Once In Berlin
Once In Berlin

Fiction by Gaither Stewart

Category: Fiction
Format: PDF eBook, Trade Paperback, 183 pages
ISBN: 0-9768715-2-1 (Trade Paperback)
Cost: eBook, US$5.00; Trade Paperback, US$13

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Gaither Stewart explores the lives of expatriates and native Berliners alike in Once In Berlin, the first in the Wind River Press series ‘Travels’. Longing for home but uncertain where it lies, Stewart’s characters struggle to find their identities within a city searching anew for its own.

From the Author

Once In Berlin is a fictional portrayal of the sudden explosion of a new era of a new Europe against the background of past devestation … the shadows of which haunt the present. The book explores the minds of people attempting to keep pace with an already changed world. In this sense, for the protagonists as well as for readers, the city of Berlin becomes both a reality and a metaphor.

The protagonists ask questions like “Why am I here?” in the persistent way of modern man. The setting is Berlin. Yet the setting in these stories is sometimes less a physical topos than a state of mind or a manner of being of the individual’s struggles. In the stories we watch the protagonists’ dilemmas as reflections of the new era in this new city … this still off-center city, a city still rather mysterious to many Europeans, to many non - Berliner Germans, too.

Each story is a foray into the minds of its protagonists. In each, dilemmas of identity and belongingness and freedom surface. They all want a new life. A more fulfilling life. But they are not always prepared to pay the price. Their answers to their dilemmas are often contradicted by their behavior in Berlin. This is a fiction of conflict between what one thinks and what one does, the driving force of my fiction.

I find I can better treat this variety of questions and answers and incursions into man’s mind against a specific background in a series of stories rather than a novel. I see it as the artist’s canvas: multi-colored, multi-dimensional, multi-faceted.

Critics often note the strong sense of place running through my fiction. That place sense makes my Berlin fiction particular. Neither a guide nor a history, Once In Berlin is a canvas of people and the atmosphere and the feeling that place creates.

My unique vision of Berlin is that of a combination of journalist, writer, and foreigner with an intimate long-term connection with Germany where I studied and lived for many years. My immediate motivation is to be found in two long stays in Berlin this past year.

Taken together the stories form a sweeping novel set in and about the city. The protagonists are in the foreground to reflect the city standing behind them. Yet, though somewhat misty, the city comes through as a protagonist, too. As Jörg says in “Miracle on Potsdamer Platz,” “That’s our city. We’re sitting right on top of them now. On top of all our Berlin dead … Don’t forget we owe them. They’re our past. They’re progress. Actually we are our dead ... And our lives are founded on our places.”

Several aspects of Berlin in particular fascinate me: the romantic Berlin of the twenties and Thirties, its destruction and miraculous rebirth, its uniqueness in regard to the rest of the nation, and its probable eventual emergence as the real capital of the European Union at the crossroads between East and West.

The five long stories here are totally different one from the other; yet, they both reflect and derive from my personal fascination with the city. The first story—“Shadows Beyond the Wall”—reduces the ideological drama of post - war Berlin to the personal relationship between two Cold Warriors, an Italian and a Russian, who overcome mistrust and betrayal to find they were never really enemies.

“End Station Nostalgia” portrays the city as seen through the eyes of two American art historians on sabbatical in a fictitious American cultural society in Berlin engaged in an intellectual and in the end a brutal physical struggle: one is an American Jew who feels at home and a right-wing German-American, who detests liberal progressive Berlin.

“Miracle On Potsdamer Platz” shows the Entfremdung of a rich Berliner who depends on miraculous lamotrigina for sanity and survival, the gradual disintegration of his marriage, and his path back to his family. The title story, “Once In Berlin,” whose real protagonist dies at the beginning, passes through the lives of pre-war, post-war and contemporary generations, showing the dreams and disappointments, the successes and foibles of Berliners of nearly a century.

– Gaither Stewart

It is not just imagination. You can feel through the images that Gaither Stewart gives us with his words, a world  full of a  magical  reality , but also, and unfortunately , the real world  in which we are living nowadays. Sentiments, facts, sensations  are Gaither Stewart's identity – and in my opinion a very rich one. He should stop searching for  it … he has found it.

– Myra Landau

Berlin has become Europe's newest city but Gaither Stewart captures its eternal spirit.

– Desmond O'Grady

Five dark and moving stories pay homage to a city where ghosts play the part of real people, and vice versa. Gaither Stewart has written the definite guide book about how to lose oneself in Berlin. Not since Alfred Döblin or Erich Kästner has the city been counted to us with such crispness, insight, melancholy - and a careful and elegant touch of hope. "

– Uli Wiesendanger
Communications Commentator

Berlin is the capital of the twentieth century and bears many of its most enduring scars. With uncanny precision, these stories get to the core of Berlin, its heart of darkness as well as its inner light. In doing so they also get to the core of the private lives that operate in the shadow of the metropolis and its history.

– Michael Steinberg
Professor of History, Cornell
Anne Maria Kellen Fellow at American Academy in Berlin, 2003-2004

Berlin is many different things to many different people, but its essence is its people. What was once a destroyed, then divided, occupied city has become again, since the infamous Wall's fall, one of the great European
capitals alongside Paris and Rome. In these stories Gaither Stewart takes on Berlin's history through the hearts of its people and of his own keen observer's eyes. Berlin will never be the same for you after you've read them.

– Frank Thomas Smith
editor, Southern Cross Review

Gaither Stewart has written a wonderful collection of stories that leaves an indelible mark in the back of the mind. Berlin is not only the setting of these stories but also one of the most important characters. There is an intelligent subtleness to how Berlin invades the collection. The city's ties to the West and ties to the East are beautifully woven into the characters' personalities. It is a fantastic collection and a great incite into a city that is unsure of itself.

– Shakespeare and Company, Paris