Caroline Leavitt on Berlin


Caroline Leavitt

Today, May 5, 2016, I interview the delightful Caroline Leavitt, New York Times Bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow, Pictures of You and eight other novels. Her upcoming book, Cruel Beautiful World, set in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, can already be pre-ordered; it will be published by Algonquin on October 4, 2016.

1) What is your favorite book (or movie) set in Berlin, and what aspects of it do you most appreciate?

Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood.

Isherwood was a phenomenal writer, and he captured a period of time in Berlin that was really on the edge of insanity in so many ways. The film production and the Broadway production both did the same. Oddly enough, as a little girl, our school chorus sang the song Cabaret as if it were the most joyful song of all. Then, I read the book and then saw the film, and I realized the dark, dark edginess of it all.

2) Have you been to Berlin? How do you compare and contrast it to New York?

My husband — (ed. writer Jeff Tamarkin) — and I are DYING to get to Berlin. We planned a trip last year and couldn’t quite make it happen. But it is our next go-to-place. I’ve heard that it is as cosmopolitan as New York, and I know a lot of creative people who are leaving New York City to live in Berlin because it’s easier and more friendly to an artistic life! There is so much history there and I really am interested in seeing all the art murals all over the city.

3) If you could go to Berlin for a week starting tomorrow, what would you most like to do there?

Oh, so many things! I want to see the graffiti on the Berlin Wall. I want to walk the streets, drink the wine, visit the Tiergarten, go to the Holocaust Memorial, sit at a café and talk to the people. I want to eat a lot of pastries, too! I have a friend, an architect, who went to Berlin for three weeks on his own, and he was so enthralled with Berlin that he wanted to move there. He said, “I was so happy being there, feeling like I really lived there and wasn’t a tourist, that I actually thought, I could die now and feel that I had lived a good life.”

I love cities, and I think I could be ridiculously happy wandering around Berlin.

4)  Did you know that right now, there is a Turtle Shelter in Berlin?

Oh my goodness!  I didn’t know this!  This is so great. I definitely would go to see this! I had a tortoise for 20 years and I rescued him from a pet store. Although tortoises are wonderful, extraordinary creatures, buying them as pets encourages taking them out of the wild where they belong. But, that said, there are many turtles and tortoises who could use a forever home, so adopting them is a great idea. They are such strange and wonderful creatures, and contrary to popular belief, they do show affection. I used to have a little box turtle that liked to walk over the whole apartment and eat lint off the carpet, but when he walked over to you, he would stretch his long lovely neck toward you for a gentle rub.

Ed. — Caroline’s charming essay about her tortoise Minnie, published in The New York Times, is a personal favorite.

5) How does it feel to see your novel Into Thin Air translated into German as Junge Frau Spurlos Verschwunden?

That was an incredible experience. Really incredible. Every once in a while, I will get an email from someone in Germany about the book, and I marvel how easy it is to actually speak with someone across the ocean. (Thank you, Google translate.) A German TV station came over to America because they were doing a program about missing people (They told me that in the 1980s, a lot of people vanished in Germany, but it was not understood why.) I went to a studio they had hired in Manhattan, and I was 9 months pregnant at the time. Someone interviewed me in German, and then it was translated for me, and after I spoke, it was translated back. Most wonderful day ever!

Caroline Leavitt can be reached through her website:
She is on Facebook and Twitter
She regularly interviews writers on her blog.


  1. Scott Rose on May 5, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    This was fun to read.

    And I can’t wait for Caroline’s upcoming novel.

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