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Mr Norris Changes Trains

(The Berlin Novels #1)

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  2,823 Ratings  ·  213 Reviews
After a chance encounter on a train the English teacher William Bradshaw starts a close friendship with the mildly sinister Arthur Norris. Norris is a man of contradictions; lavish but heavily in debt, excessively polite but sexually deviant. First published in 1933 Mr Norris Changes Trains piquantly evokes the atmosphere of Berlin during the rise of the Nazis.
Paperback, 230 pages
Published July 4th 2001 by Vintage Classics (first published 1935)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Feb 21, 2013 rated it liked it
”What repels me now about Mr Norris is its heartlessness. It is a heartless fairy-story about a real city in which human beings were suffering the miseries of political violence and near-starvation. The "wickedness" of Berlin's night-life was of the most pitiful kind; the kisses and embraces, as always, had price-tags attached to them, but here the prices were drastically reduced in the cut-throat competition of an over-crowded market. ... As for the "monsters", they were quite ordinary human be ...more
Agnieszka
Jan 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, ebook, reviewed

William Bradshaw, an Englishman living in Berlin, meets on the train Mr Norris. He is remarkable and I may even say sophisticated person; by turns charming and crafty, narcissistic and vain, his manners and attire are elegant and impeccable and his approach to life may be summed up in his own words: I only wish to have three sorts of people as my friends, those who are very rich, those who are very witty, and those who are very beautiful. No wonder that from the first moment William is fascina
...more
Paul
Jun 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is one of Isherwood’s Berlin novels; almost an historical novel of the last years of the Weimar Republic and was published in 1935. Isherwood was part of a group of young English writers and poets who found England repressive and sought a form of exile (this is also partly a novel of exile); the group included Auden and Spender as well. Berlin was the choice for Isherwood, mainly because an elderly relative had warned him against it, saying it was the vilest place since Sodom. Of course for ...more
Fabian
May 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Impressive & rich in the anecdotal department... I wholly agree that the book lacks a true plot. It is more of a character study, of the flamboyant & unpredictable Arthur Norris whose nature embodies the joie de vivre of the true bohemian--his mishaps with the stirrings up of the Nazi party (relevant as much today as EVER) are part of true history, and another plus for the short novel. As part of "The Berlin Tales" of which I am henceforth bewitched (I mean, we yet have to meet Sally Bow ...more
Barry Pierce
Jul 17, 2014 rated it liked it
It's nice to be back with Isherwood. This novel is nice. Well, it's Isherwood nice. Meaning it's all great until something horrible happens and then he stamps on your heart and never looks back. This is a fantastic study of male friendship in the 30s (aka hella gay) and of the rise of Nazism. It odd seeing just how much the people in this novel don't like Hitler or the Nazis even though this was published in 1933, they don't even know what's coming.

I must read more Isherwood and so must you. If
...more
Nigeyb
Jan 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
A captivating novel about a duplicitous friendship set against the backdrop of a country in turmoil

'Mr Norris Changes Trains' was the first book I have read by Christopher Isherwood since my teens, back in the 1970s, and I am delighted to report that Christopher Isherwood is every bit as good as I had remembered.

'Mr Norris Changes Trains' was published in 1933 and (along with 'Goodbye to Berlin') is drawn from Isherwood's experiences as an expatriate living in Berlin during the early 1930s.

Wil
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Susan
Dec 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel begins with William Bradshaw, a young English tutor, meeting the slightly ridiculous Mr Arthur Norris on a train to Berlin. Mr Norris is nervous at having to present his passport, elusive about what he does and, with his rather obvious wig and odd habits, does not seem as though he is a character to take seriously at first. However, this chance meeting results in a firm friendship and, fairly soon, William is visiting his new friend frequently and becomes involved in his disreputable ...more
Sketchbook
Dec 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
"He had an animal innocence," Isherwood sums up Mr Norris -- no, I mean Gerald Hamilton (1890-1970), the flamboyant and flabby rogue who inspired Mr Norris. The 2 met, presumably, in Berlin where Issyvoo lived fr 1929-33. This may be the coolest and finest book Isherwood wrote. If he groused about it years later, it's because he was probably ashamed of his own political naivete.

I don't think Gerald Hamilton had any innocence at all. But his bewigged and painted self gave birth to a wonderful "fi
...more
Kinga
Sep 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Berlin in the 30s, the political unrest grows but the demimonde parties on.

The narrator, William Bradshaw, lives there nicely as an expat giving English classes and enjoying life. This is pretty much all that we know about him, he doesn’t even explicitly reveal his sexual orientation. In fact, this first person narrative tells us very little about narrator and focuses entirely on the person of Mr Norris, a perfect English gentlemen, a charming scoundrel.

