The Berlin Stories

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The Berlin Stories Fiction

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First published in the 1930s, The Berlin Stories contains two astonishing related novels, The Last of Mr. Norris and Goodbye to Berlin, which are recognized today as classics of modern fiction. Isherwood magnificently captures 1931 Berlin: charming, with its avenues and cafes; marvelously grotesque, and with its nightlife and dreamers; dangerous, with its vice and intrigue; powerful and seedy, with its mobs and millionaires - this is the period when Hitler was beginning his move to power. 256p.

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  • Prairie Oysters for Breakfast

    3 out of 5

    Written by , Posted on at 2:05:31 PM

    If you’ve only ever seen the musical or film “Cabaret”, then you haven’t begun to touch on all the characters Mr. Isherwood encountered during his stint in Germany. He found shysters, con men, thieves, prostitutes, rent-a-boys, landladies, retired soldiers, bored rich housewives, communists and wealthy dilettantes, all of them brimming with local color and outspoken ideas. Mr. Isherwood’s writing style was matter of fact and conversational in tone. People were mainly engaged in the mundane aspects of living, aspects that he carelessly captured even while he was trying to write what he considered ripping works of fiction. But you can’t help but be swept up in the seemingly trivial lives of the folks he met, as they went out dancing with strange girls then came home and had rows with their boyfriends. It’s funny, even when it clearly wasn’t meant to be, and absorbing, like hearing the neighbors having a wild screaming match next door while you’re eating breakfast. All this leads subtly but inevitably into the uprise of Nazism, when the gaiety of Berlin is gradually overtaken by boys in Nazi uniforms attacking people on the streets while the cops stand by idly and refuse to interfere. We read about fear overtaking and burying neighborly kindness; how a woman who voted communist does an abrupt volte-face the next year and fervently swears by Nazism as a way of getting rid of those dirty Jews; two men in a café talk about how greedy Jewish people are succumbing to “heart failure” in the camps while barely cloaking their unease at the tactics of their oppressors. Mr. Isherwood creates a tapestry of ordinary people getting swept up into a new regime that they barely understand. Underneath the politics, struggle and student rebellion are ordinary people willing to do what they must to survive. Mr. Isherwood’s creations endure because they are so relatable and they are a haunting look back at a world teetering on the brink of war.