Almost Revolutionary

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Gay BerlinGay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity
by Robert Beachy
Knopf. 336 pages, $27.95

 

THE GERMANS “are not satisfied simply being pederasts, like the rest of the world,” sighed French writer Octave Mirbeau in “Berlin-Sodome,” his 1907 travelogue. “They have to invent homosexuality.” Robert Beachy’s comprehensive history of gay Berlin from the 1870s to the 1930s shows that the emergence of gay and lesbian cultures in the modern West owed much to what Mirbeau identified as Berlin’s pederasty and invention—its practice and theory—and Beachy makes a compelling case for the “German invention of homosexuality.”

This is a book of startling firsts: the first openly gay man, the first legislative debate over sodomy law repeal, the first gay rights organization.

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