Trade Paperback · 220 Pages
$15.00 U.S. · $16.50 CAN
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"A city that has lost one of its limbs and is receiving a miraculous gift, a little bump under the flesh, where the limb is just beginning to grow back." Thus does the American girl in Jeffrey Lewis' remarkable polyphonic novel describe Berlin and the "remnant Jews, secret GDR Jews . . . Soviet Jews . . . Jews who'd fled and come back with the victors, Jews who were lost mandarins now, Jews who'd believed in the universality of man and maybe still did" she finds at a gathering in the eastern city soon after the Wall fell.
At the center of Berlin Cantata is a house owned successively by Jews, Nazis, and Communists. In the house, the American girl seeks her hidden past. In the girl, a local reporter seeks redemption. In the reporter, a false hero of the past seeks exposure. In the false hero, the American girl seeks a guide. And so it goes, a round of conspiracy and desire. Berlin Cantata deploys thirteen voices to tell a story of atonement, discovery, loss, identity, intrigue, mystery, insanity, sadomasochism, and lies.
"The novel begs to be read more than once, to savor every nuance of expression, inner conflict, and resolution." Jewish Book Council
Jeffrey Lewis is the author of Meritocracy: A Love Story (2005), Theme Song for an Old Show (2007), The Conference of the Birds (2007), and Adam the King (2008). He has won a string of awards, including the Independent Publishers Gold Medal for Literary Fiction for his novels, and two Emmy Awards and the Writer's Guild Award for his work as a writer and producer on Hill Street Blues.
About the Author
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.
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
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