Christopher Isherwood by Stephen Wade (auth.)

By Stephen Wade (auth.)

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It was quite by chance that the vogue for proletarian writing occurred at the time when Isherwood was preparing material for what were to become the one novel and related stories of the Berlin fiction, and there is no sound reason for suggesting that there was any force driving him to tell political truths in a journalistic way (there is an article written for Action magazine while he was living in the Nollendorfplatz but it is simply an objective and factual account of the Vandervogeln). The artistic intent and method in these books is just as serious and carefully developed from notebooks and diaries as is all his other fiction, as he has often said in interviews.

Isherwood's preface undervalues his achievement here. The 20 Christopher Isherwood 'obscurity' is only rarely openly indulgent- in the contempt of the minutiae of his education and friendships. Mostly, it expresses itself in merciless satire, subtle irony and a zestful wit, owing something to Oscar Wilde. Sometimes, the metaphors are too artificial and adventurous, but when they work, the effect is impressive. Above all else, the strength of the novel is in the consummate use of dialogue, which was always a fundamental strength in his work.

L. Coombes' writing about South Wales miners' lives is. It is certainly not written by a worker or participant who writes from such an involved standpoint, yet neither are the Berlin books part of any special mission to report on the state of Germany under Nazism in the manner of some direct books of reportage of the time, such as Howard Smith's Last Train from Berlin (1938). It was quite by chance that the vogue for proletarian writing occurred at the time when Isherwood was preparing material for what were to become the one novel and related stories of the Berlin fiction, and there is no sound reason for suggesting that there was any force driving him to tell political truths in a journalistic way (there is an article written for Action magazine while he was living in the Nollendorfplatz but it is simply an objective and factual account of the Vandervogeln).

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