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“Built on Sand is a gentle portrait of a city shaped by a tide of constant change. It is a story built from fragments, together forming a stereoscopic vision of Berlin and the lives lived in its sunken streets, masterful in its attention to topographic history. Scraton is a subtle observer of the small ways loss and shared solitude can bind us in the present, as the past and future risk pulling us apart.”
– Jessica J. Lee, author of Turning: Lessons from Swimming Berlin's Lakes

"A haunted and haunting novel about the way the past is sometimes more real than the present... Paul Scraton writes with an incredible sense of how place defines who we are."
– Owen Booth, author of What We’re Teaching Our Sons

“Paul Scraton will show you a version of Berlin you haven’t seen before: a retired Stasi agent sitting in a neighbourhood pub that won’t survive gentrification, a mapmaker drawing and redrawing streets to show how they are perceived by the different people walking them, and phantoms haunting cabins in Brandenburg villages beyond the city limits. Scraton, whose relationship with Berlin is almost familial, has charted the city’s changing identity and does not look away from its brutal history. Built on Sand is an intoxicating celebration of a place he has known and loved for a long time.”
– Linda Mannheim, author of Above Sugar Hill


Built on Sand by Paul Scraton

Berlin: long-celebrated as a city of artists and outcasts, but also a city of teachers and construction workers. A place of tourists and refugees, and the memories of those exiled and expelled. A city named after marshland; if you dig a hole, you’ll soon hit sand.

The stories of Berlin are the stories BUILT ON SAND. A wooden town, laid waste by the Thirty Years War that became the metropolis by the Spree that spread out and swallowed villages whole. The city of Rosa Luxemburg and Joseph Roth, of student movements and punks on both sides of the Wall. A place still bearing the scars of National Socialism and the divided city that emerged from the wreckage of war.

BUILT ON SAND centres on the personal geographies of place, and how memory and history live on in the individual and collective imagination. Stories of landscapes and a city both real and imagined; stories of exile and trauma, mythology and folklore; of how the past shapes and distorts our understanding of the present in an age of individualism, gentrification and the rising threat of nativism and far-right populism.

Together, these stories offer a portrait of a city three decades on from the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the legacy of that history in a city that was once divided but remains fractured and fragmented.


Praise for Ghosts on the Shore

A powerful story of human tragedy and its inheritances.
Times Literary Supplement

This is a beautifully written book that breathes a kind of mythical life into a forgotten corner of Europe. Read it and be transported by glittering prose.
– Ian McMillan, BBC Radio 3's The Verb

One of the best books I’ve read this year. Paul Scraton should be encouraged to go on more long walks.
 Hidden Europe

Deeply immersive and richly braided.
– Julian Hoffman, author of The Small Heart of Things




About the Author

Paul Scraton is a writer and editor based in Berlin. Born in Lancashire, he moved to the German capital in 2001 where he has lived ever since. He is the editor-in-chief of Elsewhere: A Journal of Place and the author of Ghosts on the Shore: Travels Along Germany's Baltic Coast (Influx Press, 2017). His essays on place and memory have been published as the pocket book The Idea of a River: Walking out of Berlin by Readux Books in March 2015, and in Mauerweg: Stories from the Berlin Wall Trail, published by Slow Travel Berlin in 2014 to mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Among other publications, you can find more of Paul’s writing on place on Caught by the River and in hidden europe magazine.
T: @underagreysky W: underagreysky.com


Paperback ISBN: 9781910312339

Ebook ISBN: 9781910312346

Publication date: April 2019

Formats: Paperback / eBook