`Goodbye to Berlin' is writing at its best: spare, unadorned, and sincere. Christopher Isherwood flies in the face of today's tendency towards florid, pretentious writing, which seems to favor five similies when none would have done. His evocation of pre-WWII Berlin through a series of interlinked stories, and the deft, subtly drawn characters - the famous Sally Bowles is just one - is unforgettable.
Perhaps it is the way Isherwood writes with a remarkable lack of ego - as his famous quote states, events are captured as objectively as a camera records light onto a photographic film. This does not mean he is impassive; quite the opposite. His desire is clearly to record a fragile time exactly as it was. Nobody knows the outcome of history until it happens, and the rise of the Nazi party as told here is all the more horrifying, as we experience it as the people themselves must have done - first a fringe party regarded as little more than a joke, then as rulers of the country, in a frighteningly short space of time.
Although it's small and perfectly formed, you'll never want it to end. Isherwood's original intention was to include these episodes in a much larger opus about Germany in the Weimar Republic, but there's something about the fragmented quality of the eventual book which is perfectly suited to its subject matter.
It takes pride of place in my library.