Edinburgh International Book Festival

Ros MacKenzie returns to the book place of the year

Kirsty Bell – ‘The Undercurrents’

Kirsty Bell was at the Book Festival on Wednesday to talk about her overview of Berlin. The anatomy of a city is a kind of archaeology. Topography leaves traces, events leave traces, political structures leave traces. Berlin is a city that has been wracked by cataclysm time and again in a long turbulent history, perhaps most so in the last 100 years. Kirsty Bell, who has lived in Berlin for 20 years, has turned her writer’s gaze towards the many layers that make up this fascinating history and has pursued some forensic research into the people, places and events that have shaped Berlin. The result is a fascinating account of how the city and its people have evolved over the years.

There is a vibrant dynamism to the city which is at odds with it’s rather turgid swamp location. The Spree is slowly flowing, the Landwehr Canal idles along, the underlying vibe is somewhat sluggish, yet in this place the most explosive art, revolution and violence has arisen. A city of 2 halves in more than one historical way.

The author has brought many insights to her painstaking unearthing of the city’s history, and has produced an original and thought provoking book that could not do other than grab the attention of anyone who knows Berlin well, loves Berlin or would like to get to know Berlin better.

Fitzcarraldo Editions £12.99

Frankie Boyle – ‘Meantime’

Frankie Boyle appeared before a packed audience on Wednesday evening to talk about his debut novel “Meantime” that was written during lockdown. While he was unable to appear live with his cutting, incisive take on the current scene, he channelled his cynicism into a Valium induced view of Scotland post colonial and post referendum, his narrator Felix seeing life through a haze of drug induced logic. Ostensibly he is seeking the murderer of his girlfriend Marina, but the quest brings him into the world of nationalist politics, espionage, and even artificial intelligence. It’s an over-the-top comic romp through the murkier side of Glasgow life, with all its quirks and foibles.

 John Murray Press £14.99

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