Das Strandbad Wannsee in Berlin-Zehlendorf, aufgenommen am 15. August 2016. Foto: Kitty Kleist-Heinrich

It goes without saying that at this point we should praise a book in which the Tagesspiegel is highlighted as “West Berlin’s only intelligentsia newspaper”. And more: In his childhood and youth memories, Michael Krüger reports that his father was acquainted with the first editor of the Tagesspiegel, Erik Reger, and greatly valued his industrial novel Union of Firm Hands, which will soon be republished by Schöffling Verlag.

As a young man, Krüger himself then had contact with Reger’s successor, Walther Karsch, and through Karsch’s mediation he wrote his very first literary review in a daily newspaper, about a historical novel by Gore Vidal.

And it leads to a time in West Berlin that is not one of the most common, not one of the most well-described in German-language literature: the 1950s.

Born in 1943 on a manor in Wittgendorf in the Zeitz district of Saxony-Anhalt, Krüger came to West Berlin after the war with his parents and three siblings and grew up here in the far west, on Von-Luck-Strasse in Nikolassee, which is served by the Spanish Allee cuts through the district of Zehlendorf to Potsdamer Chaussee.

His hometurf was the Wannsee, the Schlachtensee, the Krumme Lanke and their surroundings, and the visits to the Wannsee lido with its white sand and the catwalks in the cabin and gastro tract are among his fondest memories. To this day, he can still smell the “overpowering smell of cheap skin oil that weighed down like a solid aura over the entire facility.”

But Krüger also talks about his father, a postmaster, who was an avid two-person paddler. He also touches on his professional life under National Socialism without having fully understood his father’s possible involvement; he tells of his mother, who came from the same manor and loved “the stinky stuff, the dog-ear books”.

And above all, he remembers his own beginnings to read, especially at Schlachtensee, and the many, ultimately influential, acquaintances he made in West Berlin bohemian life, especially in the Gambastuben, a bar at the Nikolassee S-Bahn station. Here he met, for example, the poet, translator and editor of the magazine “Das Lot”, Gerd Henniger.

From here, his head full of literature, his path later led him to meet Claude Simon in the Schultheiss restaurant at Wannsee or to tread water in Lake Starnberg with Imre Kertész, in order to discuss strange parallels from Zeitz with him. “Scenes from a Childhood” is the subtitle of Krüger’s book modestly – and yet it has almost become a small Bildungsroman.