The novel shows us two different Schöneweides: a snapshot from the 1970s, when the area was part of East Berlin’s industrial heartlands, and a post-industrial landscape with a faint glint of hope in the early 1990s.
The area grew up alongside the factories backing on to the River Spree in the late-19th century; tenements housed the workers, shops and bars along the main road saw to their basic needs. Public transport brought in workers from other parts of the town (later borough) of Köpenick.
The last major production facilities there closed in 2005. The cable factory mentioned in the novel is still in operation, albeit on a much reduced scale. Although the jobs have fallen away, the area seemed unexpectedly lively when we visited in summer 2010 – small workshops have moved into the abandoned factory premises, sushi bars and fitness clubs added a splash of colour. Schöneweide is still poverty-stricken, but public investment and local enthusiasm have made it a more pleasant place to be than during the 1990s.