Black Deutschland

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Black Deutschland
304 pages; Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Imagine the scene: You're in an unfamiliar, dimly lit bar, and the room is buzzing. From every direction comes laughter, argument, and boozy, brainy talk—about politics, art, philosophy, and the meaning of the "just city." From somewhere in the back you can faintly hear a girl singing a mournful tune you swear you recognize but can't identify. You get the feeling the patrons all know one another but wish they didn't. This is the mood of Darryl Pinckney's latest novel, Black Deutschland

Jed is a gay, black dilettante who near the end of the Cold War moves from Chicago to Berlin, a city somehow at the center of the world yet cut off from it. But Jed, who labors against a personal history of failure and addiction, is not the typical young hero on a quest for experience and knowledge.

Black Deutschland is a bildungsroman in which all is in flux: identity, sexuality, family, place—even time itself. And like Jed's cousin Cello, a brilliant pianist whose facade of a perfect life is cracking, no one is quite who they claim to be, or aim to be.

Nor are there any glib resolutions. Just "another lexicographer of desire and ruin" is what Jed calls himself at the end of the novel. But several pages earlier, on the night the Berlin Wall falls and the city for a moment seems to fulfill his hopes, Jed takes a stranger by the arm, and together they dance in moonlight beneath the Brandenburg Gate. A life and a self are many things—pain and ecstasy, both fleeting, both true.   
— Dotun Akintoye