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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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1,767397,488 (3.71)127
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 127 mentions

English (31)  Spanish (2)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  Swedish (1)  Italian (1)  Catalan (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (39)
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
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. ( )
  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. ( )
  HenrySt123 | Jul 19, 2021 |
Even though this "novel" largely has no plot (it's basically the author's diary/memoir) the strange characters who Isherwood meets during his time in Berlin make it a worthwhile read. We are introduced to two rather off landladies, a wishful actress (who's really more of a prostitute), strange young men of all sorts, and a spattering of politicos. Considering that this book was written and published so shortly after the events (mid-1930s), Isherwood's observations about the Nazi party, Hitler, and the Jewish population are startlingly prophetic. Maybe his status as an outsider (from England) is what gives him the ability to see the forthcoming events, or maye he is just more aware of societal changes than he seems to be. ( )
  JaimieRiella | Feb 25, 2021 |
For me, the key interest in this book is the time and place in which it is set -- Berlin as it slid into Nazi rule. The book is made up of two novellas, "Mr. Norris Changes Trains", and "Goodbye to Berlin". In both, Isherwood himself is a central character. I much preferred the sketches in "Goodbye to Berlin": the characters are vividly drawn, and the sense of foreboding is powerful. ( )
  annbury | Feb 3, 2021 |
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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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Dedication
Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
To
John and Beatrix Lehmann
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
From my window, the deep solemn massive street.
Quotations
[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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