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The Berlin Stories (1945)

av Christopher Isherwood

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Serier: The Berlin Stories (Omnibus 1-2)

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
1,955386,538 (3.95)60
MR NORRIS CHANGES TRAINS The first of Christopher Isherwood's classic 'Berlin' novels, this portrays the encounter and growing friendship between young William Bradshaw and the urbane and mildly sinister Mr Norris. Piquant, witty and oblique, it vividly evokes the atmosphere of pre-war Berlin, and forcefully conveys an ironic political parable. GOODBYE TO BERLIN The inspiration for the stage and screen musical Cabaret and for the play I Am a Camera, this novel remains one of the most powerful of the century, a haunting evocation of the gathering storm of the Nazi terror. Told in a series of wry, detached and impressionistic vignettes, it is an unforgettable portrait of bohemian Berlin - a city and a world on the very brink of ruin.… (mer)
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engelska (37)  danska (1)  Alla språk (38)
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The problem with most of these stories is that Isherwood casts himself as a complete outsider, so that his main character stands awkwardly on the verge of being an active participant in the action but almost always ends up a passive observer. When the main character speaks of good friends like Otto or Arthur, I never get a sense that those relationships are really as strong as the character says, and the interactions that the reader does glimpse really don't portray these friendships in the most believable light. A symptom of this deficiency is the main character's sexuality -- or lack of one. It seems that beyond concealing Bradshaw's/Isherwood's personality, Isherwood buries any sexual/romantic feelings he may have, too. Or perhaps that's where the root of the problem begins?

But the character's exacting, saucy narration and observations were still fun to read. Isherwood's description of people and places, though simple in style, conveyed a sense of reality that's hard to shake off, and with sarcasm to boot. His characterization of particular people especially -- like Sally Bowles, whom I loved, though I'm biased as a Cabaret fan -- riveted. On the other hand, I really disliked the Otto and Peter parts, which I slogged through, and thought represented Isherwood at his weakest. Were they shameful gay lovers, perhaps? I couldn't tell.

At his strongest, Isherwood reveals a world especially fraught with identity conflicts. That he picked one of the most interesting turning points in history at its epicenter -- the late Weimar Republic as it began to transition into the Nazi dictatorship, with the enfeebled German population compelled to choose between Nazism, communism and, to a much smaller degree, democracy -- only emboldened his sense of setting and character. Perhaps his ability to set his characters in this historical milieu is where he shines most. ( )
  Gadi_Cohen | Sep 22, 2021 |
Isherwood, an Englishman (and ancestor of the judge who signed the death warrant of King Charles I) lived in Berlin for about four years in the early 1930's. Berlin Stories is a fictional but semi-autobiographical account of his life there. The character Sally Bowles in the movie Cabaret is attributed to one of Isherwood's female friends there.

Some things should be mentioned. This female friend of Isherwood said that Sally Bowles is in some ways quite unlike herself. And that the Berlin he portrays is not accurate. No doubt the first is true and the second not unreasonable. Yet in that wild and turbulent city at that time, little chance that any two accounts would correspond. Isherwood was said (by Auden) to have zero political interests. He does show some interest but it is colored by the hindsight from having been written several years later. Perhaps a disinterested writer provides a more dispassionate viewpoint.

Isherwood was gay. He intended Berlin Stories to disguise this aspect, and that is fine. I believe that Isherwood later re-wrote the stories to include the gay business. See Christopher and His Kind, 1976, if that's what you want. Yet gay vibes inhabit these Berlin Stories.

None of this matters. Isherwood knew how to write. The flavor of ca. 1932 Berlin is evident, and if that is your interest, then you may do much worse than by starting here for the zeitgeist and an enjoyable read. ( )
  KENNERLYDAN | Jul 11, 2021 |
Four stars for The Last of Mr. Norris, five stars for Goodbye to Berlin. The writing in both is beautiful, but GtB is more immediate and real, despite some of the liberties Isherwood took with some of the “characters,” like Sally Bowles. As a longtime fan of the film Cabaret, it was interesting to see the similarities and vast differences between the Fosse movie and its original source material. The character of Sally Bowles (and the author himself) are pretty spot on, except the Sally in the book is a terrible singer and dancer. Isherwood actually stayed in Berlin for a few years, long enough to see Hitler come to power and witness firsthand some of the Nazi atrocities. More than anything, reading Isherwood’s vivid and harrowing description of a nation descending into fascism is sobering and more than a little ominous at this particular moment in time. ( )
  alexlubertozzi | May 24, 2021 |
Two books published together as the Berlin Stories. Written by an Englishman living in Berlin in the years between the wars with Hitler's rise to power in the background of stories of average people of the time. ( )
  curious_squid | Apr 5, 2021 |
"One should never write down or up to people, but out of yourself."

