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

4.02  ·  Rating Details  ·  7,421 Ratings  ·  348 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

Hardcover, 191 pages
Published October 1st 1979 by Bentley Publishers (first published 1945)
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Two novels in one, although the second 'novel' is a collection of loosely connected stories.

A series of character portraits, exaggerated personalities, and all the color and clamor of a Weimar cabaret. But all of this is made bittersweet with the knowledge that the Nazis would begin to consume all in their path by 1933.
Jessica Woodbury
Jun 13, 2011 Jessica Woodbury rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Inderjit Sanghera
Isherwood’s The Berlin Novels explore the chaotic and troubling world of pre-Nazi and Nazi Germany. The vignettes read like a collection of photographic snap-shots, illuminating the various characters Isherwood knew in 1930’s Berlin, as it has a strong autobiographical connection, Isherwood’s prose is simple and straightforward, his characters are a collection of various misfits and miscreants who populate the Berlin in which Isherwood lurched from one sordid adventure to another. From the unfor ...more
Lisa Lieberman
Oct 03, 2014 Lisa Lieberman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I'm reading this alongside Isherwood's memoir, Christopher and His Kind for an upcoming column on the film Cabaret. So you might say I'm getting all the ins and outs of Weimar Germany, and set to music, no less! (*slaps own cheek* Did I say that?)

Isherwood's writing is so delightful, his characters so well-drawn and his portrait of Berlin so fascinating that you almost miss the despair, particularly in "Sally Bowles." It's hard to read that story without seeing Liza Minelli in your mind's eye an
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
Jan 02, 2014 Bryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 22, 2011 Dusty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
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
Jul 26, 2007 Kevin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Nov 06, 2012 Libby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
It's hard not to romanticize/fantasize about living in Weimar-era Berlin... the art, the decadence, the imminent doom of a society that will be genocided and then bombed into nothingness. And I'm totally a sucker for it too. Isherwood hits all the right bullet points for this romantic image-- stoic Jewish families staring at the dawn of the Third Reich with brave faces on, exuberant youthful communists, expatriate actresses, Nazi landladies, independently wealthy sadomasochists, and prostitutes ...more
Jan 24, 2012 Meg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 08, 2012 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 11, 2008 Tutti rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Richard Jespers
Dec 02, 2015 Richard Jespers rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In Isherwood’s marvelous preface he delineates all the narratives that make up The Berlin Stories. Mr. Norris Changes Trains (known as The Last of Mr. Norris in America) comes out in 1935. Sally Bowles, a slim piece, is published in 1937. Berlin Diaries: Autumn 1930, The Nowaks, and The Landauers are issued by John Lehmann’s New Writing. Last in the book is A Berlin Diary (Winter 1932-3), in which Isherwood once again becomes Herr Issyvoo. Characters like Fraulein Schroeder reappear, as Isherwoo ...more
Sep 07, 2007 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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"
Jul 05, 2013 Oriana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2011
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.
Joseph Raffetto
Dec 30, 2015 Joseph Raffetto rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, 2015, fiction
Isherwood’s insightful and poignant stories give us a peak into German attitudes as Hitler and the Nazi party come to power.
Uneven, but strangely powerful. I'm not sure why.
Sep 28, 2014 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm very glad to have read this, and am glad to have read it all the way through. The people, the voices accumulate in such a way that the whole is, as they say, somehow more than the sum of its parts. Had I just read the Sally Bowles sections (I mostly wanted to see where _Cabaret_ came from), I think I would have dismissed it as too light & frivolous—didn't he •see• what was happening? But of course he did see, and the horror and nausea of the lived experience is there. It just grows inevi ...more
With apologies to the similarly time encapsulating THE SOUND OF MUSIC: How do you solve a problem like Christopher Isherwood? In his rather lengthy introduction to THE BERLIN STORIES, Isherwood admits to having difficulty deciding how to present his myriad recollections of pre-WWII Germany. Initially, he thought one long novel but he struggled to find threads strong enough to hold so many characters and paths together in one story line, so he eventually he broke them down into smaller projects s ...more
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Apr 13, 2011 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Nov 03, 2011 Tommy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Mark Desetti
May 18, 2013 Mark Desetti rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Paolo Frazzarin
Jul 05, 2013 Paolo Frazzarin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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 about Christopher Isherwood...

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