A lonely, nameless Visitor spends several months in Berlin during 2013, absorbing the stories of dozens of people whose lives have been shaped, or twisted out of shape, by the Second World War and its aftermath.
This dispersal of identities is what gives the book its strength. In thematizing the readerly experience as a city anyone can enter, García creates a space for the reader to inject her own history into the book’s various narratives, and she makes this possible by offering stories from World War II to the contemporary era, successfully depicting the condition of living in the city of Berlin as time passes by ... The self-awareness that García gives her characters allows the text as a whole to function somehow autonomously. Without an identified narrator, the text appears expansively and virtuously unauthored — the product of a cast of characters that shape and define the social topography of the city, recoded as narrative ... Overall, Here in Berlin is an impeccable linguistic exercise in narratology and a brilliant exploration of the various identities we adhere to in metropolitan environments. García successfully rehumanizes a German postwar trauma of a populace that for so long coped with the making anonymous of people through genocide, the deadening speed of its capitalist structures, and the oppressive world of East Berlin.
Here in Berlin is less a novel than an exhilarating orchestration of competing voices and temporalities ...
Here in Berlin is a marvelous palimpsest. Voices refract back on one another, each moment containing other, earlier moments within it ... From the wrestling with German memory to the strangely passive narrator, there’s an obvious literary ghost haunting Here in Berlin as well: W.G. Sebald. García happily admits the influence in her acknowledgments, and, in a tip of the cap, makes the Sebaldian decision to intersperse her text with ghostly photographs. But García’s prose is less melancholic than Sebald’s, her stance more optimistic.
Together their tales form a jarring and haunting choral work of remembrance and pragmatism, pride and regret ... Garcia, a transcendentally imaginative, piquantly satiric, and profoundly compassionate novelist, dramatizes the helter-skelter of lives ruptured by tyranny, war, and political upheavals with sharp awareness of unlikely multicultural alliances ... With echoes of W. G. Sebald and Günter Grass, Garcia has created an intricate, sensitive, and provocative montage revolving around the question: 'Do people remember only what they can endure, or distort memories until they can endure them?'