Crazy in Berlin, which opens on Carlo Reinhart’s twenty-first birthday, is Berger’s only remotely autobiographical novel, a coming-of-age tale in which his protagonist learns something about the complexities of the modern world. As an Army medic in Berlin following the end of World War II, Reinhart meets a wide variety of Americans, Germans, and Russians who introduce him to love, chaos, and madness. He spends much of the novel wandering from one lying or misinformed person to another as he acquires some sense of his identity.
The other characters include the idealistic Lieutenant Schild, a Jewish communist who leaks military secrets to the Russians; Lichenko, a Red Army deserter and would-be capitalist harbored temporarily by Schild; Bach, a giant, philosophical invalid who presents a case for anti-Semitism even though he hid his Jewish wife from the Nazis for four years; Dr. Otto Knebel, a former communist, tortured and blinded in a Russian concentration camp, who becomes a fascist after the fall of the Nazis; and Schatzi, a former supporter of Adolf Hitler imprisoned in Auschwitz for his criminal activities and now a cynical Soviet agent. Then there are the three women in Reinhart’s life: Lori, Bach’s wife and Knebel’s twin sister, who represents for Reinhart an unattainable romantic ideal; Trudschen, Lori’s whorish, masochistic, sixteen-year-old cousin, who appeals to Reinhart’s irrational side; and Veronica Leary, a...
(The entire section is 536 words.)