Holiday reading, book 7: Goodbye to Berlin (Christopher Isherwood)

The last of 2019/20 summer holiday reading was a wonderful little book about which I have known for a long time but was prompted to read it by a friend having recently mentioned it recently. The writing is wonderful, the stories whimsical and sad (since everyone knows what is coming in the 1930s) but also sweet and amusing.

The book consists of more-or-less separate stories with interrelated characters and plots. My favourite character is probably Bernhard Landauer, ostensibly based on the real-life Wilfrid Israel. The Landauers in the book own a department store (like the Israels in reality) in Berlin and one of the poignant scenes is where the main character goes to the shop in search of Bernhard just as the SA starts the boycott of Jewish-owned businesses. He describes himself and others entering the huge shop as the men stand outside with the placards, just as in the picture shown here, outside the Israel shop in Berlin. The SA men look faintly ridiculous, almost bored and definitely very boring. And then all of the rest happened.

Delightful details of pre-wat Berlin pepper the book, such as paying tolls on the AVUS motorway to Grunewald. This first motorway, the construction of which was started prior to World War I, was completed by private investors and remained private until 1940. Some of these details are in the German but not the English entry on Wikipedia. One of the innovations of the road was that it horses would not be allowed.

Read this book on holiday or on a rainy Saturday! In case you did not know, Isherwood was a cousin of the other wonderful English writer, Graham Greene.

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