Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Berlin, Berlin!

Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood (1939)

“I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking. Recording the man shaving at the window opposite and the woman in the kimono washing her hair. Some day, all this will
have to be developed, carefully printed, fixed.”

Christopher moves to Berlin where he spends his time giving English lessons, writing and having a jolly good time. But this is Berlin in the early 1930s and behind the decadence lurks Nazism and violence and Christopher decides to leave the city in 1933.

Through his years in Berlin he meets a lot of interesting characters. My favourite is Sally Bowles, an English cabaret dancer who loves men and money. I think the reason why I love Sally is her complexity, she is both fun and depressed. There are other important and fascinating characters as well, and many of them Jewish or gay. And that is why this book is so sad. The last chapter made me cry because we now know what happened. It is also the reason why this book is important.

Isherwood simply amazed me with this book, in fact I read in just a few hours on a train between Oslo and Trondheim back in February (I'm superslow at logging my books this year). Now I'm eager to read the rest of his works. I already bought Mr Norris Changes Trains when visiting fantastic Berlin during Easter and his autobiography Christopher and His Kind is very high on my wish list.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

trust me, I'm telling you stories.

the Passion by Jeanette Winterson (1987)

 Henri is the man who prepares chickens for Napoleon. And because of that he gets to see the battlefields of Europe, all the way to Moscow. Meanwhile, in Venice, a web-footed girl named Villanelle works at a casino. At work she cross dresses to flirt with the customers and she falls in love with a married woman. Years later, Henri and Villanelle meet on the outskirts of a burning Moscow and they decide to desert together, making their way to Venice where Henri has to find Villanelle's heart.

I'm amazed by the fact that this book is a mere 180 pages long, but has so many stories within the story. I loved the setting, and if I could time travel, Venice would be one of the places I'd visit (but not now, as it is a tourist trap). I also learnt more about Napoleon. All in all, it's a great read and that was a pleasant surprise as I didn't enjoy Orange is the Only Fruit when I read it years ago.

(Why is it always so hard to write a lot about the books you have come to love?)

This was my choice for Hedda's off-the-shelf 2016 reading challenge; a book with a red cover. I'm months behind in blogging.