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Berlin, Germany

   

 

Germany's largest city, Berlin, has been capital of the Kingdom of Prussia (from 1701 to 1918), the German Empire (from 1871 to 1918), the Weimar Republic (from 1919 to 1933) and the Third Reich (from 1933 to 1945). The city was split into two enclaves: East and West following World War II, and the Berlin Wall was erected in 1961 to keep the two separate. East Berlin became the capital of East Germany, or the DDR. In 1989 the Wall came down, and the country reunified to form one Germany, of which Berlin is now the capital.

 

 

When Nabokov lived there in the 1920s, Berlin was the third largest municipality in the world. Out of the ashes of World War I came beauty and decadence, fuelled by the despair, humiliation and economic ruin that lingered in Germany after 1918. During that frenzied decade in Berlin, Kurt Weill invented and introduced the musical to the world, Josephine Baker caused a sensation with her infamous Banana Dance, jazz and cabarets flourished, as did classical music (the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra was under the baton of the inimitable Wilhelm Furtwangler and played by new composers such as Igor Stravinsky). In art, Dadaism was the talk of Berlin, led by figures such as Hans Richter. The most influential book written in the decade was Erich Maria Remarque's "All Quiet on the Western Front", chronicling the horror of war.

Nabokov lived for a while in a southwestern neighbourhood known then as Wilmersdorf, and now as the borough of Charlottenberg-Wilmersdorf.