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Prater Violet [Paperback]

Christopher Isherwood
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jun 1987
Set in London in the mid-1930s, a novel which explores the relationship between a Viennese film director and the person hired to write the script. Set against the background of the plight of Austria and the rise of fascism. From the author of MR NORRIS CHANGES TRAINS and GOODBYE TO BERLIN.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux; Reissue edition (Jun 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374520534
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374520533
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 13.7 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,729,290 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER
In 1934 Christopher Isherwood had worked as a script-writer on a British film (The Little Fried) which was directed by an Austrian Jew, Berthold Viertel, who had already been sufficiently alarmed by Hitler's seizure of power in Germany to have left Austria. Isherwood wrote this short novel in 1945. It is set in the period in the months after the Reichstag Fire. Isherwood appears as himself; the film world of the time is captured well and at length; but the director is here called Friedrich Bergmann, and the film becomes a Ruritanian musical called Prater Violet. Bergmann is a richly "continental" character, temperamental and larger than life; he is voraciously and perceptively interested in an England which is as yet unaware of the danger that Hitler presented to Europe. As a socialist, he is violently disturbed by the news of Dollfuss' brutal crushing in February 1934 of "Red Vienna", a tragedy which made the shallow reactions of Britain unbearable to him. Isherwood felt that his own fashionable left-wing sympathies were feeble in the face of Bergmann's tempestuous rage, which vented itself violently on the uncomprehending people involved in the filming. The way the book ends is unexpected - both with regard to Bergmann, and even more with regard to Isherwood, who, in the last five pages, enters a territory of unhappy introspection for which nothing has prepared us, and which, in my view, makes for an unsatisfactory end of the novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars prater violet 10 May 2010
Surely a book for all to read. A true gem of twentieth century prose. Humour mixed with profundity and humanity. We are always in a situation of historical irony. Add to the list of English classics.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All film writers read this! 10 April 2005
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful book about the role of the writer in the film industry and is as true today as when it was written. It is a true account of Isherwood's screen writing debut (only the names are changed). I tell all writers and others in film to read it - it is engrossing, funny and will make you know you are not alone!
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4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Prater Violet - Perhaps I Lost the Story 18 Dec 2000
Having read Prater Violet, rather puzzled and perhaps even a little disappointed, I asked myself, 'What could Isherwood have possible meant with this story? What's the message?' Then, resentfully, I criticized myself for my cardinal sin of looking for and even finding so-called meanings from all the weirdest places, for not being able to see the value of a story itself, not being able to read a story simply for its own sake. But even when I tried to look at Prater Violet as a described experience, a recollection of Isherwood's meeting with a film director, I couldn't help asking, 'But why? What for?' Maybe others, those who have read Prater Violet, would answer without hesitating, 'because Mr. Bergmann, the director, is so magnificent, so peculiar that he deserves a potrayal' or 'of course because Isherwood wants to meditate upon the contemporary political situation and his fellow-Englishmen's isolationism' or 'surely it's written in order to catch the magic of the yet so harsh film industry'. I'm sure we all find satisfactory interpretations to please our tastes, and none of them is more right or wrong than the other. So, what is the meaning of Prater Violet to me?
I would like to begin with saying that I'm an ardent admirer of Christopher Isherwood - not so much because of his literary merit but more because of his persona, that image which is reflected to me from his books, photographs and, even more, from the course of his life. That is the Christopher Isherwood I know in my heart and that is the Christopher Isherwood I love. Therefore, I also value Prater Violet mainly as a source to get to know him more.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a little novella about nostalgia, film, and Hitler 26 Sep 2004
By fadensonnen - Published on Amazon.com
I reread this lovely novel earlier this year. In a way, it's better than Berlin Stories because of its conciseness and the humor is more sophisticated. What had been funny looms like familiar smells over everything when history steps in. I laughed so much and felt so much as I read and that is the reason why we must keep reading Isherwood and slowing down time so that we can perceive when one is being amusing or humble or genuine, without artifice.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of Isherwoods best 19 Jan 2002
By "ivan1138" - Published on Amazon.com
For those who never wanted "Berlin Stories" to end, "Prater Violet" will be a welcomed treat. Isherwood's fictions were, for the most part, only thinly veiled memoirs - indeed he plays a part in most without even the contrivance of altering his name. However, whether they be fact or fictions, these stories are original and delightful. Isherwood's adventures in the film colony of London prove irresistible. Each of the characters, Chatsworth, Ashmeade and the great director Friedrich Bergmann, are drawn with wit and clarity. What is most remarkable is how fresh this material is considering it was published in 1945. A very fine and rewarding short novel.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars At the movies 2 Dec 2001
By "blissengine" - Published on Amazon.com
Isherwood's short novel is autobiographical fiction about being hired to write a screenplay for a movie called "Prater Violet" during early World War 2. There's lots of world politics, of course, as well as the politics of the worldwide movie industry (Hollywood included). Isherwood's writing is superb, and fills this brief space with a lush garden of a story. Here's a quote: "This business about the box office is just a sentimental democratic fiction. If you stuck together and refused to make anything but, say, abstract films, the public would have to go and see them, and like them..."
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In a play anyway 12 Mar 2014
By christopher - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
This novel, published in 1946, is short, but not skimpy. Impressionistic, but not shallow. "Satirical," if you like, but none of the absurdities seem exaggerated.

