Goodbye to Berlin, Christopher Isherwood (1939)

Reviewer: Rebecca

The first story in this collection was shorter and less significant than I thought it would be, it was rather pointless. The other stories are actually far more interesting and taken altogether the book is profound. Set in 1930s Berlin, it is a first hand account written at the time, people live in boarding houses, it is all nasty, the houses are uncomfortable, crowded, dirty, the food is horrid and the people are nasty, nasty to each other, hating the other – Jews of course, that is given, but also just people they are jealous of or don’t like, for whatever reason, they take delight in their downfall and unhappiness. Children and parents hit each other and are rough.

I cant see why Berlin had such an attraction. It was awful, hell even. But fascinating, the nastiness was the real cause of the 2nd WW and Isherwood shows this with his stories. Hatred had permeated people's lives, become the norm, so beatings up, shootings even, snearing, crashes in people's fortunes, was just what happened. War was the extension of it, not inevitable of course, but logical if nothing stopped the nastiness. It was a failure of the Church, its moral teaching and inspiration had no impact, at least not on Isherwood's characters.