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Goodbye to Berlin

(The Berlin Novels #2)

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  9,449 ratings  ·  703 reviews
Here, meine Damen und Herren, is Chrisopther Isherwood's brilliant farewell to a city which was not only buildings, streets, and people, but was also a state of mind which will never come around again.

In linked short stories, he says goodbye to Sally Bowles, to Fraulein Schroeder, to pranksters, perverts, political manipulators; to the very, very guilty and to the dwindlin
Mass Market Paperback, UK / Ireland / AUS / NZ, 208 pages
Published 1977 by Triad Panther (first published 1939)
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JulienV "No. Even now I can't altogether believe that any of this has really happened..."

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Jan 11, 2018 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jan-Maat by: Ilse
I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking (p.1)
I catch sight of my face in the mirror of a shop, and am horrified to see that I am smiling. You can't help smiling, in such beautiful weather. The trams are going up and down the Kleiststrasse, just as usual. They, and the people on the pavement, and the tea cosy-cosy dome of the Nollendorfplatz station have an air of a curious familiarity, of striking resemblance to something one remembers as normal and pleasan
Steven Godin
Goodbye to Berlin indeed!, at least as it was, and the rest of Europe for that matter, as storm is growing within the German establishment, a storm that will go on to wreak havoc across the land and neighboring Poland as Hilter sets in motion the beginning of the darkest time for humanity in the twentieth century. Originally planned as a huge novel titled "The Lost" covering the years of pre-Hitler Berlin, but was deemed to grandiose for the short stories and diaries written during this time, Ch ...more
Jacob Overmark
"Even now I can´t altogether believe that any of this has really happened ..."

But it did happen. All of it.
Although the Goodbye to Berlin is only semi autobiographic it gives a fine picture of Berlin between wars.
The poor staying poor, the rich getting richer, the intellectuals turning communists and the working class looking for a strong leader to set everything right.
In between the class struggle is "Herr Christoph", a foreigner, an upcoming writer, teaching English to spoiled upper class ki
Paul Bryant
Jun 16, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels

I believe at one point this novel was going to be called Miserable Mopey English Sod has Absolutely No Fun in Berlin which would have left the reader in no doubt.

I am not so silly as to have expected "Two Ladies" or "The Gorilla Song" in Goodbye to Berlin, as I have discovered since I read Oliver Twist that sometimes they make up songs and add them randomly into the story when they film these books. But I did expect to be reading about Sally Bowles and her exploits at the Kit Kat Club – after a
May 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
One of the small pleasures of growing older is that you can re-read your favourite books and, for the most part, they seem fresh and new; one fondly recalls the core story but generally forgets the local colour, the descriptions and prose styling. I was recently reading “Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America” by Christopher Bram; in it he discussed Christopher Isherwood and “Goodbye to Berlin.” Ironically my online book group was reading it at the same time. So, I decided to re-re ...more
May 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
"The Berlin Stories" all contain so many colors & emotions that the whole desolate grey Berlin of our dreams is pretty much obliterated. Well... sort of. The writer's autobiographical anecdotes are inspiring-- this is precisely what a foreigner writing in a strange land should write like. He is mystified, he is the average onlooker, but he participates often and with polarizing results (even his sexual identity is a big ?), usually saying one thing to a character (lying, inventing, distorting... ...more
Jeanette (Again)
Christopher Isherwood lived in Berlin from 1929 to 1933 and kept detailed diaries, from which he created this novel. It's a slow mover, but it has a sense of reality that tells you Isherwood didn't stray too far from his diaries to create it. You see the gradual decline in the fortunes of people of all classes, the undercurrent of growing fear, and the uncertainty about what sort of government will prevail. People tried to go on with life as usual, acclimating so slowly to their future under Hit ...more
This was not quite what I expected and I wish I had ended up liking it more than I did.

