Käsebier Takes Berlin
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From the publisher
Translated by Sophie Duvernoy
In Berlin, 1930, the name Käsebier is on everyone’s lips. A literal combination of the German words for “cheese” and “beer,” it’s an unglamorous name for an unglamorous man—a small-time crooner who performs nightly on a shabby stage for laborers, secretaries, and shopkeepers. Until the press shows up.
In the blink of an eye, this everyman is made a star: a star who can sing songs for a troubled time. Margot Weissmann, the arts patron, hosts champagne breakfasts for Käsebier; Muschler the banker builds a theater in his honor; Willi Frächter, a parvenu writer, makes a mint off Käsebier-themed business ventures and books. All the while, the journalists who catapulted Käsebier to fame watch the monstrous media machine churn in amazement—and are aghast at the demons they have unleashed.
In Käsebier Takes Berlin, the journalist Gabriele Tergit wrote a searing satire of the excesses and follies of the Weimar Republic. Chronicling a country on the brink of fascism and a press on the edge of collapse, Tergit’s novel caused a sensation when it was published in 1931. As witty as Kurt Tucholsky and as trenchant as Karl Kraus, Tergit portrays a world too entranced by fireworks to notice its smoldering edges.
Portraying a society declining into fascism, the novel resounds with hollow laughter and is crisp throughout, but the journalistic sections feel most alive. These tableaus, which blend absurdism and poignancy, match the comic invention of classics like Michael Frayn’s Towards the End of the Morning and Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop.
A star is born, Weimar-style, in this German novel originally published in 1931....Tergit’s novel deserves a place alongside Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz, Canetti’s Auto-da-Fé, and other key works of the period.
Tergit’s prose is energetically rendered by Sophie Duvernoy . . .Tergit’s gift for engaging dialogue enlivens the novel. But beneath the witty comedy and acute observation lies a sober reminder of the dangers brewing: references to mounting debt and widespread bankruptcy; and as the election poster go up, auction are held and suitcases of the vulnerable stand ready
—Rebecca K. Morrison,TLS,