The Berlin Stories: The Last of Mr. Norris & Goodbye To Berlin
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The Berlin Stories: The Last of Mr. Norris & Goodbye To Berlin

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  5,611 ratings  ·  293 reviews

First published in the 1930s, The Berlin Stories contains two astonishing related novels, The Last of Mr. Norris and Goodbye to Berlin,
which are recognized today as classics of modern fiction. Isherwood magnificently captures 1931 Berlin: charming, with its avenues and cafés; marvelously grotesque, with its nightlife and dreamers;
dangerous, with its vice and intrigue; powe

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Hardcover, 191 pages
Published October 1st 1979 by Bentley Publishers (first published 1945)
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Lewis Weinstein
After starting with great expectations, I found "The Berlin Stories" to be incredibly boring. The GR reviews of the book were far more interesting (for me) than the book itself. I guess I like character development as an adjunct to a plot, but not so much all by itself. I found no reason to care about the characters and the minutia of their lives, no matter how well described they were. A pity, since so much was happening in Germany in the time period of the stories (early to mid 1930s). Hope I...more
Dusty
Dear Mr. Isherwood, how is it that we haven't before been introduced? Unlike several other reviewers, I actually adored both novels assembled in this volume. In fact, I may even slightly prefer the oft-panned The Last of Mr. Norris, for although Mr. Norris is obnoxious, his narrative coheres in ways that Goodbye to Berlin does not (and it provides a better glimpse of dear Frl. Schroeder). Of course, I don't mean to knock Goodbye, either, for it's a lovely array of vignettes with some exceedingly...more
Kevin
Isherwood's own thoughtful, gentle, fallible nature, which the reader understands and idnetifies with immediately, stands in haunting contrast to the ominous changes taking place in Berlin during his stay there (1930-1934). For me, at least, the novel brings home--in a deeply personal way--how uncertain the political outcomes were as late as 1932; and then, how swiftly and crushingly the tides shifted. It also gives names and personalities to people--Nazis, communists, politcal know-nothings, an...more
Bryan
I have finished my first book of 2011, or is it my first two books? The Berlin Stories is two books combined into one; The Last of Mr. Norris and Goodbye Berlin. While the two are not directly linked, they do have a common narrator, boarding house and landlady (all the essentials to a great story).

Book one follows the narrator (presumably the author) on a trip from his native England, on the train, to Berlin, where he shares a berth with the odd, yet intriguing Arthur Norris. The story explores...more
Lenoir
I have to clarify with my 3 star rating that this is an average because it is really two different books in one. The first one is The Last of Mr. Norris. If I were reviewing that one alone I would have given it only 2 stars. It is about a man (the author I presume but he used a pseudonym) who rents a room in a flat in Berlin (early 1930s, pre-Hitler) and runs around with communists. He gets involved with Arthur Norris who is a very likable criminal with a fondness for dominatrixes. It's a nice s...more
Jessica Severson
I fell in love with Isherwood earlier this year when I read "A Single Man." So I couldn't resist when the book club chose The Berlin Stories. Even though I was vastly overcommitted I did it anyway. And I'm glad.

It's not as dark as so much pre-WWII writing is. That's because most pre-WWII writing was written post-WWII and takes a look at the oncoming darkness head-on. With Isherwood it really seeps in so slowly you don't notice.

It is a very youthful book, full of the kind of blase naivete that is...more
Libby
Isherwood’s style is starkly magnificent, blending dark humor with the deepest human tragedies. His view of Berlin and its people just before the rise of the Nazis is merciless in its realism, but at the same time, it is colored with an unconditional love for the various people he meets, belonging to all sorts of different social cliques in Berlin. Though his sympathies lie distinctly with the marginalized classes, Isherwood does not shirk from portraying his characters with an objective accurac...more
Meg
A fairly quick and easy read - none the less it was extremely interesting. These books deal with the author's life in a very bohemian Berlin during the end of the 1920s and the start of the 1930s. As such, it was a very interesting cultural read, because I am always interested in the geopolitical happenings of this era and less of the cultural happenings. So we meet a dominatrix prostitute, bisexual men and loose women and no one bats an eye - not the way I usually think of this time period. How...more
Teresa
I read this book because I knew Cabaret was inspired on "Goodbye to Berlin" and also after watching the movie "Christopher and His Kind".
This book gives an overview of Berlin during the early 30's. What's interesting is that it was written during that period (first published in 1935) and not form the eyes of a German, but an Englishman. I think this is quite paramount, as most of the time a outer witness can provide with a more impartial description of events.
In some of the stories Isherwood de...more
Tutti
The collecting of short stories/ charachter reflections by an aspiring writer, ex-pat, English teacher is a familiar account of adaptation and cross-cultural investigation although is set in one of the most fecund periods in modern history.
A chronicle of Berlin in 1932- 34 and the precursory atmosphere that would lead into the offical sanctioning of genocide which was the establishment of Nazi Germany.The works are diary excerpts and accounts of interactions with accquaintances published retrosp...more
K.D. Absolutely
This book is composed of 2 previously separately published stories: THE LAST OF MR. NORRIS which the author Christopher Isherwood, dedicated to his long-time friend W. H. Auden and GOODBYE TO BERLIN which was the basis of the play I AM A CAMERA and CABARET starring Liza Minnelli. I know some lines in that song but I had no chance of seeing neither the movie nor the play.