The famous sentence from the first page is “I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking". Christopher Isherwood created the novel out of his diaries he kept in Berlin in the early 1930s. Towards the end, Hitler was rising, the city gradually changing and the writer decided to leave Berlin for good. This is the section I really liked. The rest, excepting the character of Sally B
Sakshi Kathuria
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Isherwood’s writing is absolutely poetic and yet so lucid. His goodbyes to a horde of eccentric yet interesting characters in his life spent in Berlin, during the Weimar Republic supremacy, is described most phenomenally. His narrative binds the reader to these characters brusqueness and curtness which is most fascinating. The characters in all the five stories are described in a sort of poetic manner and in a very delicate yet brisk tone in the thick of change in the tide during the political d ...more
Mel Bossa
Sep 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 0006-lgbtq
What I love about Isherwood's writing is its honesty. He's so transparent and seems incapable of being pretentious. And there's a lovely loneliness to him I find so endearing. Maybe I wish the characters in these stories would have treated him better, or maybe it was he who was too "English" and well-bred to really let his guard down with any of the women and men he met. Of course, the real central figure in this novel of collected vignettes, is Berlin. A Berlin that changes from person to perso ...more
Connie G
Jul 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Christopher Isherwood lived in Berlin in the early 1930s, recorded his experiences in his diaries, and later created the fictional "Goodbye to Berlin". Although Isherwood was raised in an upper middle class home in England, he had a more frugal life in Berlin as an English tutor. To stretch his money, he lived in boarding houses where he met some memorable characters. This book is composed of six chapters (or interconnected short stories) that should be read in order.

He tells us about the narrat
A glimpse of life in Berlin between the wars. Told through a series of stories each presents a different side to Berlin and to characters from all walks of life. Certainly a novel well able to deliver mood and atmosphere for the period depicted.

Mostly enjoyed the characters although the presence of Sally Bowles was quite different to what I remembered having seen Cabaret many years ago.

Well worth a look at...... another from the Boxall 1000 list.
Whilst in Berlin recently we went to see Cabaret in German in a spiegeltent. Splendid. Naturally I was looking forward to reading about the very same Sally Bowles in this book, but it turns out that Sally Bowles is a complete English Arse. Utterly unbearable. I think it would be fair to say she's been thoroughly fixed up for the musical and bravo for that decision. Certainly this book improves on the pages in which she is not to be found.

There is much to separate this book from Kästner's Goi
Dreary, callous, and somewhat slanted portrayal of underprivileged Germany and underground Berlin from Autumn 1930 to Winter 1933.

- Hans Baluschek, Arbeiterstadt (1920)

British writer Christopher Isherwood lends his name to the homonymous hero of this narrative. This is already somewhat unnerving. But what is unsettling in this story, early on? The narrator's position in his retelling the events.
'I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking.'
Is that so? What
Steve Kettmann
May 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-read-2010
If it wasn't for the movie "Cabaret," which made the Sally Bowles character famous, I don't think I would have found her even close to the most memorable character here. This is a British edition of the material on which - through various steps along the way - the musical and then movie of "Cabaret" were based, but only somewhat. Living in Berlin as I do, I of course took extra interest in the details of the Isherwood character's interactions with Germans in Berlin from a colorfully eccentric bu ...more
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First published in 1939, Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin consists of a series of six interlinked short stories/sketches inspired by the author’s time in the city during the early 1930s. Originally destined to form part of a large episodic novel focusing on the pre-Hitler era, Goodbye can now be viewed as a companion piece to Isherwood’s earlier novel, Mr Norris Changes Trains (1935). Together, the two books form The Berlin Novels, published in the UK by Vintage Books. Given the fact th ...more
Nick Jones
Although I had not read any of his works, I always had a prejudice against Christopher Isherwood. I placed him amongst the British writers who played at being communist in the 1930s, but then resorted to their class background during the Cold War and became pillars of the establishment. Maybe they were serious writers, but they were dilettantes at life. I read Goodbye to Berlin because it was on the shelves of the house I stayed in while on holiday and I found that I enjoyed it. Isherwood had or ...more

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 Goodbye to Berlin 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
Josh Ang
Mar 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
A document or diary of the last days of Weimar Germany seen through the eyes of 'Christopher Isherwood', whom the author is careful to call "a convenient ventriloquist's dummy, nothing more", effectively distancing himself from it being autobiographical in his preface of sorts.