William meets Mr Norris on the train in
...more
J.
Aug 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Our voices sounded so absurd that I could have laughed out loud. We were like two unimportant characters in the first act of a play, put there to make conversation until it is time for the chief actor to appear.
A sweetly nostalgic look backwards at what unexpectedly becomes nostalgia-- the half-understood, the loony, the unexplained and the senseless-- as they begin to morph into the storyline of what we remember. And into what we end up calling human nature, once we have some perspective on t
...more
Tfitoby
Feb 10, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit
An entertainment set during the growth of the Nazi party? It actually works too. Published before things went horribly wrong in Europe this collection of events chronicling the friendship of Mr Norris and Mr Bradshaw stands the test of time and history remarkably well.

As Isherwood himself said of this novel much later in his life, it is shallow and it is filled with frivolity whilst being set during a dark time in world history, but that doesn't change the fact that it is an enjoyable read perha
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Σωτήρης  Αδαμαρέτσος
Μια ιστορία που εξελίσσεται στο Βερολίνο λίγο πριν την άνοδο των Ναζί στην εξουσία το 1933. Σκηνές περιθωριακης παρακμής και σεξουαλικου σαδισμου, ομοφιλοφιλικες υπόνοιες και μικροαπατες ανθρώπων με μια ιδέα αριστοκρατίας. Ο συγγραφέας, που έζησε εκείνη την περίοδο στο Βερολίνο, χρησιμοποιεί την πόλη, τις συγκρούσεις Κομμουνιστών Ναζιστων κ το βερολινεζικο περιθώριο, ως καμβά σε μια σχετικά αδιάφορη ιστορία με πρωταγωνιστές Βρετανούς...
Πολλές υπόνοιες και κρυψινοια σε ένα βιβλίο που γράφτηκε το
...more
Jim
Mar 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, germany
Mr Norris Changes Trains was written in that twilight period of the 1930s when it did not pay to admit that one was gay. Consequently, there is a lot of shuffling around of characters who are made to appear moderately, if not actively heterosexual -- very much like Marcel Proust earlier on, whose Albertine was actually his Italian chauffeur Alfred Agostinelli.

I am convinced that Christopher Isherwood would have livened up even an edition of Bradshaw -- a regularly published columnar railroad tim
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Emily
Καθώς ο Ναζισμός ανατέλλει στο Βερολίνο, μια τυχαία γνωριμία σε ένα τρένο εξελίσσεται σε μία ιδιότυπη φιλία, της οποίας παρακολουθούμε την πορεία στα χρόνια που έπονται.
Ο νεαρός Άγγλος Ουίλιαμ έρχεται για πρώτη φορά σε επαφή με τα ελαφρώς τρομαγμένα γαλανά μάτια του κυρίου Νόρις σε ένα τρένο με προορισμό το Βερολίνο. "Ήταν τα έκπληκτα μάτια ενός σχολειαρόπαιδου που το πιάνεις στα πράσα ενώ παραβαίνει έναν από τους κανόνες". Ο Ουίλιαμ αδυνατεί να λάβει αποστάσεις από αυτή τη φιλία, εντυπωσιασμέν
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Connie
Christopher Isherwood wrote the fictional "Mr Norris Changes Trains" based on his experiences in Berlin in the early 1930s. He left England to work in Berlin as an English tutor since Berlin was much more liberal toward homosexuals. The character William Bradshaw (named after Isherwood's middle names) acts as a narrator and an observer in the book.

Mr Norris, based on Isherwood's friend, Gerald Hamilton, is a charming, nervous, middle-aged man whose lifestyle is supported by conning people, selli
...more
notgettingenough
Aug 31, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: modern-lit
When I read Goodbye to Berlin, I innocently thought that the anti-semitism in it belonged to the characters. Now, reading Mr Norris Changes Trains, I see that isn’t so. The anti-semitic comments are gratuitously those of the author. Still, I wondered. If he were living in Germany, was it that he felt it made him safe throwing in just a few words in a few places to prove his credentials?

But now I see that his private words have always been littered with this abhorrent attitude, the more so since
...more
Jillwilson
May 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
I first read Mr Norris Changes Trains in 1984. God knows what I made of it then. I wanted to read some Isherwood after reading Eric Larson’s book about Berlin in the 1930s. I wanted to see what a fictional representation of this era looked like. It’s a strange and slight novel. The narrator presents as being gullible and naïve. The Mr Norris of the title is entirely untrustworthy. In a way, these three qualities echo some key elements of the times but despite this overlay, the author doesn’t do ...more
Lorenzo Berardi

When a friend of mine heard that I was reading a book titled "Mr Norris Changes Trains", the first thing he said was "Chuck, I suppose?".

Poor Christopher Isherwood! Had he known about the main badass character of Walker Texas Ranger kicking his Arthur Norris out of common knowledge, I'm sure he would have chosen to call him differently.
By the way, popular culture betrayed Isherwood twice here. Just tell a female friend of yours what given name the surname "Bradshaw" (the main narrator of this n
...more
KatieMc
There is so much subtext behind the extremely polite veneer put forth by the anti-hero Mr. Norris. While the actual plot line was quite thin, I found myself wanting to start the next chapter. This was not the moving experience I had reading A Single Man. I honestly don't know what to make of the fact that the story was farcical yet the historical setting and circumstances were rather grave.

