Berlin Cantata

Jeffrey Lewis

‘Lewis is a master’
Washington Post

‘Lewis navigates [his characters] tales with compassion, and fully explores the complications of living in a city haunted by its violent past.’
Publishers Weekly

‘Lewis impresses with his ability to create distinct voices for each of the first-person “soloists”’
Jewish Journal

‘With outstanding craft Jeffrey Lewis examines the political sentiments, and every possible, probable, and wrenching emotion we might imagine. The novel begs to be read more than once, to savor every nuance of expression, inner conflict, and resolution.’
Jewish Book Council

‘Jeffrey Lewis has written a stunning novel, as deep and intriguing as the city itself. The varied cast of characters tell their own stories as they wind their tortured and tortuous way through the dark past toward some kind of understanding, if not atonement. I was utterly absorbed by this book.’
Lee Smith, author of Mrs Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger

‘[Lewis has been painstakingly, novel by novel, constructing an oeuvre that puts him in the ranks of the country’s must-read authors. In Berlin Cantata, Lewis plays his multifarious voices like a conducting maestro with the instruments in his orchestra. You never know what the next voice will say until he or she says exactly what you suddenly realise you’ve been waiting to hear. Read on.’
Peter Davis, author and Academy Award-winning Director


‘A city that has lost one of its limbs and is receiving a miraculous gift, a little bump under the flesh, where the limb is just beginning to grow back.’ So the American girl in Jeffrey Lewis’s remarkable polyphonic novel describe Berlin and the ‘remnant Jews, secret GDR Jews…Soviet Jews…Jews who fled and come back with the victors, Jews who were lost mandarins now, Jews who believed in the universality of man and maybe still did’ whom she finds at a Day of Atonement gathering in the eastern part of the city in a year soon after the Wall fell.

Berlin Cantata deploys thirteen voices to tell a story not only of atonement, but of discovery, loss, identity, intrigue, mystery, insanity, sadomasochism and lies. At its centre is a country house owned successively by Jews, Nazis and Communists. In the country house, the American girl seeks her hidden past. In the girl, a local reporter seeks redemption. In the reporter, a false hero of the past seeks exposure. In the false hero, the American girl seeks a guide. And so it goes, a round of conspiracy and desire. Even as he describes his native city, the false hero describes the characters of Berlin Cantata: ‘We dined on wreckage. We were not afraid to beg. We continued our long tradition of believing either in nothing or too much.’

JEFFREY LEWIS is the author of Meritocracy: A Love Story, The Conference of the Birds, Theme Song for an Old Show, Adam the King, Bealport, The Inquisitor’s Diary, The Meritocracy Quartet, and Land of Cockaigne. He has twice won the Independent Publishers Gold Medal for Literary Fiction. He has also won two Emmys and the Writers’ Guild Award for his work as a writer and producer of the critically acclaimed television series Hill Street Blues. Jeffrey Lewis live in Castine, Maine and Los Angeles.

Additional information




Published Date