cover image Black Deutschland

Black Deutschland

Darryl Pinckney. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-0-374-11381-0

Two distinct settings—West Berlin and Chicago—serve as backdrops for this richly imagined second novel by Pinckney (High Cotton). Set in the 1980s, the story spans several years in the life of Jed Goodfinch, a young gay black man with a rehab stint in his past and an Isherwood-nurtured sense of Berlin as a site of intellectual and sexual liberation. “Like most American queers in West Berlin,” he says, “I was in love with Weimar culture.” In his late 20s, Jed, a lover of architecture, flees his native Chicago for Germany to work for N.I. Rosen-Montag, a famous and controversial architect on a “back-to-the-eighteenth-century-scale crusade.” When the gig eventually falls through, Jed sticks around, having a cadre of fellow expatriates, part- and full-time lovers, and family—a second cousin, Cello, who embodies Berlin’s “traditional high culture”—to rely on (or not). Occasional trips back to Chicago, where Jed’s family is deeply involved in black society and politics, telegraph the ugly reality of race in America. In Berlin, Jed is “that person I so admired, the black American expatriate,” but, in the White City, he’s “an embodiment of a social problem, the old slander of what black men were like.” Teeming with characters, historical minutiae, and observations on art, Pinckney’s novel is a lively, inviting, and beautifully written story of survival by intellect. Agent: Rose Cobbe, United Agents. (Feb.)