The First Days of Berlin

Ulrich Gutmair

Translated from German by Simon Pare

Nov 2021

The First Days of Berlin

Berlin in the early 1990s: this is the place to be. Berlin-Mitte, the central district of the city, with its wastelands and decaying houses, has become the focal point of a new movement. Artists, musicians, squatters, club owners, DJs and ravers are reclaiming what used to be the heart of the city. In the months following the fall of the Wall, there is a feeling of immense possibilities: life is now.

Ulrich Gutmair moved to West Berlin as a student in autumn 1989 and spent the next few years studying during the day in the West and exploring the squats, bars and techno clubs in the East at night. Ten years later he decided to write a book about that transitional period between the collapse of the old East Germany and the gentrification of the new Berlin, a period when utopia was a place that anyone could inhabit for a moment.

Ulrich Gutmair is a culture and arts editor for the daily newspaper die tageszeitung. He lives in Berlin.


'An intriguing work of cultural history.' —Los Angeles Review of Books

'Ulrich Gutmair's "The First Days of Berlin" is a captivating story of Berlin during the first years after the fall of the Wall. It is a personal chronicle, concentrating mainly on the evolution of central Berlin, but telling of dozens of unusual characters and their stories during that time. It is a social history from the bottom up, evoking bars and pubs, squatters and punks and their way up or down. Intertwined with all of it are forays into past history, that of East Germany, of the Nazi years, even of the imperial past, all focused mostly on that same stretch of the city. For those who know Berlin and love it, and for those who wish to discover it, Gutmair's book is a must.’ —Saul Friedländer, Emeritus Professor of History, UCLA, and author of 'Nazi Germany and the Jews'

'A seamless and characterful translation by Simon Pare' —Society

Interview with Craig Sorvillo: —New Books Network