Take the openning bit of comedy- the phone call from Imperial Bulldog telling Mr. Isherwood (for the author has put himself in the novel) that he's to go to work on a movie about Vienna.. Vienna, Berlin, pretty much the same thing. Isherwood can act disdainful of the highhandedness and philistinism, but before he knows it, he's chasing Friedrich Bergman, the mercurial Viennese director from hotel to tobacconist to.. lunch with Chatsworth, the head of Imperial Bulldog.

And there the artists, writer and director, form a bond (or is it Bund?) against the phillistines, management, the capitalist Chatsworth and his lackey, Ashmeade- which is never stated, by the way. Isherwood is the opposite of heavy-handed. Bergman merely says, "You know, already, I feel absolutely no shame before you. We are like two married men who meet in a whorehouse."

Bergman is wonderful- ridiculous and sad. He is prone to fits of despair about the course of events in Germany and Austria, the irony being that although no one else in England, in 1934, can see it, he is all too right. And somehow, he makes the silly movie about a prince and a flower girl ABOUT the class struggle, although Bergman's Marxo-Freudianism, while fascinating, is not really the final word.

Nor is the irascible celtic engineer's, Herr Cut-Master Lawrence, although he gets some of the best lines, and, again, is completely true to life.

"The movies aren't drama. They aren't literature. They're pure mathematics ...Still, it's no use talking. You'll never have the guts (to make abstract films) You'd much rather whine about prostitution, and keep on making Prater Violets. And that's why the public despises you, in its heart."

In short, an absolute gem.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read - Highly recommended 26 Sep 2008
By Eric J. Robertson - Published on Amazon.com
I had searched for a quote from this book for years, one that best sums up all my feelings about the film industry. Having discovered the quote, I read the entire novel and was enraptured by it. I read it in one sitting and couldn't put it down. The characters are fantastically developed and paint a rather bleak yet accurate portrayal of past and present film personalities. And I quote:

"You have never been inside a film studio? ... It is really [the same as a] palace of the 16th Century. There one sees what Shakespeare saw: the absolute power of the tyrant, the courtiers, the flatterers, the jesters, the cunningly ambitious intriguers. There are fantastically beautiful women . . . incompetent favorites . . . great men who are suddenly disgraced . . . insane extravagances . . . unexpected parsimony . . . enormous splendor, which is a sham . . . horrible squalor hidden behind the scenery . . . vast schemes abandoned because of some caprice . . . secrets which everybody knows and no one speaks of. There are even two or three honest advisers. These are the court fools, who speak the deepest wisdom in puns, lest they should be taken seriously. They grimace, and tear their hair privately, and weep."
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