However, despite these famous lines, "I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking", what unfolds is a very personal perspective of the families he lives with, friends and acquaintances he me
Oct 05, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: nobody, really
Recommended to C. by: Glenda
Shelves: own-or-access, 2009
I actually finished this book four days ago but had to fly to Sydney before I had a chance to write up a review, and then I come home and it's 39-freaking-degrees. Stupid Melbourne weather. Anyway, I didn't think about this book once while I was lounging by the pool or frolicking in the surf like the good little Australian that I am (the stereotype broke down when I took out my copy of Great Expectations, but it was nice while it lasted), which goes to show that it wasn't really that great. Inde ...more
Sep 01, 2007 rated it liked it
I had mixed feelings about this book. I found it to be important and, at times, interesting, but not what I expected. It also had this derivative quality, reminding me of other books I've read. Unfortunately for the author, these were books written after this was published and so no fault of his own. But yet it still felt that way. The character of Sally Knowles is Holly Golightly. Bernhard Landauer was Gatsby, particularly in the scene where he has a garden party and plays as though he's having ...more
Oct 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"It is strange how people seem to belong to places — especially to places where they were not born..."

Christopher Isherwood brings us fragments of his time in lost Berlin. The odd, bewildered people that he met along the way, the friends who somehow naturally dissolved in and out of each page, the magnitude of the city as it moved within them as their stories unfolded. Sally Bowles was my favourite, Capote's Holly Golightly couldn't even touch her. The book is divided into sections that give a s
Richard Ewart
Jun 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Christopher Isherwood is a master at describing what he sees without explicit judgement. Goodbye to Berlin is an entertaining portrayal of the life of an Englishman and some of the eccentric people he encounters in Berlin in the early 1930s as the significance of the Nazis was becoming more apparent. A very enjoyable but sobering novel.
May 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
2.5 stars rounded up to 3

This novel, which is more like short stories (but it's called a novel where I read about it) is based on Isherwood's years in Berlin (he was there from 1929-1933) and people he knew. I liked part of this and didn't like other parts, but there is no question that he had strong writing abilities. I found this sad and at times rather tragic, which is in part due to the times this is set (the Nazis rise to power happened during this time) and in part to the lives of some of
Matthew Appleton
My 80th book of the year and my 9th book of October. It really has been a fantastic reading month already. Mostly because I've been alone in the house and the weather has been poor, worse than poor; it has been raining on and off in a fine drizzle that never looks too bad until it soaks you through. Anyway, enough about the weather. How English of me.

And speaking of English, Isherwood himself is the narrator of Goodbye to Berlin. In a way, it's sort of like Cusk's 'Outline'. There are 6 parts, e
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
If the author's intent was to give the reader some ennui then he succeeded. Mostly scenes of Berlin from the early thirties and a few not very engaging people. I don't know maybe I am overstimulated in the 21st century but it was kind of boring. Too understated.
4.5 stars.

Since watching it for the first time over Christmas, I've become quite alarmingly obsessed with the film Cabaret, to the point where I am now (possibly misguidedly) writing one of my final undergraduate essays on it. So, naturally, in light of that, I decided that I absolutely had to read the original source material behind the film, Goodbye to Berlin. Furthermore, at the time when I read it, I was trying to finish up my dissertation on expatriation and was looking for some further exp
May 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Isherwood is a DELIGHT to read. Everything from his writing style to the actual characters and stories he describes is just a pure joy to read. Right up my alley. It deals with grave topics, of course, being set in Berlin just before the second World War, so don't let my choice of words fool you. It can be serious and raw at times, but the way Isherwood narrates it makes it such a wonderful reading experience. It's as he says: he's a cameraman. Most things happen around him, occasionally includi ...more
Engaging collection of connected short stories showing life in 1930-32 Berlin from the perspective of a relatively poor Englishman. The section on Sally Bowles was of course familiar to me from the musical Cabaret though I got a slightly different impression of her character from the book.

Isherwood's writing is engaging and I look forward to reading another of his books.
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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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The Berlin Novels (2 books)
  • Mr Norris Changes Trains

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