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Goodbye to Berlin
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1001 book reviews > Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood

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Diane Zwang | 1218 comments Mod
Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood

4/5 stars

When I read the synopsis for this book I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the movie Cabaret was based on it. I enjoyed that movie growing up and did not know it was based on a book. My copy of the book included an introduction by the author which I found informative and interesting.

The story takes place from 1930-1933, the years the author spent in Berlin. We meet a host of characters that Christopher encountered. We are first introduced to Frl. Schroeder and her pronunciation of the author's last name is amusing “Herr Issyvoo”. Frl. Schroeder rents out rooms in her house to make ends meat. Christopher rents a room from her and eventually Sally Bowles joins the group. I enjoyed the chapter with Sally as Liza Minelli was narrating in my head. On the serious side, the chapter on The Landauers had the most impact on me. And finally the last chapter titled A Berlin Diary (Winter 1932-3) was filled with snippets of information on the changing times for Berlin and Germany. War is looming and nothing will be the same again.

I enjoyed the author's writing and look forward to reading The Last of Mr. Norris which is also on the list. If I didn't have 3 other books to read this month I would read that next.


message 2: by Patrick (new)

Patrick Robitaille | 904 comments Goodbye to Berlin (Christopher Isherwood) *** 1/2

I have to admit that I was slightly apprehensive about reading that novel, knowing that it provided the inspiration for the musical Cabaret (I hate musicals...). However, I believe the substance of the novel was far removed from its better known musical offshoot. In a series of diaries focusing on specific people living in Berlin during Hitler's rise to power, the novel provides interesting insights on pre-WWII Germany, through the eyes of an outsider (on many levels), fictionalised version of the author. Many passages provided a clear preview of things to come and how the various characters were already dealing with the situation. Surprisingly compelling.


Tracy (tstan) | 557 comments Patrick wrote: "Goodbye to Berlin (Christopher Isherwood) *** 1/2

I have to admit that I was slightly apprehensive about reading that novel, knowing that it provided the inspiration for the musical Cabaret (I hat..."

Haha! I love Cabaret- I've got three different soundtracks that I plan to listen to while reading it next week.


message 4: by Jen (new)

Jen | 1608 comments Mod
Love Cabaret! I saw it on Broadway twice. Once with Alan Cumming who I adore and once with John Stamos who was surprisingly good too


Tracy (tstan) | 557 comments Jen wrote: "Love Cabaret! I saw it on Broadway twice. Once with Alan Cumming who I adore and once with John Stamos who was surprisingly good too"
I'm so jealous! Alan Cumming is amazing!


message 6: by Book (new)

Book Wormy | 1932 comments Mod
Pip's Reviewed moved to correct place :)

Goodbye to Berlin Christopher Isherwood

I read Mr Norris Changes Trains first and I am so pleased that I did because together they evoke a wonderful image of the last days of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Nazism. Although society is changing rapidly and people have to adapt to changing circumstances, our knowledge of what lies just ahead adds a depth to Isherwood's depiction of life in Berlin in the early thirties. The people he describes are often referred to as the demi-monde. Berlin was a free-wheeling centre for the artistic, the deviant and the bourgeois and Isherwood describes all types in his clear and clever prose. The idealism of the communists who would so soon be practically eradicated, the misgivings of the Jews who can't quite believe that civilisation will crumble all too soon, and the lives of young homosexuals are vividly described. In Mr Norris the narrator is an onlooker, but although Goodbye begins with the famous "I am a camera" phrase, the narrator is much more involved with those whose stories he tells in the second novella.

I cannot help comparing Germany in the early thirties with the U.S.A. now. It seems possible that a demogogue could very well take control there and "others" such as Moslems and Mexicans must feel threatened with the current hysteria. Police brutality in Germany then compares with the unbelievable brutality of the U.S.A. now, particularly for young black men. One can but hope that the lessons of history will be heeded, not ignored.

I thoroughly enjoyed these two books and plan to read more Isherwood in the future.


Kristel (kristelh) | 3967 comments Mod
Goodbye to Berlin Christopher Isherwood tells us "I am a camera with its shutter open, quire passive, recording, not thinking." and that is what this book is. This is the author (also the narrator and observer) is, he is detached and numb. A look at Germany between WWI and WWII. There is a feeling of despair. It is the great depression years which hit Europe as well as the USA. People are pretending at fun; dancing, drinking, days at the beach. The people the narrator encounters are living marginal lives...Tragic, blind to consequences, capricious and deadened by alcohol and sex. Its a novel but it reads like a diary. It is a time of hedonism. The musical Cabaret was based on this book. Cabaret was much more entertaining in my opinion and captured the era better.


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