Karl Scheffler

Berlin - Psychogramme of a City

Edited and with an introduction by Florian Illies
(German title: Berlin – ein Stadtschicksal)
ca. 200 pages
Karl Scheffler

Karl Scheffler

Karl Scheffler was an art critic and publicist. In 1906 he published The Germans and their Art: A Necessary Polemic, a vehement plea for impressionism as the artform of modernity. He was the editor of the influential journal Kunst und Künstler from 1907 until 1933, when it was banned by the Nazis.

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Berlin, writes Karl Scheffler at the end of his classic 1910 portrait of the city, is damned »forever to become and never to be«. Unlike London or Paris, the metropolis on the Spree lacked an organic principle of development. It was nothing more than a colonial city, its sole purpose to conquer the East, its inhabitants a hodgepodge of materialistic individualists. No art or culture with which it might compete with the great cities of the world. Nothing but provincialism and culinary aberrations far and wide. Berlin: »City of preserves, tinned vegetables and all-purpose dipping sauce«.

Scheffler could not have anticipated that his dictum would prove prophetic. From the golden twenties to the anarchic nineties and its status of world capital of hipsterdom at the beginning of the new millennium – hardly has another author captured the fascinating and unique character of the city as perfectly. The formerly divided city has become the symbol of a new urbanity, blessed with the privilege of never having to be, but forever to become.


»A devastating, stylistically brilliant rant about Berlin... « noa, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

»A book for the ages.« Der Tagesspiegel

»Leave the projects behind ... and get into this book!« Florian Illies, Literatur Spiegel

»Not a declaration of love to our Berlin, but a tremendously critical and ingenious analysis of this city. Highly recommended!« Peter Raue, B.Z.

»The great thing about this book is: Scheffler's rants mitigate the examination of [Berlin's] present.« Matthias Wulff, Berliner Morgenpost

»Scheffler's surprisingly modern portrait of the city hasn't lost any of its topicality in the past 100 years.« Welf Grombacher, tip Berlin

»This book should be translated quickly and be published in English, Spanish and French. It doesn’t just help to understand Berlin – and other ›metropolitan fates‹ such as those of Paris, Vienna or London – but one sees the city with different eyes after reading Scheffler’s words. One hundred years after their first publication at that.« BauNetz.de