New York, N.Y. Black Cat [a paperback original imprint of Grove/Atlantic, Inc.], 2009. Uncorrected Proof. Trade paperback. , 209,  pages. This is a stirring and lyrical first novel by a young writer of immense talent. Verso states "Not for Resale". Having escaped her overbearing family a continent away, Tatiana settles in Berlin and cultivates solitude while distancing herself from the city's past. Yet the phantoms of Berlin---seeping in through the floorboards of her apartment, lingering in the abandoned subterranea--are more alive to her than any of her neighbors. When she takes a job transcribing notes for the reclusive historian Doktor Weiss, her life in Berlin becomes more complex--and more perilous. Unfolding with the strange, charged logic of of a dream, this book is a profound portrait of a city forever in flux, and of the myths we cling to in order to give shape to our lives. From a crowded U-Bahn where Hitler appears dressed as an old woman, to an underground Gestapo bowling alley whose walls bear score marks of games long settled, Chloe Aridjis guides us through Berlin with wit and compassion, showing why cities, like people, cannot outrun their pasts. Chloe Aridjis is a Mexican- American novelist and writer. Her novel Book of Clouds (2009) was published in eight countries, and won the Prix du Premier Roman Étranger. Her second novel, Asunder (2013) published to unanimous acclaim. Her third novel, Sea Monsters (2019), was awarded the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in 2020. She is the daughter of Mexican poet and diplomat Homero Aridjis and American Betty de Aridjis, an environmental activist and translator. She has a doctorate in nineteenth-century French poetry from the University of Oxford. Her debut novel Book of Clouds was published in the US by Grove Press and by Chatto and Windus in the UK, in the Netherlands, and by Mercure de France. It was published in Mexico, Spain, Romania and Croatia in 2011 and as a graphic novel in French in early 2012. In his review of Book of Clouds for The Independent, Daniel Hahn described it as an "exceptional debut novel". In The New York Times, Wendy Lesser described it as "a stunningly accurate portrait of Berlin". Regina Marler in the Los Angeles Times drew attention to Aridjis's "magic and poetry", and described "an unsettling atmosphere unlike anything in recent fiction." Derived from a Kirkus review: A debut novel concerning a young Mexican woman’s lonely sojourn in Berlin. The opening is a knockout. In 1986 Tatiana’s parents take their children on vacation to Europe. After attending a protest against the still-intact Berlin Wall with her family, Tatiana is convinced she sees Hitler disguised as an old woman on a U-Bahn train. Aridjis beautifully captures Tatiana’s conflicting sense of certainty and impossibility. In 2002 Tatiana returns to Berlin to study German. Years later, she has settled into an expatriate lifestyle, subsisting off stipends her parents send between jobs. Through family connections she is hired as a transcriber by Dr. Weiss, an elderly historian who specializes in “the phenomenology of space”—how buildings retain the spirit of what went on in them. Obviously, lots of bad things went on in Berlin’s buildings. Tatiana spends her days alone with his recorded voice while he works in his study. She spends her nights either traveling the city alone or at home, where noises from the empty apartment above her keep her awake. Dr. Weiss sends her to interview Jonas Krantz concerning a picture Krantz drew as a child in East Berlin. Krantz, now a meteorologist in his 30s, invites Tatiana to a party where she ends up briefly trapped in a former bowling alley and surrounded by ghosts, either Gestapo or Stasi. She tells Weiss that her experience confirms his beliefs about buildings’ energies. Krantz wants a real relationship and offers intimacy, but she is not interested—although she does meet her sexual needs with him. After she and Dr. Weiss pay Krantz a visit, they are attacked by thugs. Dr. Weiss is badly injured, but they are saved by a mysterious fog that overtakes the city. Tatiana returns to Mexico. In this novel of ideas, Aridjis and Tatiana’s love-hate relationship to physical Berlin (the buildings, the U-Bahn, the bread) is evoked with more emotion than is allowed the human characters who remain bloodless, even skeletal. Condition: Very good.
Keywords: Berlin, Germany, Adolf Hitler, Tatiana, Jonas Krantz, Historian, Weiss, Meteorologist, Ghosts, Gestapo, Stasi, Relationship, Intimacy, Sexuality, Spirituality, U-Bahn, Architectural Space