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The Berlin Stories: The Last of Mr. Norris/Goodbye to Berlin (New Directions Books) Paperback – February 1, 1988


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Product Details

  • Series: New Directions Books (Book 134)
  • Paperback: 207 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation (February 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811200701
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811200707
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,198,407 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Christopher Isherwood was a diverse writer whose accomplishments included The Mortmere Stories (Edward Upward Series), A Single Man and a translation of The Song of God (Bhagavad Gita). But many critics hailed The Berlin Stories, the reissue of two of his best novels, as his finest. In the book, a man named Christopher Isherwood, who is and is not the author, writes a story of exile, combining the best of Isherwood's real life with the best of the life he imagined. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Collection of two previously published novels written by Christopher Isherwood, published in 1946. Set in pre-World War II Germany, the semiautobiographical work consists of Mr. Norris Changes Trains (1935; U.S. title, The Last of Mr. Norris) and Goodbye to Berlin (1939). The Berlin Stories merge fact and fiction and contain ostensibly objective, frequently comic tales of marginal characters who live shabby and tenuous existences as expatriates in Berlin; the threat of the political horrors to come serves as subtext. In Goodbye to Berlin the character Isherwood uses the phrase "I am a camera with its shutter open" to claim that he is simply a passive recorder of events. The two novels that comprise The Berlin Stories made Isherwood's literary reputation; they later became the basis for the play I Am a Camera (1951; film, 1955) and the musical Cabaret (1966; film, 1972). -- The Merriam-Webster Encylopedia of Literature

More About the Author

Christopher Isherwood (1904-1986) was one of the most prominent writers of his generation. He is the author of many works of fiction, including All the Conspirators, The Memorial, Mr. Norris Changes Trains, and Goodbye to Berlin, on which the musical Cabaret was based, as well as works of nonfiction and biography.

Customer Reviews

Isherwood has a writing style that is uniquely his own.
Dr.Kim22
Character sketches alternate with "diary entries" and feature an overlapping cast, and some of the minor figures from "Mr. Norris" make important cameos.
D. Cloyce Smith
Whatever is supposed to make this book good is lost in the details.
bernie

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

87 of 90 people found the following review helpful By D. Cloyce Smith on May 29, 2004
Format: Paperback
Between 1929 and 1933 Isherwood lived in Berlin and, after returning in London, he wrote the novel and the autobiographical sketches that make up this volume. Just how autobiographical these stories might be is left to the reader's imagination, of course, but they seemed to be based on German eccentrics whom the author knew and whom the reader will be unable to forget.
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.
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Format: Paperback
Originally published as a separate volume in 1939, GOODBYE TO BERLIN includes SALLY BOWLES, which was itself first published as a separate volume in 1937. Frankly autobiographical in nature (the narrator is here given as Christopher Isherwood himself), the collection at first seems little more than a series of character portraits and random events--but as the work progresses it gathers into a dark, often disturbing portrait of Berlin as Germany drifts into the control of the Nazi party, a riot of personalities and swirl of events laced with references to national anti-Semitism and cultural xenophobia, all of it combining to invite the horrors that will cumulate in the cataclysm of World War II.

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.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Benny Bobo on December 1, 2009
Format: Paperback
I am an Amazon reviewer who focuses on pointing out the utilitarian flaws or benefits of a given product; if you are looking for literary criticism, then this review will disappoint. My review, however, is critical if you want to make sure you have a complete copy of 'The Berlin Stories.' If you order the item, check to see if an errata sheet is included anywhere in the book. It's the size of a single sheet of paper slighly larger than the book and will be loosely inserted somewhere in the text. IF THIS SHEET IS NOT INCLUDED, THEN YOU DO NOT HAVE A COMPLETE COPY OF THE BOOK! The printer made an error at page ninety-six (96) of "The Last of Mr. Norris" and, as a result, the story loses both continuity and completeness.

This review refers exclusively to the copy of 'Berlin Stories' with the "double shadow" cover and an ISBN of 9-780811-218047; I do not know whether the same error was made in previous editions.
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49 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Chard on June 29, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This review has nothing to do with wonderful written parts of the book. Instead it has all to do with the printed book itself. I have received two different copies of the same edition printed by New Directions Publications Corp. in 2008 and sold here at Amazon. Both of these copies, which I have since returned, have pages 176 and 177 from the first story, The Last of Mr. Norris, duplicated in the second story, A Goodbye to Berlin. I tried to contact the publisher about the problem but received no answer from the two emails I sent to them. So if you don't mind missing the information on these two pages, which I believe would actually have explained something that isn't to be found out later on, go ahead and order this missprinted copy of the book. But remember you've been WARNED!
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