What are you reading? – Carnegie Europe

Guy ChazanHead of the Berlin office of the Financial Times

non-fictional works

Machtver fall by Robin Alexandre. A formidable tale of Merkel’s last term, including the downfall of Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the Armin Laschet / Markus Söder power struggle, and the ups and downs of a pandemic that could end up shaping the legacy Merkel’s policy.


Der Reisende, by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz (in English—The passenger). A captivating novel about the fate of German Jews in the aftermath of Kristallnacht. The hero is a businessman who desperately tries to leave Germany with his belongings intact and finds himself stuck on a train to nowhere.

Film, TV Series, Podcast, Exhibition, Recital

The father—Anthony Hopkins brilliant as a man with dementia. It is a totally exotic and moving film that plunges you into the head of a person suffering from Alzheimer’s and gradually losing control of reality.

Easttown mare– a beautifully calibrated, complex and nuanced drama, which features an outstanding performance by Kate Winslet as a small town sleuth trying to solve a local murder.

Guilty pleasure

TIC Tac. I can safely say that without TikTok’s silly, infuriating, hilarious and addicting videos, I would never have been able to get through lockdown with my sanity intact.

Gwendolyn SasseDirector of the Center for East European and International Studies (ZOiS)

Fiction and non-fiction

Olga Grjasnowa’s first novel All Russians love birch trees about a stubborn young immigrant who leaves Azerbaijan for Germany in Israel and meets her own in-between. The recently published essay by Grjasnowa The power of multilingualism (currently only available in German), artfully elaborates on the link between language and identity and on multilingualism as a new but undervalued standard.

Film, TV Series, Podcast, Exhibition, Recital

Unorthodox– a German-American mini-series on Netflix. Based on Deborah Feldman’s autobiography in 2012 and alternating between English, Yiddish and German, the series traces the journey of a young woman from an Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn who is trying to resocialize in a new life in Berlin.

Regarding the exhibitions, for all those passing through Berlin this summer / autumn:

  • The Birkenau cycle by Gerhard Richter, on display at the Alte Nationalgalerie, captures the process of remembering through elaborate multi-layered paintings and mirrors reflecting the viewer’s engagement with the work.
  • Judge for yourselves: the very late and much criticized Humboldt-Forum finally opens its doors in July. Among the first exhibitions, one presents the ideas, methods and findings of scientific research, developed in cooperation with local academic institutions.

Peter KellnerVisiting researcher at Carnegie Europe

non-fictional works

Escape the ghetto, by John Carr. The extraordinary of John Carr’s father, Chaim, a Polish Jew who, at thirteen, killed a Nazi guard to escape the Warsaw ghetto. He eventually ended up in Britain and joined the British Army, having escaped capture in Poland, Germany and France, to reach Gibraltar via Spain. Years of meticulous research have enabled John to piece the story together. It’s all the more exciting to be true. I have read one of the few hundred copies published earlier this year. I’m not at all surprised that the book has taken off. It is set to be reissued in the UK, by Hodder (a big player in the book world), and has also been sold in the US and, in translation, across Europe, including, of course, Poland. An audio version is also released, read by the great actor Simon Russell Beale.


The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien. Half a century after I bought the book, I started reading it.

Film, TV Series, Podcast, Exhibition, Recital

Podcast: What happens next? A lively and semi-regular look at new inventions and innovations – and the people who support them – that will shape all of our futures. I would choose this even if my son Robert was not one of the presenters.

Guilty pleasure

Peanut butter mixed with a pot. I thought my fetish was unusual, but clearly not: after spending years mixing the two to put my toast, I can now buy jars of nectar, all set.

Thomas de WaalSenior Fellow at Carnegie Europe

non-fictional works

I hope I’m not the only one in the pandemic who has plenty of worthy but long, half-read books on my desk and nightstand. So I am grateful for the short books.

that of Stephen Johnson How Shostakovich changed his mind was my favorite little book from last year, a brilliant meditation on music, the Soviet regime, and also the story of how Shostakovich helped Johnson cope with acute depression.

If I am allowed to name a family member, New pandemics, old policies from my brother Alex de Waal, is a short-lived tour de force that examines the history of failed policy responses to pandemics, cholera, AIDS, Ebola and now the coronavirus.

Film, TV Series, Podcast, Exhibition, Recital

The radio is my favorite companion. Two podcasts recently with an element of mystery kept me hooked.

In Find Natacha Jake Warren learns how his mother went to Leningrad in the 1970s on a ballet scholarship to the Kirov, fell ill, was rescued by a girl named Natasha, and then sets out in pursuit of Natasha.

No night so dark by David Vaughan tells how opening a family trunk in Oxford reveals the hidden story of a Czech Jewish family, only one of whose members managed to escape to England.

Guilty pleasure

Eva Ibbotson is the perfect containment escape author. I shared his wonderful funny novels, between Austria and pre-war England, and everyone from my teenage daughter to my ninety-two-year-old father loved them. So, I am happy to report that a friend who is a political prisoner in Turkey and who got a few moments of respite from Ibbotson Enchanted flutes, which I sent him to read in his prison cell.

Carl BildtCo-president of the European Council on Foreign Relations


Statesman of europea biography of Sir Edward Gray. By TG Otte.

Machiavelli: his life and his time. By Alexander Lee.


Normally I pick a classic at random from the shelves. Dead souls of Nikolai Gogol comes to mind.

Film, TV Series, Podcast, Exhibition, Recital

I found a TV series about social life in Singapore during the Japanese invasion. Swedish television.

Saime zçürümezAssociate Professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at Bilkent University

Film, TV Series, Podcast, Exhibition, Recital

Podcast Talking to Strangers: What We Need to Know About People We Don’t Know, 2019, by Malcolm Gladwell.

How do the ways and conditions in which we get to know strangers impact our interactions with them and our perceptions of ourselves, and why? Gladwell’s account of seeking answers to such questions is for the most part baffling and rarely reassuring. Although apparently a common occurrence in our massively globalized daily life, getting to know someone is more complex than ever.

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