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The Berlin Stories

di Christopher Isherwood

Altri autori: Vedi la sezione altri autori.

Serie: The Berlin Stories (Omnibus 1-2)

UtentiRecensioniPopolaritàMedia votiCitazioni
1,915356,404 (3.94)58
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.… (altro)
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» Vedi le 58 citazioni

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 |
I will undoubtedly look back on this work as one of the most influential I ever read. Eighty years, the bildungsroman of a young twenty-something writer has not changed as much as one might suppose. ( )
  charlyk | Nov 15, 2019 |
I greatly admire Isherwood's ability to sketch a character quite briefly, and in some sense superficially, and yet give you a tremendous sense of their inner life. It reminds me of how certain cartoonists and sketch artists can convey a whole personality in just a few lines, while a precisely detailed oil painting might leave a viewer cold. This is especially true of the Bernhard Landauer character, but even the characters who are portrayed as little more than broad caricatures, always give an impression of deep humanity residing within them, just out of reach.

https://donut-donut.dreamwidth.org/792449.html ( )
  amydross | Oct 27, 2019 |
With apologies to the similarly time encapsulating THE SOUND OF MUSIC: How do you solve a problem like Christopher Isherwood? In his rather lengthy introduction to THE BERLIN STORIES, Isherwood admits to having difficulty deciding how to present his myriad recollections of pre-WWII Germany. Initially, he thought one long novel but he struggled to find threads strong enough to hold so many characters and paths together in one story line, so he eventually he broke them down into smaller projects such as the two novellas collected here--allowing his memories to coalesce into clumps largely held together by time and place and little else. Today such a project might more likely be allowed the fluid form of memoir as opposed to being forced into the ill-fitting structure of the novel. How much fun and more natural for the author this would have been is hinted at by his enjoyable introduction. A memoir with literary flourishes would have worked better than several memoir-ish novellas. So all that being said, you may wonder why I gave this ****. Ultimately I have surprised myself. Considering that virtually nothing happens over the course of the two novellas, and at times I found myself clambering for any foothold to hold my interest, a strange thing happened. I became lost amid the squalid tenements, beach resort hotels, and the crowded and just barely kempt boarding houses of Isherwood’s Berlin and became friends with the poor and rich alike and everyone in between striving or falling while walking the streets, drinking in dives or going to parties, bordellos and burlesque joints. THE BERLIN STORIES were like moving into a new neighborhood, the lines between familiar and unfamiliar blur and then vanish until it is like you have always been there and can never imagine forgetting what you have seen. The image of each person is so vividly crafted that many of them remain projected in my mind long after their moments upon the page and I was left wondering what happened next in the life of everyone who passed through the stories. At first it bothered me that so many lives dropped from the authors hands without seeming to go anywhere but I came to accept that as part of the point. While the Nazi’s are barely referenced, it is understood that they are always lurking—an inescapable tragedy that will toss millions of lives into the air let alone the relatively few presented here. Few realize that their lives really aren’t going anywhere despite the mad dash of the every day. As each character fell away from the narrative, I could not help but imagine them kind of freezing in place and awaiting the massive wave of WWII much like the main character of Francois Truffaut’s 400 BLOWS who finally manages to run away to the beach only to find he doesn’t know what to do next. As all these lives mount over the course of the two novellas, the power of expectation increases. What will become of all those characters left standing on the shore waiting for that wave to come for them?




( )
  KurtWombat | Sep 15, 2019 |
nessuna recensione | aggiungi una recensione

» Aggiungi altri autori (3 potenziali)

Nome dell'autoreRuoloTipo di autoreOpera?Stato
Christopher Isherwoodautore primariotutte le edizionicalcolato
Maupin, ArmisteadIntroduzioneautore secondarioalcune edizioniconfermato
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Dedica
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for W. H. Auden (The Last of Mr. Norris)
to John & Beatrix Lehmann (Goodbye to Berlin)
Incipit
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My first impression was that the stranger's eyes were of an unusually light blue.
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(Click per vedere. Attenzione: può contenere anticipazioni.)
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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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