Shakespeare & Sons may have retreated to Friedrichshain, but even besides the excellent Saint George’s, there’s still hope for the many Prenzl’Bergers who can’t (or won’t) read German. In December, the mini-chain Buchbox acknowledged the neighbourhood’s growing international population by converting one of its five German-language bookstores into an English one, rechristening it (sigh) Love Story Of Berlin. Within the Facebook-blue interior of the Kastanienallee shop, you’ll find a selection of literature seemingly culled straight from the Goodreads app. The hottest British and American titles from the past year adorn the tables, with a few trendy evergreens (Lolita, 1984) thrown in for good measure. This isn’t the sort of place for idle browsing: slapped aggressively across the back of each book is a price label that blots out any information about its content. At least “classics” are reasonably priced at €4.99 a paperback.
A sharper treat for international readers, if not native English speakers, is Amarcord, opened up north in December by friendly Portuguese-German duo Júlio do Carmo Gomes and Camilla Elle. A former editor-translator-journalist and a photographer-cultural historian, they stock carefully selected books in Spanish, Portuguese, French and German (but no Italian, as the Fellini reference might have you expect), calling themselves an “international centre for literature and intervention”. As you might gather from that statement, the tomes that line their shelves do not make for light bedtime reading. Instead you’ll find political treaties, philosophy and sociological works from independent publishers. There are translations of Pessoa in German, Whitman in Spanish and Guy Debord in Portuguese. You can also pick up the two existing issues of Utopie Magazin, a well-designed and beautifully illustrated transdisciplinary German-language review started by the pair in 2015. The collective work of 40 volunteers, it contains essays from thinkers around the world, some of which, like US post-Marxist feminist Kathi Weeks, are translated into German for the first time. Anglophones, have patience: the pair admits they’ll probably stock English books some time in the future, as well as a coffee machine.