The books that defined David Bowie’s love for Eastern Europe – the Calvert Journal
History buff and voracious reader, legendary Anglo-American rockstar David Bowie was known for his interest in Eastern Europe. In 1976, in search of an antidote to his chaotic drug-fueled life in Los Angeles, he moved to Berlin, where he lived for three years. As a foreign visitor, he had the privilege of visiting East Berlin and getting a glimpse of the socialist world that few Westerners had seen.
This period proved to be productive for the singer, giving rise to albums known as the Berlin Trilogy – Moo, Hero, and Tenant – a very popular triptych in Bowie’s diverse discography. Perhaps the most famous track in the trilogy, “HeroIs a song that directly refers to the wall that divides the city and the dream of reuniting. Bowie’s performance of the song at the 1987 Concert for Berlin is even considered one of the catalysts for the eventual reunification of Germany. His music could be heard all over the city and crowds of listeners in East Berlin had to be dispersed by the police, resulting in violent protests.
While Bowie’s travels through the Soviet Union are a lesser-known part of his biography, photographs from this trip (most of them taken by star’s personal photographer Lee Black Childers) continue to circulate online, exciting the imagination of fans both in the East and in the West. In 1973 Bowie, who was afraid of flying, decided to return to Europe after the Japanese leg of his tour via the Trans-Siberian Railway. This eight-day train journey made a lasting mark on the artist, and he even returned to the Soviet Union in 1976, accompanied by his great friend Iggy Pop.
Still, opportunities to travel to the Eastern Bloc were scarce, so Bowie had to explore the region through literature. An avid reader, he is famous noted that reading was his idea of perfect happiness, and that the quality he liked most in a man was “the ability to render books.” It is therefore not surprising that when he was commissioned to prepare a selection of his favorite books for the traveling exhibition David Bowie is, the singer came up with a solid 100 tracks listing.
To mark the anniversary of his death, Calvert’s Journal picked five books from Eastern European authors that Bowie loved – and we even picked a song for each of them.