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

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  9,244 Ratings  ·  457 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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Aug 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Last of Mr. Norris (1935): 3 stars

Goodbye to Berlin (1939): 4.5 stars

I started this book before the events at Charlottesville; unfortunately, it proved timely. Based on his own experiences living in pre-WWII Berlin, Isherwood writes of the Nazis being talked of, even laughed at, at first; and by the book's end of their stalking the streets and terrorizing Jewish citizens, the police powerless to do anything about it. For the most part, though, that’s ‘just’ the background and atmosphere: cha
Lewis Weinstein
UPDATE Aug 2106 ... tried again ... just as boring

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
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 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
Lisa Lieberman
Oct 03, 2014 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
Mark Hiser
Jul 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbtq
The Berlin Stories is a collection of two Isherwood novellas set in Berlin in the early 1930s. While enjoyable and "light," both stories have great depth because they contain an almost hidden background of Hitler's rise to power.

While I enjoyed the first novella (Mr. Norris Changes Trains) for its characterization and rather unexpected ending, it is the second novella I love.

In Goodbye to Berlin, Isherwood masterfully uses dialogue to tell the story of the lively, erratic, optimistic Sally Bowl
Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore
This was again a new author for me and I found I quite enjoyed reading this. The first of the novellas the Last of Mr Norris reminded me very much of Travels with My Aunt. Mr Norris (who our narrator—a version of Isherwood—meets on a train) is a reprobate, and his dealings (and connections), almost always dubious. But our narrator takes to him in a sense and finds himself amidst (sometimes as a mere observer, but at others more involved) Norris’ life and friends—all with varying degrees of eccen ...more
Jan 10, 2011 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
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
Terence Manleigh
Sep 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read this book thiry years ago, being most concerned with the Sally Bowles/"Cabaret" connection, and loved it. Upon re-reading it again so many years later, I can appreciate it even more. It's a wonderful book. Isherwood is a marvelous writer, and he gives us an invaluable opportunity to time travel back to the last days of the Berlin of the Weimar Republic, with its "divine decadence," its joyful sexuality, its economic and political unrest, and its odd innocence before Hitler seized po ...more
Dec 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really, this book contains two complete short novels (one of which is almost a collection of interrelated short stories) set in Berlin between 1930 and 1934. In the background of the encounters between eccentric characters, Nazis are rising to power, and there is a palpable sense of an ending to the life being described herein. The movie Cabaret was based on one character and a few other occasions from the second novel, Goodbye to Berlin. The first, The Last of Mr. Norris, is extremely entertain ...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 22, 2011 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 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
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
Uneven, but strangely powerful. I'm not sure why.
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
Nov 06, 2012 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
Aug 04, 2011 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.
Lady Drinkwell
May 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was such a delightful surprise. The different short novels within the compilation were a veritable rainbow of shades describing Berlin before the war. From the disarming wittiness of Mr Norris, to the decadence of Sally Bowles, to a rather "clean" homosexual romance and finally to more poignant tales as the realities of Hitlers rise to power began to be clear they were all either funny, thought provoking of moving, contributing to a most delicious literary smorgasbord
A collection of autobiographical short stories that are the basis for the musical Cabaret. 1931 Berlin is a bit too recognizable these days for my comfort...
B. Rule
Jul 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Basically as funny, sad, mordant and frightening as I remember it. Isherwood has a keen eye for how quickly and easily things can tip from the mundane into sheer political horror.
Apr 10, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: blog
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
Feb 22, 2008 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
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Proof, finally, that time is nonlinear! Liza Minelli's 'Sally Bowles' must have walked right off a 1973 screening of that great musical, 'Cabaret' and into Isherwood's Berlin of the early 1930s. Isherwood need not have even mentioned her name and we'd know Liza/Sally anywhere, anytime, any place when Isherwood writes:
'Sally laughed: "To-day, I specially didn't paint my toenails."
"Oh, rot, Sally! Do you really?" [says the shocked, proper English gentleman, Isherwood.]
"Yes, of course I do"
"But wha
Mar 26, 2011 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
Jan 23, 2012 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
Dec 25, 2011 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
Aug 26, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like this book....or maybe it's a collection. Isherwood was only a distant observer.....he conveyed no emotional involvement with the changes going on in Germany or the people around him. His detachment became wearing and made the stories boring, and I kept picturing Michael York instead of Isherwood.
Sep 07, 2007 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"
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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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