The Berlin Stories consists of two of the author's novels ('Mr. Norris Changes Trains' and 'Goodbye to Berlin'), and each one is a semi-autobiographical account of his time in Berlin in early 1930's.

In the first, ‘Mr. Norris Changes Trains’, Isherwood goes by his middle names William Bradshaw and opens with him meeting a fellow Englishman, Arthur Norris, on a train from Holland to Berlin. Noticing that Norris is very anxious about the upcoming German border police check and intrigued by his mysterious travelling companion Bradshaw strikes up a conversation and ultimately a friendship with Norris.

On arrival in Berlin the two begin to see more of each other and Bradshaw becomes aware of certain oddities in Norris’s life. Norris initially intimates that he is an upper class gentleman of leisure with a certain amount of money at his disposal it soon becomes clear that he is little more than a con-man who takes advantage of his more wealthy friends. Norris is also a member of the Communist party, if not a particularly trusted one, which was a fairly hazardous association to have just as the Nazi party was beginning to come to the fore in German politics and a visitor to a certain brothel where he liked to take part in masochistic games. However, when the Reichstag is burned (reportedly by Communists) Norris realises that it is not safe for him to remain in Berlin but he is unwilling to do so without making one final shady business deal, and uses Bradshaw as a decoy to finalize it.

The blurb on the back of my copy of this book describes Norris as being "urbane and mildly sinister" and the writing as it portrays pre-war Berlin as"Piquant, witty and oblique" however, whilst I felt that he was quite an amusing character he was also as sinister as a blancmange, nor could I see how Bradshaw couldn't help but see straight through him as for all his scheming he seemed pretty transparent. Nor could I work out why Bradshaw seemed to think that Norris's peculiarities were quite the norm whilst the constant introduction of minor characters only seemed to minimise any tension there may have been.

However, whilst I felt that 'Mr. Norris Changes Trains' was poor on its own it did seem to work as an introduction and sets up the second book rather nicely as the reader feels attuned with the author's writing style.

‘Goodbye to Berlin’ in contrast is a group of inter-connected vignettes which chronicle some of his misadventures with some of the city's more interesting and bohemian characters, including one of cinema’s most iconic characters, Sally Bowles; the inspiration for Cabaret. In this book Isherwood drops his pseudonym Bradshaw, and delves into the lives of people under threat from the rise of the Nazi party.

“I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking. Recording the man shaving at the window opposite and the woman in the kimono washing her hair. Some day, all this will have to be developed, carefully printed, fixed.”

While Sally Bowles is an important character in this half of the book, she is ultimately little more than a bit player. The main character becomes Isherwood himself or more importantly his sexuality. Whilst the author never discloses it directly it is very plain that he is a homosexual and so the reader is given glimpses into a more intimate side of the man himself. This is most apparent in the vignette featuring the Laundauers. The story opens with Isherwood tutoring a young Jewish girl Natalia but it is the introduction to her cousin Bernhard that gives the story its poignancy. The fact that Isherwood appears to have been openly gay just as the Nazis were gaining strength seems quite remarkable and even courageous.

For me this is a book of contrasts. I found 'Mr. Norris Changes Trains' to be somewhat wishy-washy whilst in contrast I rather enjoyed 'Goodbye to Berlin' with its engaging characters and it was here that I felt that I got a real glimpse of the author and his abilities. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Apr 14, 2020 |
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Författarens namnRollTyp av författareVerk?Status
Christopher Isherwoodprimär författarealla utgåvorberäknat
Maupin, ArmisteadInledningmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
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for W. H. Auden (The Last of Mr. Norris)
to John & Beatrix Lehmann (Goodbye to Berlin)
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Both the UK and US versions of the title (Mr Norris Changes Trains & The Last of Mr Norris) are combined in this work when coupled with Goodbye to Berlin.
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MR NORRIS CHANGES TRAINS The first of Christopher Isherwood's classic 'Berlin' novels, this portrays the encounter and growing friendship between young William Bradshaw and the urbane and mildly sinister Mr Norris. Piquant, witty and oblique, it vividly evokes the atmosphere of pre-war Berlin, and forcefully conveys an ironic political parable. GOODBYE TO BERLIN The inspiration for the stage and screen musical Cabaret and for the play I Am a Camera, this novel remains one of the most powerful of the century, a haunting evocation of the gathering storm of the Nazi terror. Told in a series of wry, detached and impressionistic vignettes, it is an unforgettable portrait of bohemian Berlin - a city and a world on the very brink of ruin.

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