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Prater Violet by Christopher Isherwood
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Feb 19, 09

Read in February, 2009

Isherwood is the weird third in a trio with Sebald and Bolaño. Like them, he watches the faces of his characters for the ripples of world events, convinced that they have some access to authentic experience that he lacks. Like them, you wonder about his humility sometimes, whether he doesn't secretly think that he, as the chronicler, is the one with privileged access to the authentic. Here he experiences the suppression of the socialist movement in Vienna and the beginnings of the Second World War through his collaboration with an Austrian emigré director on a fluffy melodrama about a Viennese flower seller being filmed in London. The director, Bergmann, rages against the film, seeing it as the ultimate betrayal of politics in a time of emergency. Isherwood mutely agrees. I couldn't help but think of Douglas Sirk. Did he think melodrama was the most defensible of all genres even when the shells were firing or only in their wake?
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