An absolutely epic book, a walking remembrance.'
- Walter Benjamin
'To this day, there is no better Berlin travel guide.'
- Peter von Becker, Tagesspiegel
'When you think of Berlin in the 1920s, you cannot avoid thinking of the storyteller, critic, and translator Franz Hessel.'
- Manfred Papst recommends Spazieren in Berlin in the Neue Züricher Zeitung (NZZ)
'a newly rediscovered treasure'
- Die Welt
'Hessel is a modest master of spontaneous observation.'
- Sabine Vogel, Berliner Zeitung
Franz Hessel was an observer par excellence of the increasingly hectic metropolis that was Berlin in the late 1920s. In Walking in Berlin, a collection of 23 essays that was originally published in German in 1929, he captures the rhythm of Weimar-era Berlin, recording evidence of the seismic shifts shaking German culture at the time.
Nearly all of the pieces take the form of a walk or outing (or a pastiche of several), focusing either on a theme or part of the city, and many end at a theatre, cinema, or club. Hessel effortlessly weaves historical information into his observations, displaying his extensive knowledge of the city. Today, many years after the Nazi era and the post-war reconstruction that followed, the areas he visited are all still prominent and interesting, and his record of them has become priceless. Superbly written, and as fresh today as when it first appeared, this is a book to be savoured.
Franz Hessel was born in 1880 to a Jewish banking family, and grew up in Berlin. After studying in Munich, he lived in Paris, moving in artistic circles in both cities. His relationship with the fashion journalist Helen Grund was the inspiration for Henri-Pierre Roche's novel and, later, Francois Truffaut's film Jules et Jim. Their son Stéphane went on to become a diplomat and author of the worldwide bestselling Indignez-Vous! He also co-translated Proust with Walter Benjamin, as well as works by Casanova, Stendhal, and Balzac. Franz Hessel died in early 1941, shortly after his release from an internment camp.