A Guide to Berlin

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Shortlisted for the NSW Premier's Literary Awards and Longlisted for the 2016 Stella Prize. 'A Guide to Berlin' is the name of a short story written by Vladimir Nabokov in 1925, when he was a young man of 26, living in Berlin.

Book Setting: Berlin, Germany
A Guide to Berlin, Gail Jones

Shortlisted for the NSW Premier's Literary Awards and Longlisted for the 2016 Stella Prize. 'A Guide to Berlin' is the name of a short story written by Vladimir Nabokov in 1925, when he was a young man of 26, living in Berlin.

A group of six international travellers, two Italians, two Japanese, an American and an Australian, meet in empty apartments in Berlin to share stories and memories. Each is enthralled in some way to the work of Vladimir Nabokov, and each is finding their way in deep winter in a haunted city. A moment of devastating violence shatters the group, and changes the direction of everyone's story.

Brave and brilliant, A Guide to Berlin traces the strength and fragility of our connections through biographies and secrets.

Available Formats

  • Paperback
    $22.99 RRP
    ISBN: 9780857988164
    Published: 01/08/2016
    Imprint: Vintage Australia
  • Trade Paperback
    $32.99 RRP
    ISBN: 9780857988157
    Published: 03/08/2015
    Imprint: Vintage Australia
  • eBook
    ISBN: 9780857988171
    Published: 03/08/2015
    Imprint: RHA eBooks Adult
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"A Guide to Berlin pays homage to a great writer, Vladimir Nabokov, whose own fiction provides the title, and to Berlin: a city that is a focus of political and architectural wreckage as well as liberation and civilisation. The novel is both an examination and an enactment of storytelling. A young Australian woman is invited to join a group of international travellers currently living in Berlin. They have a shared interest in the work of Nabokov, and they meet to discuss his writing and to share their own stories.
The stories are varied and intriguing; bringing the politics and experiences of each traveller into sharp conjunction with the others. Gail Jones’s novel is designed with architectural precision, inhabited by illuminating discussions of literature, art and life." - Stella judges, Stellla Prize Longlist report

"The standout Australian fiction title for me this year is Gail Jones' beautiful and brilliant A Guide to Berlin (Vintage), a novel that references Nabokov from its title through to its themes and structure. While a strong portrayal of place – Berlin in winter is vividly evoked – it is an even more powerful representation of the nature of storytelling and of memory." - Debra Adelaide, The Sydney Morning Herald

"It's brilliant. It's beautifully crafted, tender and deeply-felt, an exploration of human relationships, past and present through a 'Nabokovian' speak-memory device (and don't worry if you are not a Nabokov fan, it doesnt matter). There are layers upon layers to unpack and absorb in this bleak, but moving narrative. A fabulous and totally original book." - David Gaunt, Gleaner

"I loved Gail Jones' A Guide to Berlin" - Fiona Wright, The Sydney Morning Herald

"I’ve always felt that Gail Jones is yet to receive the recognition she deserves. This is her sixth novel and it is, I believe, a masterpiece. It is a beautifully constructed novel that builds slowly to its horrific and violent conclusion." - Mark Rubbo, Readings

"Both a compelling narrative and a deeply human journey into the heart of darkness by — if you’ll forgive the mixing of metaphors — the back door, by the oblique reference, by “the slant”, and the single devastating moment of violence that will tear apart the group is observed from such a distance and so coolly, McEwanesque, that the horror is magnified rather than diminished.

And Jones writes so masterfully, her singing phrases, sentences and periods so delicately balanced, so nuanced, that, again, one nearly misses their power." - William Yeoman, The West Australian

"A whimsical, writerly premise that in lesser hands might have been strained, but is brought to life with wit and without self-indulgence. A Guide to Berlin is a tense, elegant and compassionate exploration of memory, humanity and salvation sought in literature. Threads unspool slowly with every precisely weighted word, and the relationships between these relative strangers are compelling and fraught." - Elke Power, Bookseller + Publisher

"Gail Jones' latest novel is a brave and brilliant testament to Vladimir Nabokov and his short story A Guide to Berlin." - Adams, Better Read than Dead

"A cool, cerebral and intriguing exploration of the impact of past events and of the slender threads that bind us." - Caroline Baum, Booktopia Buzz

"Initially A Guide to Berlin seems to be a dance of stories: an exhibition of the way they and their audiences meet and intertwine. However, it is much more than this. Members of the group know one another through stories, but they are also lovers, friends, adversaries and wanderers of the great city. The stories are refracted through these interactions and the novel becomes, at one level, a remarkable investigation of reading and speaking, and of the interaction between high literature and immediate human experience. This interplay is given particular urgency because of the dangers the characters face towards the end of the novel, when the circle of storytellers is dispersed.

The novel is a demonstration of both the power of storytelling and its limitations. There is no sentimentality about literary affinities here, and in A Guide to Berlin patterns of loss in 20th-century European history – of friends, lovers, location and literature – appear as part of the celebration of reading and story. Our assumption that we are exempt from literary and historical tragedy is challenged.

This is one of the reasons why A Guide to Berlin is so very fine – it is a full and moving exploration of the experience of knowing others through literature and life." - Brenda Walker, The Monthly

Gail Jones

Gail Jones

Gail Jones is the author of two short-story collections, a critical monograph, and the novels Black Mirror, Sixty Lights, Dreams Of Speaking, Sorry and Five Bells. Three times shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award, her prizes include the WA Premier's Award for Fiction, the Nita B. Kibble Award, the Steele Rudd Award, the Age Book of the Year Award, the Adelaide Festival Award for Fiction and the ASAL Gold Medal. She has also been shortlisted for international awards, including the IMPAC and the Prix Femina. Her fiction has been translated into nine languages.

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