No matter how much it changes, no matter how far it's come, a city will always be shaped by its past. German writer and filmmaker Rudolph Herzog (A Short History of Nuclear Folly) delivers a splendid and eerie collection of short fiction set at the epicenter of Germany's wildest history in Ghosts of Berlin.
In the vibrant, cosmopolitan 21st century, Berlin and its denizens still grapple with memories of fearsome, mournful events dating back to when the Nazis ruled and when the Stasi lurked. Beginning with "Tandem," the collection sets an assured pace. Dimitri, a young Greek professional with a history of asthma, relocates to Berlin for a promising new employment opportunity. As he settles in, he looks for a language partner to help him brush up on his German. Lotte connects with him immediately--she's a pleasant if mildly unnerving woman of indeterminate age who nurtures a strong preoccupation with Greece. Before long, the guilt she feels for the Nazi occupation of Dimitri's country bursts to the surface, manifesting before his eyes with shocking severity.
Herzog has a knack for summoning the uncanny into otherwise austere, modern settings, and further twisting its presence into a foreboding paranoia. The merciless onslaught of gentrification conjures a certain type of poltergeist inside an unsuspecting tenant's new apartment in the collection's most traditional ghost story, "Ifrit." A shrewd and provocative collection of fiction, Ghosts of Berlin is translated into English by the equally sharp Emma Rault. The plots are thick, and the twists are powerful. Be sure to check the closets and under the bed before the lights go out. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness