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The Berlin Stories Paperback – 2008
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The novel that opens the book, "The Last of Mr. Norris" (published in 1935 in England as "Mr. Norris Changes Trains"), is a somewhat comic portrayal of a bumbling, vain double agent who wears an ill-fitting wig and operates in the sleazy underworld contested by Communist idealists and Nazi thugs. The narrator, William Bradshaw, is a British expatriate tutoring English to young Germans in Berlin--someone, in other words, a lot like Isherwood himself. He encounters Norris on a train, and they initiate an often bizarre, always uneasy, on-again, off-again friendship that propels them through drunken nights in sleazy pubs and dangerous rendezvous at Swiss ski resorts.
In the second half of the book, "Goodbye to Berlin" (published in 1939), Isherwood drops the alter-ego and presents himself as the narrator. Character sketches alternate with "diary entries" and feature an overlapping cast, and some of the minor figures from "Mr. Norris" make important cameos. The most famous story is "Sally Bowles," which later became John Van Druten's play "I Am a Camera" and inspired the musical "Cabaret."
Equally notable, however, is the homoerotic "On Ruegen Island (Summer 1931)," which recounts Isherwood living in a lakeside cabin with the effete, insecure Peter and the athletic, sexually ambivalent Otto, whose Nordic beauty seems transmigrated from an Aryan Youth poster.Read more ›
This is the heart of the book and easily it's greatest part, but it is accompanied by THE LAST OF MR. NORRIS, originally published as a separate work in 1935 as MR. NORRIS CHANGES TRAINS, a work that opens THE BERLIN STORIES. Substantial in and of itself, the short novel presents the relationship between the narrator (here given as Bradshaw) and an elderly and not quite likeable Mr. Norris--a man seemingly engaged in the import-export business but whose covert dealings will ultimate move him to betray even his closest friends. In terms of character and events the novel pales beside GOODBYE TO BERLIN, but in tone and scope it heightens the sense of a society in which anything, no matter how improbable, can happen, and it is very fine indeed.
Readers who come to THE BERLIN STORIES with the idea that they will encounter the plot of CABARET are in for a rude awakening; although the characters are similar, the stories involved are not.Read more ›
Berlin, 1930 - 1933: a city caught helplessly in an inexorable rush toward history as warring political factions fight for control and the Nazi party begins its rise to power. Violence and danger lurk in every street, and yet life goes on for the citizens of Berlin - who struggle to keep a degree of normalcy in their lives and food on their tables. They desperately cling to their traditional way of life as Germany's bloodthirsty future in WWII becomes more and more a nightmarish present. They are utterly unprepared for what lies ahead for them and their beloved nation. Could they have stopped Hitler? Almost certainly, if only they had taken the threat seriously. And therein lies the tragedy at the heart of Isherwood's masterpiece: that while it may be human nature to bury your head in the sand and hope for the best when trouble comes knocking, doing so will make you a passive co-conspirator and only allow the worst-case-scenario become a fully realized reality.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If "Cabaret" is your only interest in this book, you just might be disappointed: only one story, 50 pages, focuses on Sally Bowles. Read morePublished 10 days ago by Ann Ereline
It's a good book but quirky, and a little disjointed in places. Two different works joined together but not perfectly blended. Read morePublished 20 days ago by Tedders
Early Isherwood. All over the place with no cohesion or direction. More a collection of journal entries than a novel, but still useful in painting a picture of Berlin in this... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
Isherwood’s insightful and poignant stories give us a peak into German attitudes as Hitler and the Nazi party come to power.Published 3 months ago by Noovella
After a couple of false starts, I was able to finally finish this book. I read it because I had seen "Cabaret" the movie and the play. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Bernie
It's amazing to read about Berlin in the 30's and to know that it is a first-hand experience as Isherwood was there at this time. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
Outstanding as an example of literature; very useful in terms of understanding pre-Nazi/Nazi Germany.Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer