than the sum of its parts. It is also one of the rare books that invites you to read it twice. If the subject interests you, don't pass it up.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Margery Irvine on April 19, 2012
Format: Paperback
"Berlin Cantata" may at times seem discordant: many characters lend their voices to tell this story, set in 1991 Berlin. An American Jew claiming land lost by her family; ex-Stasi agents; skinheads; survivors of the Holocaust; war heroes "sing" in this composition. Jeffrey Lewis's language reflects, as always, his unerringly sensitive ear, each first-person voice individual.
The characters, like the city, have arrived at a time of transformative change; their stories, however, transcend current events as they wrestle with guilt, grief, atonement, and reparation.
What might have been cacophony, becomes instead, by the end, harmony. Like the city, the characters will continue, the reader feels, to struggle with the past while doing their best to live in the present.
The lack of one reader-friendly narrator makes this novel challenging, but how else to do justice to the multiplicity of instruments that play the music of post-Wall Berlin?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Big Wind on April 16, 2012
Format: Paperback
I am a faithful - and admiring - reader of Mr. Lewis's earlier books. Berlin Cantata may be his best. I have read it twice now and the story gets deeper and the voices more compelling the longer I spend with it. The idea itself is a masterstroke -- a young American woman returns to Berlin to sort out her claim to her ancestral home, which has been confiscated first by Nazis and then by the Russians. Her story blends with those of others whose burdens and claims to the past are no less complicated - and intimate. In the end, the whole of these interconnected narratives is far greater than the sum of its equal parts. An entire city emerges, along with the plight of modern European Jews, gentiles, grandchildren of Nazis, survivors, etc. all straining to make sense of the chaotic past. I could go on and on here - the voices are rich and varied and surprising. The characters unfold little by little, as in life. This is a complex and fascinating story but it is not off putting or 'historical'. I recommend it highly. Five stars. Wow!
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