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Mr Norris Changes Trains Paperback – 4 Jul 2001

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Mr Norris Changes Trains + Goodbye To Berlin + A Single Man (Vintage Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (4 July 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099771411
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099771418
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 0.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 23,313 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Isherwood sketches with the lightest of touches the last gasp of the decaying demi-monde and the vigorous world of Communists and Nazis, grappling with each other on the edge of the abyss" (Sunday Telegraph)

"What the Berlin stories retain, to a unique degree, is the ability to tell us what it really felt like then - to feel involved with the Germans and still to find that they retained their mystery; to be in the mode, yes, of a camera, and yet to be furiously, hopelessly involved" (James Fenton)

"The first literary novel that really switched me on was Christopher Isherwood's Mr Norris Changes Trains" (Chris Pattern Daily Mail)

"He immortalised Berlin in two short, brilliant novels both published in the Thirties, Mr Norris Changes Trains and Goodbye To Berlin, inventing a new form for future generations - intimate, stylised reportage in loosely connected episodes" (Daily Express)

"Mr Norris Changes Trains brought him recognition as one of the most promising young writers of his generation" (The Times)

Book Description

Isherwood's immortal novel about political high-tension, passion and literary talent in 1930s Berlin

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 11 Mar. 2009
Format: Paperback
In this novella Isherwood revisits the familiar ground of Pre War Berlin in the thirties, but from a slightly more comedic angle than the menacingly wonderful Goodbye to Berlin.

Here the focus is on character. William Bradshaw, the narrator meets Arthur Norris, an exceedingly strange little man of dubious morality on a train to Berlin. Fascinated by his peculiarities they strike up a friendship over a number of years.

Isherwood describes the fragile friendship, based on lies, deceit and mutually agreed misunderstanding. It is wonderfully strange and decadent and dovetails beautifully against the background of a city falling into violence and destruction and the dangerous politics being played out aroung them.

The book is full of wonderful vignettes and real moments of comedy which are undercut by the darkness around and within them, making it a book of real substance.

Highly enjoyable.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Alexis Paladin on 9 Dec. 2009
Format: Paperback
I had no idea what to expect from this. I had read about Isherwood on a visit to Berlin and had an idea that the musical Cabaret has something to do with him. On that basis I decided to give this book a go. From the start it is apparent that Isherwood was a very talented writer. Mr Norris, as seen through the eyes of the narrator Bradshaw, is wonderfully weird and enigmatic. His impeccable manners and gentile conversation clearly obfuscate something much murkier right from Bradshaw's first encounter with him on a Berlin bound train. As the novel progresses, Bradshaw is lead naively but entirely willingly through 1930s Berlin's mesmerising whirl of restaurants and clubs and introduced to a broad array of unusual and engaging characters. Whilst there is not a great deal of reference to the political situation, apart from Norris hilariously setting himself up as a leading Communist, there are plenty of colourful mentions of the decadent behaviour associated with Weimar Berlin including drug-fuelled parties, sadistic uniformed mistresses and a German Baron obsessed with English boys-own adventure stories. Isherwood's skill lies primarily in his ability to hold firm to the writers mantra of `show don't tell'. At no point does he try to tell us what to think about these characters or situations. Instead by describing in detail their conversations and behaviour through the filter of his wide-eyed but ever-watchful narrator he invites us to form distinct and lasting impressions of our own.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 5 May 2000
Format: Audio Cassette
On a very few occasions in one's life a personality is encountered who is by all rational measures is an out and out scoundrel, amoral, treacherous, mendacious, cowardly and - totally irresistible. It is a mystery why such persons should earn tolerance, and even regard, and why they should live on in one's memory and affection long after many more worthy characters one has known have faded into obscurity. It is Christopher Isherwood's genius, in this, his probably best novel, to describe such a character in such convincing detail that he lives on, years after first reading, as a personality more real than many actual persons of one's acquaintance. Little good can be said about Arthur Norris - other than that he is an engaging companion - and the reader is never in any doubt about his total unreliability, but it is impossible not to like him as he weaves his pathetically futile schemes of cunning and treachery against the backdrop of the last days of Weimar Germany. With a minimum of detail, but with that minimum telling, Isherwood fixes the time and locale with sharp accuracy and brings it further to life with a bizarre but credible cast of supporting characters. The balance between comedy and tragedy, farce and outright horror, is splendidly managed. This talking book version is all but perfect. Alan Cumming is an ideal reader and adopts a wide range of voices and accents throughout. His use of pauses and of changes of tone and emphasis is masterly. Arthur Norris's fruity tone are horribly enjoyable while the dreadful Kuno (to hear him ask if the narrator has read "Vinnie the Pooh" is enough to make the flesh crawl) becomes an almost palpable presence. In summary - one of the best Talking Books I've encountered. It's the only one you'll need on a long car journey since you'll listen to it over and over.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By "jarabara" on 15 Feb. 2004
Format: Paperback
When William Bradshaw first meets Mr Norris on the train home, we are introduced to a character that makes us feel strangely protective and who is delightful and impossible to dislike. By the end of the novel though it is clear that Isherwood is truly representing through Mr Norris one of his ex boyfriends who he came to regard as a 'rogue laced with poison'. Such a character arc is an amazing feat and one that Isherwood handles well. The book is well written, easy to read and full of delights. The big reveal is a little predictable and the ending a little unblievable but despite that this is well worth a read and I would be interested to read more of Isherwood's work based on this book. Many authors must wish they were this good!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr. D. P. Jay on 6 July 2013
Format: Paperback
This novel describes well the decadence of pre-Hitler's Germany: dining cars on trains, made-up jobs to save unemployment, German bureaucracy with its officials hurrying about with files.

It also portrays effeminacy: `Held my hand for long time', welcomed me to the shadow of my humble roof-tree', a greybeard with one foot in the tomb. How cruel youth is, was too delicate to go to school, had a house full of bronzed boys who played practical jokes on him, beautiful things-the flesh cannot give us happiness, only the spirit, `So particular..more like a lady than a gentleman', thinning eyebrows, not plucking, never shaves himself, potions and lotions, a suit for every day, nine years' money spent in two and silk underclothes.

Baron (Kuno) von Pregnitz wears a monocle, `tortured himself daily on an electric horse', has `taken a great fancy to you', his `foot pressed on mine under the table, his `hand took mine under the fur rug' in car, invites him in, he devoted himself entirely to the shy boy Piet

Then there's the politics of the period: election posters being written over with different candidates, "Are you of true Aryan descent?", "Had they no national pride to be mixing with Jews who were ruining their countries?" "There's lots of old scores being paid off nowadays."

Many are in exile: the vagrant and exiled status. `I couldn't change into a different character; therefore I must change my domicile' - Davidson. The pursuit of lifestyle requires a journey away from British class system - the world at large is their finishing school. Is the tourist more a parasite than a pioneer? `The type of tourist who takes in the whole of Rome in one day.' There is aloneness and separation, the search for a homeland, the sexual rebel.
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