“Goodbye to Berlin”

I started the quiet New Year weekend by reading Christopher Isherwood’s 1939 book of six semi-autobiographical short stories describing his time in Berlin in 1930 and 1931, where he went to try to write a novel. He describes his rooming house and its residents, Sally Bowles (later of “Cabaret” fame), a struggling working class family with whom he boarded for a while when very short of funds, and the Landauers, wealthy Jewish department store owners. Isherwood was a master of style, and his experiences in late Weimar Berlin are realistic, if viewed through a very sarcastic and ironic prism. He clearly saw what was going on in Germany. The book opens with (second paragraph) “I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking.” And it closes with “No. Even now I can’t altogether believe that any of this has really happened…”

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