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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Käsebier Takes Berlin

Gabriele Tergit

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To purchase Käsebier Takes Berlin

Title: Käsebier Takes Berlin
Author: Gabriele Tergit
Genre: Novel
Written: 1931 (Eng. 2019)
Length: 285 pages
Original in: German
Availability: Käsebier Takes Berlin - US
Käsebier Takes Berlin - UK
Käsebier Takes Berlin - Canada
L'inflation de la gloire - France
Käsebier erobert den Kurfürstendamm - Deutschland
Käsebier conquista Berlín - España
  • German title: Käsebier erobert den Kurfürstendamm
  • Translated and with an Introduction by Sophie Duvernoy

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Our Assessment:

B+ : lively, insightful depiction of Berlin, 1929-1931

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Le Monde . 22/6/2017 Nicolas Weill
Die Welt . 10/3/2016 Marc Reichwein
Die Zeit . 5/8/1977 Hans Krieger

  From the Reviews:
  • "Wir sind als Mediengesellschaft heute längst abgeklärt, rufen von links das Stichwort „Kulturindustrie“ ab und hören von rechts Vorwürfe wie „Alles nur Mache“. 1931 war Deutschland noch kein Land, das Publizistiklehrstühle kannte, geschweige denn wohlfeile Watchblogs. Auch deswegen ist Tergits Roman, den Zeitgenossen vor allem als Schlüsselroman lesen wollten, als Zeitdiagnose so gelungen. Er zeigt, was ein hochdynamischer Medien- und Amüsierbetrieb alles möglich macht. Und das gilt im Grunde noch heute." - Marc Reichwein, Die Welt

  • "Es knisterte das Zeitalter, schwindelhafte Pleiten im Gebälk. Die Tergit, keinen Augenblick die Klasse-Journalistin verleugnend, entfaltet an Hunderten von Einzelbeispielen aus Presse, Handel, Bauwesen, Kunst und Verwaltung die erdachte Geschichte des bescheidenen Unterhaltungssängers Käsebier aus Neukölln: Spekulanten machen ihn zum Geschäftsartikel, vermarkten ihn, stoßen ihn wieder ab. Ein Epochendrama. Verblüfft und verwirrt entdecken wir von heute -- und lassen vielleicht unsern Anspruch auf ein bißchen Fortschritt wieder einmal fahren ?" - Hans Krieger, Die Zeit

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Singer Georg Käsebier does, indeed, as the title promises, take Berlin -- a media sensation who catches on overnight and becomes a star -- but he's an almost incidental character in this busy novel. He's not entirely a creation of the media, and not entirely talentless -- but he himself has little to do with either his success or then the inevitable fall back to earth. At the heart of the novel are the would-be movers, shakers, influencers, and speculators -- those in the newspaper business, in particular, in a 1929 Berlin buzzing with activity, and competition, a feeding frenzy of tabloid competition -- where also:

Our readership notices nothing, unfortunately. Every year twenty thousand graduates leave universities having learned how to write essays in German. They'll write for ten pfennigs a line. I might be exaggerating, but the days of the hotshot journalist are over. It depends on the position of each newspaper, not each individual.
       Tradition also means less in a Weimar Germany distancing itself from Wilhelmine staidness:
What's tradition good for these days ? Locksmiths and dead lords. Just because a masthead is a hundred and seventy years old doesn't mean that it's good enough for 1929.
       Indeed, the media landscape looks remarkably like the contemporary one -- with perhaps just slight more of a sense of responsibility:
     "I love to fuel scandals, but I need some facts first."
       Much of the novel is set in the newspaper-milieu, with its competing tabloids and journalists, and typical concerns -- trying to figure out what the best clickbait (so to speak) is, how much people should be paid ..... Almost as central, however, is the real estate speculation of the time -- most notably (but not solely) in a grand project that is a bit slow to get off the ground and involves basically a building around Käsebier, complete with theater, with the singer lending his name to the project and getting an apartment for his troubles. It's an awful concept, with poorly designed apartments, but the fools rush in: the point isn't to build something useful or desirable (or comfortable), it's to cash in. As is repeatedly made clear:
     "I can only reiterate that when you're building, the building itself isn't that important. The financing is everything."
       There's a building boom going on -- "The landlords of the Kurfürstendamm had succumbed to the frenzy of inflation" -- and capitalism has, indeed, begun to run riot here. The common feeling (and situation) seems to be:
You have to take advantage of capitalism while it's still hot; I'm already in it up to my neck.
       So also the Käsebier-bandwagon, which everyone tries to jump on. The record deal (and lawsuit) is predictable, as are the books, but the marketing doesn't come close to stopping there. Soon there are Käsebier dolls, shoes (!), pens, and even cigarettes -- not just one, but three varieties. Not to mention an "enchanting flower bouquet made of dust cloths" -- the Käsebier model having four ..... Of course he hits the big screen soon enough as well-- in the filmed operetta, Gee, Love Must Be Swell.
       With a large cast of characters, the dialogue-heavy novel zips along, building up momentum slowly and then careening ahead. Covering 1929 to 1931, it describes a Germany in noisy turmoil, and abuzz with activity -- and opportunities, of sorts, even if they are often short lived (and not entirely thought through). Politics figures in the background too, with concerns about a rising right wing taking advantage of the general political chaos; if not yet in power, the Nazis are already a significant presence. So also one character's stock phrase is: "Heil and Sieg and catch a fat one".
       Käsebier is, soon enough, last year's news. Life -- and capitalism -- move fast in the German capital, and if Berlin allows him a brief ascent to the highest reaches it eventually also spits him out. That's life, Tergit suggests -- with him as an example, but no less dozens of others, in a novel filled with ups and downs and deaths and deals and everything, almost down to the kitchen sink, being auctioned off.
       It's a neat slice -- and oh so up close -- of the Berlin of those times, and has held up well.

- M.A.Orthofer, 30 July 2019

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Käsebier Takes Berlin: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       German author Gabriele Tergit lived 1894 to 1982.

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© 2019-2021 the complete review

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