I bought this book at Fully Booked Greenhills at its full price (less than US$20) at postponed reading it for sometime. When On...more
Mark
These stories of prewar Berlin were so finely wrought that I couldn't put them down. Largely through the device of his autobiographical protagonist, Isherwood tells about the people who inhabit his rooming house and through them sketches all the stresses and tensions of the end of the Weimar Republic. Part of this work became the basis for the musical "Cabaret"
oriana
I have to get over this bias I have against books that are more than, I don't know, forty years old? It's short-sighted and preposterous.

I mean, I'm sure plenty of older books are dry and boring, but this one was scintillating and sultry and compelling and great.
Chris
Uneven, but strangely powerful. I'm not sure why.
Rhonda
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mark
Although Mr Norris Changes Trains does have a linear narrative, Goodbye to Berlin is just a collection of random events and characters. Both books really go nowhere, but it's a pretty enjoyable journey getting there! They are written in simple, yet evocative language, so you can really "see" the characters and places. However, the main character in both books is so annoying; a totally blank personality-free observer, with the occasional bout of peevishness. He describes Nazi beatings with the sa...more
Margaret
This book has been on my "To Read List" for some time. Over the years, I've read about Germany on the eve of war (In the Garden of the Beasts, "Winds of War") and numerous books on the holocaust (Schindler's List, Number the Stars, The Diary of Anne Frank, War and Remembrance).

What I have missed, however, have been books that deal with Germany post WWI during the 20's and the early 30's before the Nazi's took hold. The dynamics in Germany during that time are fascinating. They had an explosion...more
Tommy
This is split into two separate "books" with the second being more of a collection of short stories with overlapping characters and timelines.

Sally Bowles, who shows up in the second book, is by far the most engaging character in the book and truly a joy to read with an energy and laissez faire attitude seen in few characters. The closest parallel I can think of would be Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Apparently the real life woman Sally Bowles was based upon was not nearly as frivol...more
Mark
A vaguely fictionalized account of an ex-pat living on continental Europe in the early 1930s. The people are fascinating - Mr. Norris the sketchy antiques dealer, crazy landlady Fraulein Schroeder, Sally Bowles the would-be actress (who is Holly Golightly, or perhaps Holly Golightly is her). What's more fascinating is seeing all of the interactions between "Herr Issyvoo" and others play out against the backdrop of the volatile political scene in Berlin at the time. The possibility of a Nazi take...more
Sabrine Faragallah
Reading this book was part of my secret desire to travel back in time to my Freshman year at college, where we were asked to read The Berlin Stories prior to our orientation week. I have a fairly good memory of the books I have read in my life dating back to middle school, but for some reason, I had a hard time remember reading this one…

Now, 17 years later it was bittersweet to read the thoughts and emotions of the young and impressionable Bradshaw, who we understand to be Isherwood, in “The Las...more
Mark Desetti
This is actually two of Isherwood's semi-autobiographical novels about his life in Berlin in the early 30's leading up to the rise of Hitler.

The first book, Mr. Norris Changes Trains is something of a mystery novel. There is so much about Mr. Norris that is not revealed and Isherwood writes about him in such a way as to keep the reader wondering just who or what Mr. Norris is. This is all set in the backdrop of political turmoil in Germany - the fall of governments, the birth of the Nazis, the...more
J
Reading these is like peeking into another world. Funny, tawdry, sad, touching, frightening...Berlin circa 1930 was a tough place to be if you weren't rich, or otherwise didn't entirely fit into the confines of social norms. Isherwood's writing never really gets dull, although the Goodbye to Berlin portion of this collection slows down a bit. Even that section, which is based on real-life events, he manages to structure as he might a fictional narrative.

