Prater Violet Audio CD – Audiobook, 12 Jan 2010
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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. This is the reason why small hints, occational glimpses to the other side of the curtain, are of great importance to me, and this is the same reason why I could be accused for silly curiosity-reading, poking my nose into the prohibited private area. And Isherwood does, indeed, a lot of effort to keep himself in the background and let Bergmann speak (also literally).
Prater Violet isn't a good source of personal material. The best I could get was Mother and Brother Isherwood's fussy attitude towards Christopher and his work, their excitement and pride in his fame, and the monologue in the end of the story (in which, among other things, his lover Heinz is reduced to an androgynous letter 'J'; this upset me greatly). I know, I'm under the curse of biographism and I hate to admit it because I've claimed that it's shameless and often irrelevant - all the more since Isherwood himself insisted his novels should be read as fictional. But they're not fictional, are they? It's just his game, his play with his audience and himself, which eventually led to 'a series of confessions' at a later age.
Nevertheless, I'm certain one can find Prater Violet most interesting and rewarding quite by itself alone, without a single reference to Isherwood's other works and life. It's 1930's and it's Bergmann, both being phenomena worth plunging into.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Rather like the work of Ernst Lubisch, nein?
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.
Many thanks to C. for making this sturdy paperback version available to me!
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