Like the woodcut, the poster is one of the victims of everyday language. She stubbornly couples the “woodcut-like” and “placative” with the roughly approximate, the sweeping assertion, the lack of concreteness. This is very unfair, downright grossly unfair, and so every opportunity to praise both the poster and the woodcut is welcome.
And here we are at Edmund Edel. That was the real name of the man and he was a German-Jewish poster artist, caricaturist, translator, screenwriter, director and author, born in Stolp in Pomerania in 1863, grew up in Charlottenburg, which was still independent at the time, died in Berlin in May 1934, not without prior notice on the occasion of his seventieth birthday from the National Observer being insulted.#
Edmund Edel was no stranger to Berlin in the early twentieth century. He designed posters for theatrical stages, for meat extracts and stationery, for Mampe’s liqueur, like his French role models, he was in league with the outline drawing, went with the lasso of the curved line to catch customers. Its use for “blatant” purposes may have contributed to the disdain of the woodcut. The poster’s anti-modern contempt took offense at its alliance with advertising. Luckily, Edmund Edel didn’t let that deter him. And probably because he was at home in the world of magazine and book illustration at the same time, for example in the jokethe Funny leaves or the ship of fools, at some point he had the idea of converting the poster style into prose and using it for satirical purposes. This is how “Berlin W. A few chapters from the surface” came about, which was published in 1906 and at the same time became a bestseller (probably especially in Berlin).
“Berlin W.” is a place name. She means West Berlin, the then “new” West around Kurfürstendamm with the “Bavarian Quarter” to the south. The “old” west was the villa-filled Tiergarten district, on the edge of which Fontane’s Effi Briest once lived. Edmund Edel, zeitgeist specialist like every poster artist, was not satisfied with the place name. He wrote about “Berlin W.” just as a few generations later, in the post-reunification years of the Berlin Republic, “Prenzlauer Berg” was written about as the Berlin where “man” lived. It’s all about the surface, so it’s about fashion. The clothes are part of it, but not only them, but the entire lifestyle. There is talk of elevators, of the electrification of lighting, of the “societies” that “one” gives, of the marriages of the master and the lady of the house, of the farewell to shops in favor of department stores, of sons and daughters, their aesthetic and erotic preferences, the readings and conversations in the salon. One lives in “Tietz-und-Wertheim decor”.
Who thought that only Heinz Erhardt had come up with the idea, the “Iliad” translation by Johann Heinrich Voss, the phrase “which word escaped the guard your teeth” is taught a better lesson here. Edmund Edel’s “Berlin W.” has remained durable not least because of his attention to the register of fashionable phrases from “chic” to “phenomenal”, from the “Berlin conditions” to the question whether and how to greet a man with “relationship” on the beach promenade.
These outline drawings of the better, usually nouveau riche circles of Berlin W. show the naturalistic drama the cool shoulder of the sophisticated world and laugh up their sleeves when someone interprets them as empirical sociology. The chapters are called “The Jour”, “The Time of Young Love”, “Art and Artists”, “The Zoo”, “Travelling”. The stock market, while essential to one’s lifestyle, makes a point of not being the center of attention.
After this debut, Edmund Edel wrote many other things. His “Berlin W.” reappears with every modernization boost. Björn Weyand, author of an instructive study on the “Poetics of Goods”, has now decided to make Edel’s literary work accessible again on a larger scale, including novels such as “Der Snob” (1907), “Das Glashaus” or “Der Filmgott ” (1920). He provided this new edition with an afterword well worth reading and a useful glossary and, fortunately, left the vignettes of the original. “Berlin W.” is a striking book in the best sense of the word.