Berlin Stories

In the section titled Sally Bowles, of Isherwood’s The Berlin Stories, the protagonist of the novel, Chris, relates his tumultuous relationship with an aspiring actress named Sally. The presence of money, or lack thereof, is a constant theme throughout the entire novel. Sally is interested in finding wealthy gentlement whom she can swindle with her good looks and charm. Sally and Chris confide in each other and are engaged in a platonic relationship. They jokingly referred to each other as “gold diggers” when they both befriend and financially benefit from a wealth gentleman named Clide.

Germany’s dire economic conditions are implicitly referenced throughout the text. One morning Chris’s landlord, Frl. Schroeder, woke him up in a frantic state and exclaimed “they’ve shut down the Darmstadter und National! There’ll be thousands ruined, I shouldn’t wonder! The milkman says we’ll have civil war in a fortnight! (57) Although there was a note on the bank that indicated that everyone’s deposits were guaranteed, the fear of financial meltdown was always in the back of people’s minds. The growing distrust of the German economy ultimately contributed to the system’s collapse because people lost faith in the banks. Weary individuals would withdraw their entire savings accounts, leaving the banks in a state of dissarray because there was not enough money on hand to meet demand.

Do you believe that Germany’s financial collapse and accompanying hyperinflation could have been less devastating if people would have behaved less drastically and maintained faith in the banking system?

The Berlin Stories: The Modern State?

Christopher Isherwood’s The Berlin Stories, is a novel about the changing pace of Germany during the late Weimar Republic. Set in 1931 the story follows Isherwood’s alias, William Bradshaw, and his relations with Arthur Norris, who is a member of the German Communist Party. As their friendship blossoms the reader is introduced to Berlin slowly under Nazification, through meeting many of Bradshaw’s acquaintances.

The book particularly shows an evolving Germany in the sense of the modern state that we have been examining. The cultural changes seen with in the cafes and discussion of women or education continue to show the progression that has been developing since the 1920s. Also between the Marxism and Nazism the idea of statism, and nationalism, and homogeneity are often found throughout the story pushing for those greater ideals. However I found that the story while a demonstration of what pre war Berlin was, also mocked the Nazis attempts to create the modern state. The intricate character Mr. Norris often goes against the grain of a homogeneous state and Bradshaw recognizes and enjoys that. Mr. Norris also goes against the classic conceptions of communists being wealthy, somewhat fiscally irresponsible, and a masochist. Also I could not tell if there was a serious homosexual undertone in the whole work between Arthur and Bradshaw.

Does this work represent the changing progression to the modern state as we have been studying? Does it mock the Nazi changes in Germany through its characters?

Berlin Stories

In The Berlin Stories, Christopher Isherwood explains the daily life of a British ex-patriot living in Germany during the early 1930s. His section called “A Berlin Diary: Autumn 1930” explores the daily life and activities of the protagonist and his friends/acquaintances. Within this chapter, the reader is introduced to daily life, seeing a glimpse of how an everyday person may have lived during that time.
One line within this chapter was especially surprising given the financial and economic difficulties of the time. The protagonist, in talking about the character of another, states, “like everyone else in Berlin, she refers continually to the political situation, but only briefly, with a conventional melancholy, as when one speaks of religion. It is quite unreal to her” (223). This reaction is surprising given how dire the situation in Germany was at the time. Did the average person tend to ignore or dwell on these problems?
This piece of the text brings up interesting questions about the time. The timeless issue of the strength of a semi-fictitious piece as a source for historical analysis. This type of interpretation forces the reader to interpret and analyze questions about population demographics and popular support. How was the population so unsupportive of attempts made to help them during such an uncertain time? How did people like Hippi talk only briefly about the problems that were present in Germany, but also in almost every other European country during the latter part of the 20th century?