Top critical review
4 people found this helpful
on 26 June 2015
I agree with some other reviewers that this book is extremely interesting, especially if read alongside the Berlin stories and other Isherwood fiction. The picture of 1930's Berlin and some of Isherwood's other destinations is fascinating. Some of the great characters of English literature are observantly drawn. Most of all, the comparisons and contrasts between two versions of the same events, one autobiographical and the other fictional, is enthralling for anyone interested in the process of creating fiction and the impact of social and political factors on that process. "I am a camera" the narrator states at the beginning of the Berlin Tales, establishing an objective, non-judgmental approach to what follows. When we read Christopher and his Kind, we finally realize just how often Isherwood the narrator stepped on front of the camera to participate in the events he was describing.
Ultimately, however, I was left feeling quite uneasy. Isherwood may have been almost scientifically objective in his narration. I could not achieve that same detachment in reading Christopher and his Kind. I was disturbed by the unevenness of the power in the relationships formed with the street boys of Berlin. Yes, Isherwood clearly had strong and genuine attachments to some of these boys and some of them teased him cruelly. But ultimately, the distribution of power, wealth, education and social class was all in his favour in these relationships. The boys were invariably penniless, powerless, on the fringes of society and desperate. Of course, unlike the boys, Isherwood also had a British passport and could skip out of Germany at the right time, which he did, moving to America at the start of WW2.
It all seems just a bit exploitative. There are other words I could have used to describe these relationships. But to judge this book totally from the perspective of 2015 is not relevant to them as books about an earlier time. Enjoy them for what they are, a fascinating account of a fascinating time and life.