2018 reading challenge checks the box for 20. A book by a local author. This seems to be a bit of a stretch
...more
Greg
Absolutely five stars. What a gem. I loved it. A classic. More to say later.

I'm keen to know who the Helen Pratt character is based on.
Tony
Jan 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
MR. NORRIS CHANGES TRAINS. (1935). Christopher Isherwood. ****.
This was one of my Christmas gifts this past Christmas. It was the Folio Society edition published by them in 1990, containing illustrations by Beryl Cook, and an introduction by Samuel Hynes. In it, we get to follow the adventures of Mr. Arthur Norris, as observed by Mr. William Bradshaw. The two men first met each other as fellow passengers in a first-class compartment on a train in Germany. Two more different men could not be ima
...more
Pamela
Jul 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: group-rttc, read-2018
Set in 1930s Berlin and based on Isherwood's experiences there, this is an elegant and intriguing character study. The narrator William Bradshaw meets Arthur Norris on a train, and the two become friends. Bradshaw views Norris with a kind of amused protectiveness, while the reader becomes increasingly amazed and bewildered at his gullibility and failure to appreciate that Norris is a fraud and sponger.

The strength of this work is actually its setting. Isherwood skilfully captures the decline of
...more
una_sussa
Nov 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In una Berlino ancora inconsapevole di quanto nefasto sarà il Nazismo, ancora immune dalla paura "subdola e infettiva" che, di lì a breve, avrebbe coinvolto tutti, un giovane insegnante di Inglese si imbatte in Mr Arthur Norris e nella sua rete di intrighi internazionali.
La mancanza quasi totale di sincerità da parte del sig.Norris non vieta però al narratore e al lettore di provare per lui una simpatia bonaria; del resto, dire la verità, per questo inguaribile vizioso, sarebbe scadere nella vo
...more
K.E. Coles
May 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Loved, loved, loved this. Just my cup of tea. Narrator, William Bradshaw is a witty, mildly exasperated, English teacher. He meets Arthur Norris, an unfailingly polite, rather dodgy character on a train and what follows is an absolute delight to read.
Will write a proper review when I get a mo :)
Dana
May 11, 2018 rated it liked it
I found this book on a list of David Bowie's favorite books. It's well written, witty and very subtle, but not a page turner. It is an interesting view of pre-Hitler's Berlin, a moment when both the Nazis and the communists are challenging the establishment for power.
Literary Relish
Sep 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Written in 1935 as the first of his ‘Berlin Novels’ (Goodbye to Berlin being the second) Isherwood writes the story of his alter-ego, teacher William Bradshaw who, on a train travelling from Holland into Berlin, encounters and subsequently forms an intriguing friendship with Arthur Norris; a hilarious, evasive, effeminate and often rather sinister middle aged man.

As the mystique surrounding his new found friend and his occupation grows, Bradshaw follows Arthur around pre-war Berlin. From party t
...more
Scott
Jul 16, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spies, 1930s
A down-and-out English 'gentleman' with a slippery past and dubious intentions, a brutal and ubiquitous secretary who knows too much, a boxer turned Communist street brawler, a monocled baron with a queer penchant for young adult fiction, and an odd assortment of blackmailers, bankrupts, and Nazis make up the eccentric cast of Christopher Isherwood’s semi-autobiographical novel Mr Norris Changes Trains (1935). Through the eyes of Willie Bradshaw, a naive young Englishman living in Berlin, we wat ...more
rungemaille
May 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Set in the early thirties in Berlin, Mr. Norris changes trains is a slow-paced novel, recounting the adventures of William Bradshaw, an English expatriate. As the Weimar Republic stumbles to an end, the narrator portrays the seedy atmosphere of the capital. Associating with radicals –whether Nazis or communists-, petty criminals and prostitutes, naïve Bradshaw takes part in the secrets and political schemes surrounding his new friend without truly scraping at the varnish covering Norris’ mysteri ...more
F.R.
Feb 16, 2010 rated it liked it
The other of Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin books is a proper novel as opposed to inter-connected short stories. A young man becomes involves with the twice as big as life Mr Norris – a charming rogue, crook and scoundrel. This is a gently humorous story of the friendship between the two and the various misadventures which arise, and the easy tone means that the gradual emergence of the Nazis is even more disturbing (although since this was published in 1935, Isherwood didn’t know how disturbing ...more
Miguel
Nov 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queer
Mais uma obra-prima de Christopher Isherwood. O seu domínio da narrativa é de um virtuoso.
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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
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Other books in the series

The Berlin Novels (3 books)
  • Goodbye to Berlin
  • The Berlin Stories: The Last of Mr Norris/Goodbye to Berlin
“I always say that I only wish to have three sorts of people as my friends, those who are very rich, those who are very witty, and those who are very beautiful.” 11 likes
“Like a long train which stops at every dingy little station, the winter dragged slowly past.” 7 likes
More quotes…