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The Berlin Stories: The Last of Mr Norris/Goodbye to Berlin

(The Berlin Novels #1-2)

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  10,730 ratings  ·  563 reviews

A classic of 20th-century fiction, The Berlin Stories inspired the Broadway musical and Oscar-winning film Cabaret.

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 i
Paperback, 401 pages
Published June 1st 1963 by New Directions (first published 1945)
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Start your review of The Berlin Stories: The Last of Mr Norris/Goodbye to Berlin
Vit Babenco
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Mr Norris Changes Trains is somewhat like The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes turned inside out – in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes the narrator Dr. Watson assists a genius private investigator and in Mr Norris Changes Trains the narrator William Bradshaw assists a vulgar shady operator…
Opposite me, in a big arm-chair, sat Arthur, with a thin, dark, sulky-looking girl on his lap. He had taken off his coat and waistcoat and looked most domestic. He wore gaudily-striped braces. His shirt-sleeves
Aug 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 21, 2020 rated it really liked it

When Christopher Isherwood left London for Germany in 1929, he was leaving the stifling moral environment of England for the freewheeling, decadent streets of Berlin where he could live more freely as not only a gay man but a young writer. Over the next several years he lived and wrote in Berlin, exploring the city's underground culture and keeping notes on the interactions he had with the city and its inhabitants; these notes he planned to tra
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recently, I have had some interesting reading experiences with book choices for one of my Goodreads groups, Reading the 20th Century. A recent read was Dorothy Whipple’s, “Someone at a Distance,” which I initially thought would be boring, but found that I loved. Meanwhile, on paper, “The Berlin Novels,” looked like the type of book which would appeal to me. After all, despite the fact that I have watched virtually no films all the way through, I have seen, and enjoyed, “Cabaret,” which was taken ...more
Lisa Lieberman
Oct 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 06, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
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
antiquarian reverie
Excellent account of author's experience in Weimer's Germany & the start of Hitler's reign.

I find a lot of my books after hearing about them on OTR, generally when I hear the book adaption presented on these older radio shows. I was first introduced to Christopher Isherwood this way & had no idea that he wrote the book behind the the theatrical "I Am a Camera" (1951) & Cabaret Broadway musical (1966) & film (1972). "Prater Violet" was portrayed on OTR but I decided on "The Berlin Stories" first
Sep 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cover-envy, germany, 2018

Whilst I wasn’t quite fanciful enough to expect Liza Minnelli and the Kit Kat Klub to be lurking among these pages, I did expect something a bit more… well, more.

For me, the power of The Berlin Novels lies solely in the combined temporal and geographical setting: the glittering metropolis of Berlin in the heady tail-end of Weimar Germany. It was a place of ostentation, sexual deviance and poverty - but desperate to reassert itself as an important modern city on the comeback from defeat and hype
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
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
Inderjit Sanghera
Apr 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Jeff Jackson
Jan 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
As a teenager, I was knocked out by this book. I recently reread it, this time while actually visiting Berlin. Sure enough, the stories echo eerily with the bloody history the city has recently acknowledged with various museums and monuments. As literature, I was relieved to discover the novels hold up and the characters remain as lively as ever. GOODBYE TO BERLIN is more elegantly constructed and satisfying than THE LAST OF MR NORRIS, but the two books work beautifully together as a diptych. Im ...more
Jason Pettus
Now that I'm no longer reviewing 200 contemporary novels every year for the CCLaP website, 2018 has been giving me a chance to go back and read a lot of classic books I've never gotten around to reading before; in January, for example, I finally took on what's now known as The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood, which started life as the two short novels The Last of Mr. Norris and Goodbye to Berlin, which aren't actually novels at all but rather collections of related short-story-style vign ...more
Sep 26, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mr. Norris Changes Trains is an account of the narrator's intriguing friendship with a shady Mr. Norris. The narrator is an Englishman in Berlin, and of his own life we only get faint clues. Norris takes the centerstage and the story revolves around him. Communism in pre-war Berlin is one of the themes here while a major chunk of the story is devoted to parties and character sketches. It is still pretty entertaining and makes for a great light read.

Goodbye to Berlin is a collection of six piece
Jan 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
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. ...more
"No. Even now I can't altogether believe that any of this has really happened…" (410)
The Berlin Stories is composed of two interrelated novels, Mr. Norris Changes Trains and Goodbye to Berlin, although the latter is probably more accurately described as an autobiographical collection of interrelated stories. Isherwood's writing is wonderful—smooth, witty, and understated, with dashes of irony and melancholy that linger beneath the surface. His tales of Berlin in the early 1930s, particularly of
Geoff Wooldridge
Oct 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Berlin Novels by Christopher Isherwood is a compendium of two short works, Mr Norris Changes Trains (or The Last of Mr Norris), first published in 1935, and Goodbye To Berlin, published in 1939. The two book combination first appeared in 1946 I believe.

The action in both parts takes place in Berlin in the 1930s, the declining years of the Weimar Republic, and the period of the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party.

Mr Norris Changes Trains is a stand-alone narrative, narrated by Englishman Willia
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 16, 2008 rated it liked it
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
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
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
Paul Ataua
Apr 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
There is not really much to ‘Berlin Stories’. They are gently written, but they do capture Germany in the nineteen thirties. Sexuality is always there while never really bought to the fore, and the stories unfold against the backdrop of the Nazis rise to power. I am not sure why I found myself savoring them, but I did.
Apr 14, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"One should never write down or up to people, but out of yourself."

The Berlin Stories consists of two of the author's novels ('Mr. Norris Changes Trains' and 'Goodbye to Berlin'), and each one is a semi-autobiographical account of his time in Berlin in early 1930's.

In the first, ‘Mr. Norris Changes Trains’, Isherwood goes by his middle names William Bradshaw and opens with him meeting a fellow Englishman, Arthur Norris, on a train from Holland to Berlin. Noticing that Norris is very anxious abo
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
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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

Other books in the series

The Berlin Novels (2 books)
  • Mr Norris Changes Trains
  • Goodbye to Berlin

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