Set in the 1930s, Goodbye to Berlin evokes the glamour and sleaze, excess and repression of Berlin society.
Isherwood shows the lives of people at threat from the rise of the Nazis: a wealthy Jewish heiress, Natalia Landauer, a gay couple, Peter and Otto, and an English upper-class waif, the divinely decadent Sally Bowles.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 272 pages
- Publisher: Vintage Publishing
- Publication Date: 02/11/1989
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780749390549
Showing 1 - 4 of 4 reviews.
Review by aseikonia
A particularly atmospheric collection set in the 1930s that mirrors Isherwood's own experiences in Berlin during the rise of the Nazis. Desperate and colorful characters inhabit the boarding houses, mansions, bars and resorts of a culture on the verge of chaos.This passage exemplifies the evocative writing style: "Tonight, for the first time this winter, it is very cold. The dead cold grips the town in utter silence, like the silence of intense midday summer heat. In the cold the town seems actually to contract, to dwindle to a small black dot, scarcely larger than hundreds of other dots, isolated and hard to find, on the enormous European map. Outside, in the night, beyond the last new-built blocks of concrete flats, where the streets end in frozen allotment gardens, are the Prussian plains. You can feel them all round you, tonight, creeping in upon the city, like an immense waste of unhomely ocean -- sprinkled with leafless copses and ice-lakes and tiny villages which are remembered only as the outlandish names of battlefields in half-forgotten wars. Berlin is a skeleton which aches in the cold: it is my own skeleton aching. I feel in my bones the sharp ache of the frost in the girders of the overhead railway, in the iron-work of balconies, in bridges, tramlines, lamp-standards, latrines. The iron throbs and shrinks, the stone and the bricks ache dully, the plaster is numb."
Review by h_d
I'm not sure what I was expecting from this book, but whatever it was it didn't quite deliver. Christopher seemed too detached, even for a camera lense. Nazism is something that seems very much at the back of his thoughts, the lives of his characters of more interest. The book is much better towards the end, possibly because the changing environment has finally encroached on Christopher's bubble of frivolty, especially with the uglinss of violence towards the Jewish community. I found the portion of the book that focused on Bernhard Landauer incredibly sad, but even then it's hard to get a sense of Christopher's emotions. <br/><br/>The most interesting part of the book for me was Christopher watching a fixed boxing match. For the most part, Christopher's emotions are very elusive and it's hard to get a handle on him, but this little bit hinted at the author not being entirely immune to his surroundings.<br/><br/><I>The audience took the fights dead seriously, shouting encouragement to the fighters, and even quarrelling and betting amongst themselves on the results. Yet nearly all of them had been in the tent as long as I had, and stayed on after I had left. The political moral is certainly depressing: these people could be made to believe anything.</I><br/><br/>Not a great book, but an interesting reading experience.
Review by allyshaw
I read this on my recent trip to Berlin-- a vivid snapshot of fascinating and very human people about to be cast into hell. The ghost of Isherwood's Berlin is still very present in the city-- it seemed to me the place had a vibrant will of its own and has survived the perverse inventions of 20th century history to become itself once again.
Review by emmakendon
It is what it is - and what makes it bearable is Isherwood being your calm companion.