Friday, February 24, 2017

Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood: Quote


Just finished reading Christopher Isherwood's Goodbye to Berlin, a slim collection of linked short stories set in in Berlin, Germany during the early 1930s, on the eve of Hitler's rise to power.

The stories are primarily sharp, vivid sketches of the many eccentric characters the narrator (an Englishman named, like the author, Christopher Isherwood) meets during his stay. There's much lightness and humor in these adventures, but a thread of sadness also runs through these stories, and the tone of foreboding grows stronger as the book proceeds.

The most chilling passage occurs in the last pages, as the narrator prepares to leave Berlin as the Nazis take power. His German landlady is distraught, asking why he feels the need to leave. He thinks:


"It's no use trying to explain to her, or talking politics. Already she is adapting herself, as she will adapt herself to every new regime. This morning I even heard her talking reverently about "Der Fuhrer" to the porter's wife. If anybody were to remind her that, at the elections last November, she voted communist, she would probably deny it hotly, and in perfect good faith. She is merely acclimatizing herself, in accordance with a natural law, like an animal which changes its coat for the winter. Thousand of people like Frl. Schroeder are acclimatizing themselves."



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