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on 31 October 2011
At long last this classic of 1930's literature is available on Kindle. Like most novels it lends itself well to the new medium and is a book I shall keep on hand to dip into when the fancy takes me.

Those looking for a novelisation of the 'Cabaret' movie may be disappointed to learn that the story of Sally Bowles occupies only one section of a fairly short book. Also, there are few descriptions in general terms of life in what would soon be Hitler's Germany. However, by giving us superbly drawn vignettes from the day to day lives of those soon to be under threat from National Socialism we soon get an idea of how bad things will prove to be.

This little book is widely and correctly acclaimed as a modern classic but it is not Cabaret without the songs.
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on 9 February 2017
A brilliant portrayal of pre war Berlin. Writing at its very best. Why did I take so long in discovering this masterpiece.
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on 14 September 2016
A brilliantly-written diary of the decadent, yet increasingly sinister world of pre-war Berlin. A fantastic city headed for inevitable ruin.
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on 12 August 2017
Reading this in Berlin was great... it truly is riveting picture and the characters still exist here, even after all the history has happened.
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on 12 March 2017
Relaxed understated style of writing. As we are visiting Berlin soon I bought this book because one of the stories featured the island of Rugen, and the others Berlin, and I did get some feeling of place from this book, although not as much as I would have liked. Human beings are of course the main characters!
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on 6 March 2017
A classic
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on 17 March 2005
"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. Kost, a young woman, plump, blonde and pretty, who makes a living at the world's oldest profession - extremely upscale, of course; Bobby, who is a mixer at a west-end bar called the Troika, has adopted an English Christian name because they are all the rage; a commercial traveler, who is out most of the time, lives in the tiny attic which Frl. Schroeder refers to as the Swedish Pavilion; and Frl. Mayr, with her enormous arms, bull-dog jaw and coarse string-colored hair, is a music hall singer - the best in all of Germany, Schroeder assures with pride.
"Sally Bowles" certainly is divine decadence, and her antics make for a wonderful story. I had a difficult time keeping the image of Liza Minnelli singing "Cabaret" out of my mind, however. I must say though, after reading about Isherwood's Sally, I have to laud Ms. Minnelli on her performance. Her characterization is indeed recognizable in this Ms. Bowles.
"On Ruegen Island - Summer 1931" describes the author's holiday and the two characters he becomes involved with at a summer resort, Otto Nowak and Peter Wilkinson. Otto is a working class German youth, who uses his attractiveness to freeload off of men and women alike, rather than earn an honest wage. Peter Wilkinson, an Englishman living in Berlin, is extremely neurotic and very attached to Otto, although the two quarrel and bicker constantly.
"The Nowaks," Otto, (of Ruegen Island), and his immediate family, take Isherwood in as a lodger. As money becomes more difficult to come by and the effects of hyperinflation take their toll on Christopher's pocketbook, he has to economize and temporarily leaves Frl. Schroeder's relatively luxurious flat, for the slum-like, working-class projects of Wassertorstrasse.
In "The Landaurers," a wealthy Jewish family is aware of what is in store with the rise of Hitler's Nazism. Natalie befriends Isherwood, and through her so does her family. In this story the perils ahead are obvious and the Landaurers make preparations to leave Germany.
And in "A Berlin Diary - Winter - 1932-33," Isherwood bids farewell to Berlin. He will not return until 1952.
These are well written and important stories which paint a picture of a never-to-be-forgotten time. The language and content give a real sense of the period, and Christopher Isherwood's taut and descriptive narrative is superb. Highly recommended!
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on 28 October 2009
Goodbye to Berlin is less of a novel, though it classifies itself as one, and more a collection of four stories and two diary entries. All these tales are based around the underground and lower end of society in 1930's Germany as the Nazi's slowly come to power and there is a great time of change in Berlin. Though written from the perspective of Christopher Isherwood a young writer at the time these, the author clarifies in the introduction, are all works of fiction - I wasn't sure if I believed that as the characters we meet are so vivid.

One of the stories in the book, which do all interlink, and possibly my favourites is Sally Bowles and was the story that inspired the film I Am Camera that then became the iconic Cabaret. Sally is a wonderful character living on the wrong side of town and hanging out with the wrong kind of people invariably getting herself into trouble. She moves into the same apartment as Christopher that we see in the first Berlin Diary where we also meet the wonderful landlady Fraulein Schroeder who is a wonderful motherly, yet incredibly nosey landlady who takes in the tenants other people wouldn't rent to.

We also see how men who liked men coped with such a forbidden love in On Ruegen Island, and tales of poverty in The Nowaks and The Landauers before a wonderful final Berlin Diary as Isherwood, both the character and the narrator bid farewell to the city and the love affair they have had with it and the people who walk its back streets. Through all of these tales we meet the minorities and the rejects of Berlin who give an unusual insight into Berlin during its history that I hadn't read the likes of before.
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on 10 December 2009
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. Like Plato and Wilde before him Isherwood examines the specifics of such relationships, both positives and negatives and seems to conclude that, despite much passion along the way, they are always doomed to end unhappily as one or other party tires of the other.

The other two chapters cover Isherwood's time spent with two families, one wealthy, middle-class and Jewish and the other poor, working class and German. Gently and subtly he contrasts the two, exposing the nonsense of Nazi eugenic theories and the concept of the so-called master race. In addition to all of this though, there is simple good story-telling. You feel an affinity with these characters and want very much to know what will happen to them. Tragically, as the book ends, in 1933, a series of events ensue that we have come to know only too well.
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on 8 November 2009
Not much happens in the book in terms or plot or action but that is the whole point. Isherwood has captured the social social and economic plight of Berlin and indeed Europe. The characters are indepth and full of richness. Recommended!
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