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Goodbye to Berlin

demi-mondaine, I Am a Camera, Cabaret

book isherwood recording vast

a collection of sketches and short stories by Christopher Isherwood (1939). The work, taken as a whole, presents a unified picture of Berlin in the last years of Weimar. Isherwood, disguised in this book as Herr Issyvoo, lived in Berlin in 192933, supporting himself in the harsh economic climate by giving English lessons. The stories are technically brilliant but no less so in their insights into a society consciously disintegrating into dark chaos. ‘Sally Bowles’, the first novella, was published independently in 1937 and has remained perhaps the best-known story in the book, of a hopeless English demi-mondaine who comes to live with Herr Issyvoo's landlady (this inspired John Van Druten's play, I Am a Camera, 1951, and the immensely successful musical, Cabaret, 1968). Perhaps even more penetrating is the study of the Jewish family, ‘The Landauers’, magnates of a vast emporium. The pictures of Berliner working-class life are extremely lively and are all we have of Isherwood's once-intended vast novel about Germany, ‘The Lost’. Nothing in the book has become more famous, as a declaration of authorial intent, than the words near the opening: ‘I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking. 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.’

Good Companions, The [next] [back] Goodbye to All That - Goodbye to All That, Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, Undertones of War

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