At first I was tempted to say it was the c...more
Paolo Frazzarin
A fascinating picture of Berlin before the coming of Nazism. The decadence of the high society, made of parties and transgression, stands out against the condition of working class families, striving to make ends meet in the wake of the economic downturn.
The first person speaking allows the narrator to transport the reader in the midst of these historical events, while keeping an eye on the personal stories of the characters whom he meets along his way.
A remarkable feature of this book, which is...more
John
I enjoyed both both stories. As with most readers, I think Goodbye to Berlin was better than The Last of Mr. Norris (which I read after The Berlin Stories). I read The Berlin Stories shortly after In the Garden of the Beasts and was hoping to get more color on Berlin during the late Weimar and early Nazi era. I think Isherwood is very good on character description and provides a sense of the living conditions his characters experienced. However, I was hoping for more on the politics of the era....more
Al
Mr. Isherwood's famed views of life in early thirties Berlin, to a great extent autobiographical, done in two books: The Last of Mr. Norris, and Goodbye to Berlin. To me, a mixed bag. I found The Last of Mr. Norris somewhat boring; one wonders how anyone could have kept company with such a pathetic human being as Mr. Norris. After a hundred plus pages of keeping company with him, without much else going on, it all becomes a little tiresome. So, why didn't Mr. Norris become tiresome to Mr. Isher...more
Alec
The Berlin Stories collects Christopher Isherwood's two most famous novels, "Mr. Norris Changes Trains" and "Goodbye to Berlin," into a single volume. This collection is often touted by unscrupulous marketers as "astonishing," "life changing," "deeply moving," "marvelously grotesque," "the high water mark of literature," "undisputed classics of the highest caliber," etc. In contrast to the circus-like marketing hype, I was somewhat underwhelmed by both novels.

The first novel, "Mr. Norris Changes...more
Michael
Of course the biggest draw for The Berlin Stories is Sally Bowles, the character that ended up being the crux of Bob Fosse's Cabaret. It's a credit to Minnelli and Fosse because she was written exactly how she is portrayed in the film. It's also realized that I've known quite a few Sally Bowles in my life.

But there is so more than just that in The Berlin Stories. In fact, Sally is only in about 15% of the novel. What we do get amazing character studies like Fräulein Schroeder, who is so well wr...more
Vikki Marshall
Isherwood includes two stories in this compilation of his life in Berlin from 1929-1933. In “The Last of Mr. Norris” we meet the quirky and flamboyant character Sally Bowles (later adapted into Liza Minnelli’s part in “Cabaret”) she is one of many nonconformists that reside with Isherwood in a cheap boarding house. Berlin becomes its own character, a charming city of complex political changes with a shady and immensely hungry nightlife. At the heart of the story is the secretive and scheming Mr....more
Lord Beardsley
The first time I read this was about ten (!!!) years ago, when I was in my late-teens/early 20s. I had just seen 'Cabaret' for the first time, pined after living a life as divinely decadent as Fraulein Sally Bowles, and wanted to further revel in it. Even though I considered myself well-versed in double entendres involving gay shennanigans, I think I missed half the meaning of most of this book.

Re-reading this again with a queer sub-text as well as a much more informed background knowledge of Is...more
Ms.pegasus
Jul 22, 2012 Ms.pegasus rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in German culture
Recommended to Ms.pegasus by: other books I've read about 1930's.
THE BERLIN STORIES is a composite of two works, the short fictional work, THE LAST OF MR. NORRIS, and the autobiographical fragment, GOODBYE TO BERLIN. I confine my review to the diaries.

Christopher Isherwood turns an unflinching eye on Berlin from 1930-1933. It is a diary of his stay and the cross-section of society he encounters as he roams between his lodgings in a claustrophobic hovel to the hedonist dens around the city. Both the people and the scenery are described with such magnification...more
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Christopher Isherwood was a novelist, playwright, screen-writer, autobiographer, and diarist. He was also homosexual and made this a theme of some of his writing. He was born near Manchester in the north of England in 1904, became a U.S. citizen in 1946, and died at home in Santa Monica, California in January 1986.

Isherwood was the grandson and heir of a country squire, and his boyhood was privile...more
More about Christopher Isherwood...
A Single Man Goodbye to Berlin Christopher and His Kind Mr Norris Changes Trains Prater Violet

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