If Hemingway Were Alive, Which European City Would He Go To?

Travel Blog  •  Michael Yessis  •  07.14.11 | 11:05 AM ET

Eight writers and academics make their pitches in the New York Times’ Room for Debate. The leading cities? London and Berlin.

Josef Joffe, the editor of Die Zeit in Hamburg, picks London:

By way of elimination, it is London—Europe’s global city, in the way New York, L.A. and Mountain View are global cities. London has the money (coming mainly from financial services). It is a city of a myriad nationality. It leaves you alone even as it offers a thousand points of distraction. Though no longer the capital of an empire, London draws the best and the brightest from all over the world—which highlights another critical condition: language.

When Paris was queen in the 18th and 19th century, every educated person in Europe spoke French, a trait that lasted into the 20th century. Today, everybody speaks English, or at least Bad English, which is the world’s fastest growing language. But who now has a command of German, let alone Dutch or Italian? If the rest of the world ever takes to Chinese as it has taken to English, Shanghai might join the roster. But the 3,000 signs of Chinese are a bit harder to master than the 26 letters of the English alphabet.

Writer and journalist Slavenka Drakulic makes a case for Berlin:

In more than two decades after the collapse of Communism, a flood of eastern Germans as well as citizens from other eastern European countries (refugees from the Balkan wars, Russian Jews), young Americans and other Westerners have moved to Berlin. Together with the old “guest workers”—Turks from Kreutzberg—they turned the city into an exciting mixture of people of which real Berliners are but a few.

But this alone would not be enough to make Berlin the center of cultural life. So many artists flock to Berlin because living there is cheaper than living in any other big city in Europe. It also helps that Germany is one of the few countries left that cares about the arts and sponsors culture through various institutions, grants, awards, festivals and conferences. Imagine, writers there get paid for their readings!

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