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Built On Sand

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  35 ratings  ·  8 reviews
Berlin: long-celebrated as a city of artists and outcasts, but also a city of teachers and construction workers. A place of tourists and refugees, and the memories of those exiled and expelled. A city named after marshland; if you dig a hole, you'll soon hit sand.

The stories of Berlin are the stories BUILT ON SAND. A wooden town, laid waste by the Thirty Years War that bec
Paperback, 400 pages
Published April 25th 2019 by Influx Press
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Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
[3.5 - reviewed later]
Jackie Law
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Built on Sand, by Paul Scraton, is centred on Berlin. It explores the varied effects of an ever evolving place on those who call it home for a time. Told through events in the lives of the author’s friends and acquaintances while he was living there, it looks at, amongst other things: shifting borders and beliefs, dispossession, those who leave and return across generations. It is a story of individuals, their relationships and psychogeography. It portrays the transience of people and what defin ...more
Mary Warnement
Jul 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Scraton's fiction resembles non-fiction. I enjoyed his Ghosts on the Shore about Germany's Baltic coast. A fictional section in the middle didn't read as true as the non-fiction, and I don't mean to sound obvious when I say that. This novel read sincere to me. The narrator, like the author, leads tours of Berlin, and while the novel has main characters and an arc, the side stories are based on the local history that the author/narrator collects. If the narrator was named, I missed it, and I'd ha ...more
Carla Mortensen
May 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is an astonishingly good book. It manages to blend fact, fiction, memory, travelogue, and tender insight with the ease of a well-tuned Jaguar on a newly paved racetrack. Personal disclaimer: This book is a love letter written to Berlin; the city of the past and of the present, by someone who has come from another country and made it his own. I am also in love with Berlin, also an expat, and I find deep resonance with the author in his connection to the place.

On the surface, the book is a s
Jul 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
A fascinating psychogeography of Berlin, set as a narrative linking a set of fictional characters of natives and also those from elsewhere in the GDR and further East. At the end the story acknowledges its own short-comings in not tackling immigration from elsewhere. It also continues the limited norm of addressing the Nazi camps only from a Jewish point of view, which misses entirely Berlin's new status at a centre for LGBT acceptance.
Steve Gillway
Jun 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: experential, memoir
Very evocative stories about Berlin. I found that reading this and listening to Rowan Rheingans "Red Dress" went really well together. The sadness of the past and the inability to leave the ghost of the past behind are key. Yet like a moth I am drawn to these stories.
Carlo Felice
Jul 21, 2020 rated it did not like it
Wow... A really boring Berlin and a very lazy narrative.
The format didn't work exceptionally well for me, but overall the book does a good job of both fictionalising and critically examining the intrigue of Berlin, dipping in and out of the histories of characters who've been both drawn into and cast out of the city, as is to be expected from Paul Scraton.
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