So why read a novel translated from the German and originally published in 1931? In my case, a friend in Berlin recommended it and so I got a copy, and admittedly seduced by the glorious cover (it’s a New York Review Books Classic), I still just added it to one of the piles of books that seem to exist all around me. But I chose it one evening and was immediately involved in the Berlin of post World War I. The war had turned the city from sophisticated and refined to gaudy and garish, the era of Cabaret. The brilliance of Kastner’s book is the intelligence and sensitivity of his prose. He depicts life in Berlin through the story of Jacob Fabian who moves in a world not unlike our own. Fabian is overeducated and underemployed, sexually liberal and bemoaning the advance of technology that is making jobs disappear. Sound familiar? He’s close to his mother, has a depressed best friend, is constantly fending off predatory women, has no money but lots of pride and morality, is kind to strangers and falls in love with a woman whose ambitions induce her to leave him for a wealthy producer who she finds physically repulsive. Read this book and fall in love with Fabian yourself. there’s nothing like a classic to bring the world into perspective.