The plan was to read the third in Kutscher’s historical crime series and then leisurely watch 12 episodes of Babylon Berlin Series 4 as a reward once #germanlitmonth was over. But then I discovered that the series would only be available to stream until 18.12 and I would be internetless from the 2.12. Something had to change.
It says a lot for the readability of Kutscher’s novel (translated by Niall Sellar)that I could blitz through his 535 pages in a handful of days, giving myself a week to binge watch the series. (That is bingeing for me. 12 hours is probably more TV than I’ve watched in the last 6 months!) However, because I was speed reading/watching I didn’t take notes, and now that the novel has been superseded in my mind by the spectacular series I’m finding it hard to remember the details.
It amazes me how the series can reconfigure details from the novel so that its plot bears only passing resemblance to the novel. (For instance, both have a body in the canal. Only they’re different bodies.) Then there are the additions. I lost count of the number of times I exclaimed “that’s not in the novel” while watching the series. But a multi-million dollar budget and all that extra time creates plenty of room for manoeuvrability. That said, the TV series stays true to the spirit of Kutscher’s objectives even if it puts a more sensational spin on absolutely everything.
At this point it’s 1931 and the Weimar Republic is beginning to fray at the edges. Nazism is on the rise, the brown shirts are cocksure of themselves and causing trouble. Members of the police force have become members of the NSDAP, and some are not above taking the law into their own hands. Which includes killing a young homeless boy caught in the act of burglaring a department store. The problem for the police is that the killing is witnessed …
At the same time a known American hit man appears in Berlin and Gereon Rath and his team are assigned to keep watch on him. This is a comedic element in the novel, as Rath and his team park themselves in the hotel corridor in the firm belief that Goldstein cannot move without their knowing. Of course, there are ways and means and soon all Rath’s certainties crumble … I am no longer certain why Goldstein came to Berlin in the novel, because his purpose in the TV series is quite clear: to retrieve his father’s stolen property and avenge his death. Which he does quite cold-heartedly without once crossing the path of the authorities..
The murder of the homeless boy is a commonality, however, and the starting point for documenting the rising poverty within German society, the conditions which drove many into Hitler’s arms, as it were. The major additional plotline of TV series, however, is the infiltration of the SA by Gereon Rath in order to undermine it. This allows the TV series to emphasise the political tensions between law enforcement, the SA and the SS, with particular emphasis on the power struggle between the two latter. Another power struggle between the underground gangs in Berlin is present in both novel and series, but let’s just say the denouement in the TV series is much more decisive.
Kutscher’s stated purpose in writing the novels was to answer the question of how Germany descended into the darkness of Nazism. We see it happening here, together with a mounting feeling that evil cannot be stopped. But there is at least one glimmer of justice: the aforementioed murderous cop gets his just desserts in both novel and TV series … in entirely different ways, of course!