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Prater Violet (1946)

by Christopher Isherwood

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4601244,314 (3.7)22
Isherwood's story centers on the production of the vacuous fictional melodrama Prater Violet, set in nineteenth-century Vienna, providing ironic counterpoint to tragic events as Hitler annexes the real Vienna of the 1930s. The novel features the vivid portraits of imperious, passionate, and witty Austrian director Friedrich Bergmann and his disciple, a genial young screenwriter: the fictionalized Christopher Isherwood.… (more)
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» See also 22 mentions

English (9)  Hebrew (1)  Italian (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (12)
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Prater Violet is a short, sharp read. I think I may have read it a bit too fast, actually. Isherwood's prose is charming and economical, and he does a good job keeping the story's smaller players distinguishable. I loved how, in addition to the central interactions between Bergmann and the fictionalized Isherwood, a whole world behind this brief story is hinted at, is fed to the reader sideways-- the further vast workings of the film industry, the interior lives of each technician and secretary, the hint of the past with Ashmeade, and most hugely, the hulking terror of Hitler and World War II. In general, it's quick and light and contemplative, but the story really opens up and swallows you at the end.

Well, gotta go read more Isherwood now. ( )
  misslevel | Sep 22, 2021 |
Kristen Menger-Anderson rec
  wordloversf | Aug 14, 2021 |
This novella is only the second book of Isherwood’s that I’ve read, and I enjoyed it even more than the first, Goodbye to Berlin. It’s an interesting feature of his work that he blurs the line between memoir and fiction.
As in Goodbye to Berlin, in Prater Violet Isherwood writes in the first person as a character named Christopher Isherwood and bases the tale on his own experience, in this case, his first foray into film. Nevertheless, it is a novel that reads like a novel. It has the freedom and snappy dialogue of the best fiction.
Friedrich Bergmann, Viennese intellectual director, is a memorably-depicted figure. The character of Isherwood is only slightly less successful, perhaps because one has seen the type of the effete university-educated product of a middle-class home unable to act on his sympathy for the down-trodden before (most recently, in my case, in the author's Berlin collection). Still, this portrait is an interesting variation on the theme.
While some of the supporting characters are sketchy, others are vivid; I think of Lawrence the technician, Chatsworth, the producer, and Ashmeade, Cambridge poet-turned-studio intriguer.
The juxtaposition of the self-important, insular, crisis-ridden studio and the percolating instability of central Europe under the shadow of Fascism works for me. I was glad that the one was not clumsily portrayed as the counterpart to the other. The points of contact Isherwood evokes are sufficient, and deftly handled. A very good read. ( )
  HenrySt123 | Jul 19, 2021 |
A truly delightful read, with enticing insight into Art and the process of creation in relation to Man, the roles he plays under cold, artificial lights, the paths he moves along, and the chill mathematics of show-business and of the falling dominoes of history that tamper with the artistic temperament.
Gripping questions related to the human condition such as love and friendship are explored in more depth on a few pages than they usually are in thick volumes.
Bittersweet truths about who we might be and what we are doing with ourselves often come in deliciously manageable bite-sized chunks. ( )
  ViktorijaB93 | Apr 10, 2020 |
The last five pages alone make this a worthwhile read. Pairs well with Fitzgerald's The Last Tycoon. ( )
  charlyk | Nov 15, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
In "Prater Violet," the Isherwood character who calls himself Christopher Isherwood and who is the focussing eye of all these narratives works in London on the script of a movie with an Austrian Jewish director. The director is a man of real talent: imaginative, energetic, and resourceful, a Viennese mixture of Jewish irony, worldly cleverness, and old-fashioned Goethean culture, whose soliloquies are brilliant examples of the author's mimetic gift. But in England, Imperial Bulldog Pictures sets him to making one of those idiotic films about the romance of gay old Vienna... It is to be hoped that Mr. Isherwood, with his recent experience of the Coast, will go on to give us the story of the more streamlined and larger- scale American methods of wrecking talent and suppressing issues.
added by SnootyBaronet | editNew Yorker, Edmund Wilson
 

» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Isherwood, Christopherprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Boukema, KeesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Bergmann was reckless, now. He was ready to pass even the weakest of my suggestions with little more than a sigh. Also, I myself was getting bolder. My conscience no longer bothered me. The dyer’s hand was subdued. There were days when I could write page after page with magical facility.
“You see, this umbrella of his I find extremely symbolic. It is the British respectability which thinks: ‘I have my traditions, and they will protect me. Nothing unpleasant, nothing ungentlemanly can possibly happen within my private park.’ This respectable umbrella is the Englishman’s magic wand, with which he will try to wave Hitler out of existence. When Hitler declines rudely to disappear, the Englishman will open his umbrella and say, ‘After all, what do I care for a little rain?’ But the rain will be a rain of bombs and blood. The umbrella is not bomb-proof.”
“Don’t underrate the umbrella,” I said. “It has often been used successfully, by governesses against bulls. It has a very sharp point.”
With a foreigner’s luck, or intuition, he nearly always succeeded in picking out the unusual individual from the average type: a constable who did water colors, a beggar who knew classical Greek. And this betrayed him into a foreigner’s generalizations. In London, all policemen paint, all the scholars are starving.
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Isherwood's story centers on the production of the vacuous fictional melodrama Prater Violet, set in nineteenth-century Vienna, providing ironic counterpoint to tragic events as Hitler annexes the real Vienna of the 1930s. The novel features the vivid portraits of imperious, passionate, and witty Austrian director Friedrich Bergmann and his disciple, a genial young screenwriter: the fictionalized Christopher Isherwood.

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HighBridge

An edition of this book was published by HighBridge.

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