The reason for deciding to read Goodbye to Berlin is that although it is set in 1930/31 and Sartre’s Age of Reason is set in 1938 they both have the same feeling of impending doom caused by the second world war.
This book is written almost like a diary, it starts that way and continues to be written like that although Isherwood makes the point in the introduction that although the character is called Christopher it could have been anyone experiencing the events.
Bullet points from pages 1 – 78
These pages cover two chapters so it’s best to look at it like that.
A Berlin Diary
It sets up the context of the book with the main character Christopher working as an English teacher and living in a house full of lodgers owned by a woman who has fallen on hard times. Those earning money seem to be employed as prostitutes or have hereditary wealth but everyone else is strapped.
Against this background some are turning to the Nazi party as an answer but it is all done in a superficial way. Meanwhile there is no impression that there is a dislike of the English it is the French who seem to be in for criticism.
The section ends with Christopher’s friend Fritz introducing him to another English in Berlin and this marks the transition to the second part of an aspiring actress Sally Bowles.
A real friendship grows between Sally and Christopher and it is to him she turns when she becomes pregnant and requires an abortion. They share the same accommodation and share the same friendships but there is no love there and in the end after an absence the relationship has not grown stronger and things fall apart and she leaves Berlin and heads to Rome via Paris.
What Sally shows is that although men desire good looking women very few have money, it is the Americans who seem to be rich in Berlin and in terms of entertainment and fun there is not a great deal to be had.
By the end of these two chapters you get a feeling of a city on the edge of something that is being fuelled by unhappiness caused by financial problems. Isherwood paints a picture of a capital that is waiting almost for the rise of Hitler not because he is the solution but at least he might do something to end the malaise. More tomorrow…