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Goodbye to Berlin (1939)

by Christopher Isherwood

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Berlin Stories (2)

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1,825427,527 (3.72)128
First published in 1939, this novel obliquely evokes the gathering storm of Berlin before and during the rise to power of the Nazis. Events are seen through the eyes of a series of individuals, whose lives are all about to be ruined.

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» See also 128 mentions

English (33)  Spanish (2)  Catalan (2)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  Swedish (1)  Italian (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (42)
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
That perennial question: which is better the film or the book? is irrelevant here. They are both wonderful but the film (in this case Cabaret) and the book are so different. The six short stories that make up "Goodbye to Berlin" create an atmosphere and supply many of the characters that populate the film but the stories are very different. Isherwood is a beautiful writer and these stories evoke the joys, the tensions, the excitement and the fear of pre-war Berlin wonderfully. They are frightening to read in this age of the rise of populism and intolerance in much of the world. For that very reason they should be read today. ( )
  Estragon1958 | May 23, 2022 |
Goodbye to Berlin is the product of a masterful writer, capable of beautiful, lyrical descriptions of settings and moods, and insightful into the character and personalities of the book’s characters.
While the book offers up a series of short stories, each offering capable of standing on its own, the whole forms as a sort of loosely constructed novel where characters developed in one story wander into others in the book, and many are brought together is the book’s last story.
Isherwood’s construction and sequencing of the stories is masterful as well. He begins with a story developing the setting and context, proceeds to the story of Sally Bowles wherein he focuses on the character of Sally, a beautiful, sad young woman who sleeps with men to earn money and whose innocence and guileless combines with her lack of intelligence to create an almost comical parody of a person.
Later in the book, this same ignorant woman has given herself entirely over to sex, sexuality and kinkiest and has become not immoral, but amoral.
In the background is the shouldering rise of the Nazi party which comes full grown in last of the stories.
Good writing make good books and this volume certainly rises to the occasion. ( )
1 vote PaulLoesch | Apr 2, 2022 |
This is all about the characters encountered and their stories. Isherwood's style is simple and unaffected. ( )
  Stephen.Lawton | Aug 7, 2021 |
I have a love of reading about places that I have been to and in particular cities that I have visited on my travels. For quite a while two books based in Berlin have been on my radar, Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood and Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Doblin.

This book is a collection of six short stories which are roughly interconnected with the presence of the author. The six stories detail the lives of various people in a time of political instability prior to the power grab by the nazi party in the 1930's. All of the characters are from slightly different walks of life who happen to live in the city of Berlin.

I enjoyed all of the individual stories a lot. I kept expecting one of them to be a bit flat but that didn't happen. The characters are all fairly vibrant and they all really jump off the page. In particular, the character of Sally Bowles caught my attention. I immediately thought of Holly Golightly but unlike Holly I found Bowles to captivating and irritating in equal measures. At her most diva moments she is exactly the kind of person who I dislike and yet there was something endearing about her.

A couple of the male characters are what can probably best described as being 'fruity'. In places this is ridiculously over the top but in a very good way. The daft TV show Will & Grace kept popping into my head while I was reading the book, I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not.

I really enjoyed this book, it was an easy read and I look forward to reading more of Isherwood's work. ( )
1 vote Brian. | Jul 24, 2021 |
This slim volume contains a set of intertwined stories about Berlin in the waning days (and nights) of the Weimar Republic. It is chiefly remembered today because of the electrifying performance of Liza Minelli bringing Sally Bowles to life in the film Cabaret. As good as the film was, it’s interesting to read the book and get a different take on Sally, part of whose charm is that she is not a good singer. Nor does she bed the protagonist to “cure” him of his homosexual yearnings. In fact, Sally, while a vivid character, is not as central to the book as she is to the film.
The stories are narrated in the first person by a fictional protagonist bearing the same name as the author. A failure of imagination, or a desire to have the reader understand these vignettes as reportage rather than fiction? The latter might be a mistake; the woman on whom Sally is said to be modeled famously distanced herself from the depiction, denying any similarity between herself and that character.
So why did the author give the narrator his own name? He is presented as a curiously passive individual, and the opening of the book indicates this may have been intentional: he is simply a camera, his aim merely to record what he sees. What he sees is the seedy glamor and grinding poverty of a city in a whirling hedonistic fling, smacking of desperation bordering on hysteria, before it yields itself to the embrace of the brown-shirted devil.
Some of the portraits are vivid. In addition to Sally, the author has created other unforgettable characters such as Natalia Landauer and her cousin, Bernhard, as well as the lazy teen gigolo, Otto Nowack.
The author’s tone is elegiac, particularly in the impressionistic closing chapter, which contains some of the best writing of the book. He hints at the fate of the characters he portrays without, in most cases, spelling it out. Fate seems to be the key word: his mood is fatalistic. Any similarity between Berlin in that winter of discontent and election-year USA only reinforces this mood in the mind of the reader. A very good read. ( )
1 vote HenrySt123 | Jul 19, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (68 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Isherwood, Christopherprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cumming, AlanContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grosz, GeorgeIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Meisal, AnnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Toorn, Willem vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Whitford, FrankForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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John and Beatrix Lehmann
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From my window, the deep solemn massive street.
[Sally Bowles] sang badly, without any expression, her hands hanging down at her sides ... Her arms hanging carelessly limp.
"You see those ink-stains on the carpet? That's where Herr Professor Koch used to shake his fountain-pen. I told him of it a hundred times. In the end, I even laid sheets of blotting-paper on the floor around his chair."
"Would you like a Prairie Oyster?" ... [Sally] broke the eggs into the glasses, added the [Worcester] sauce and stirred up the mixture with the end of a fountain-pen.
The children sing as they march - patriotic songs about the Homeland - in voices shrill as birds.
Most of the Baabe boys are Nazis. Two of them come into the rsetaurant sometimes and engage us in good-humoured political arguments. They ell us about their field-exercises and military games. / "You're preparing for war", says Peter indignantly.... "Excuse me," one of the boys contradicts, "that's quite wrong. The Fuhrer does not want war. Our programme stands for peace, with honour. All the same ..." he adds wistfully, his face lighting up, "war can be fine, you know" Think of the ancient Greeks!"
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First published in 1939, this novel obliquely evokes the gathering storm of Berlin before and during the rise to power of the Nazis. Events are seen through the eyes of a series of individuals, whose lives are all about to be ruined.

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Average: (3.72)
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