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Goodbye To Berlin Paperback – 2 Nov 1989

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (2 Nov 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0749390549
  • ISBN-13: 978-0749390549
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 12,349 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"A great talent" (Guardian)

"Isherwood is a master of the emotionally cathartic moment, funny and perspicacious" (Evening Standard)

"A masterpiece" (The Economist)

"[A] reminder of a bygone era, powerfully capturing the energy and sleaze of Weimar-era Berlin" (Independent)

"Reading this novel is much like overhearing anecdotes in a crowded bar while history knocks impatiently at the windows" (John Sutherland Guardian, 1000 novels everyone must read)

Book Description

'The best prose writer in English' Gore Vidal

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 53 people found the following review helpful By on 17 Aug 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is known as the original of "Cabaret"- which is why I bought it. And am I glad I did- don't expect the story as seen on stage or film, for here you will find several accounts of pre-war Berlin from various view points. The book is made up of several, smaller, novella's that are vaguely related while independent in themselves. Isherwood's strength lies in his ability to create characters that are believable (all, or at least most, were based on real persons that Isherwood had met), and to evoke the atmosphere of the Berlin of the 30's. His writing style is quite simple, yet says all that there is to say- which makes this book very easy to read. He manages to create the increasingly opressive atmosphere of pre-war Germany throughout the book; which grows into an observation of Germany's response to the growing threat of Nazism- which makes us feel as though we could possibly have been there. It is a fascinating account of the changes that took place, and it shows how people can be led astray to believe false truths etc. This has to be one of my favourite books of all time because of what it is- A study of various characters, A document of a changing Germany, An echo of a lifestyle now lost...Read and Enjoy- with crude fascination!
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62 of 64 people found the following review helpful By "verona_beach" on 10 Mar 2003
Format: Paperback
`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.
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Jana L. Perskie on 17 Mar 2005
Format: Paperback
"I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking," wrote Christopher Isherwood, at the beginning of "Goodbye to Berlin." "Recording the man shaving at the window opposite and the woman in the kimono washing her hair. Some day, all this will have to be developed, carefully printed, fixed." In the six portraits of Weimar Berlin that comprise "Goodbye To Berlin," Isherwood chronicles his life among the demimonde in this gloriously decadent capital city. He lived there, off and on, between 1929 and 1933. These marvelous stories are a fusion of fact and fiction. With each tale, and the passing of time, the sense of foreboding and the author's prophetic imagery intensifies, as Germany prepares to embrace Adolph Hitler.
Berlin was still a charming city of broad avenues, parks and cafés during this period. It was also a grotesque metropolis of night-people, visionaries, political fanatics - a place filled with intrigue, where vice and virtue were found in abundance - more of the former than the latter. 1930s Berlin was a powerful city of mobs and millionaires. And it was one huge salon, a center of European intellectual life where the arts and sciences flourished. This is the scene which provides a backdrop for Isherwood's stories.
The six "Goodbye To Berlin" stories form a relatively continuous narrative. In "A Berlin Diary - Autumn 1930," Isherwood introduces the reader to his landlady, the infamous Fraulein Schroeder, "Schroederschen," who calls him Herr Issyvoo. She is able to recite a history of her former lodgers by looking at the spots, stains and spillages left behind on her furniture, carpets and linens. Fellow flatmates include: Frl.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Alexis Paladin on 10 Dec 2009
Format: Paperback
Apparently Isherwood intended this book to be much longer with many more chapters. It is a pity he did not manage to write more as each of the six chapters is excellent. They can be read separately and indeed some of them, including the best known 'Sally Bowles' were published at different times in other collections. I would suggest though that they work best together as each contributes to a wonderfully broad and deeply textured picture of life in Berlin in the 1930s. The first and last chapters are straight-forward diaries and detail Isherwood's living circumstances, the people around him and the mounting turbulence and then violence as the country slides steadily towards political and economic chaos. The last chapter in particular captures the mood of confusion and fear that spread across the city like a plague as the Nazis began to exert their influence.

The other four chapters explore Isherwood's experiences with specific people and families from different social, ethnic and religious backgrounds. The Sally Bowles chapter is fun and entertaining and exposes well the peculiar way that the vivacity and energy of some people are endlessly attractive to others despite, or perhaps in some cases because of, an accompanying selfishness and disregard for the feelings of anyone other than themselves. Sally exudes a kind of ethereal sexuality, echoed two decades later in Capote's Holy Golightly, that those around her seem to find irresistible.

The second chapter sees Isherwood exploring his homosexuality and the sexual mores of his contemporaries including the age-old issue of attraction between an older, cerebral man on the one hand and a younger, physical man on the other.
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