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Summary Mr Norris Changes Trains

After a chance encounter on a train the English teacher William Bradshaw starts a close friendship with the mildly sinister. This is one of Isherwood s Berlin novels almost an historical novel of the last years of the Weimar Republic and was published in 1935 Isherwood was part of a group of young English writers and poets who found England repressive and sought a form of exile this is also partly a novel of exile the group included Auden and Spender as well Berlin was the choice for Isherwood mainly because an elderly relative had warned him against it saying it was the vilest place since Sodom Of course for gay men such as Isherwood and Auden Berlin was much liberal and less repressed than EnglandThe two main characters are thinly disguised The narrator is a young man called William Bradshaw Isherwood s middle names who is travelling to Berlin to be a private tutor Because Isherwood wanted to put the main focus on Norris he makes Bradshaw a voyeur who watches what goes on and provides commentary This makes Bradshaw seem morally neutral and sexually neutral Isherwood later thought this might have been a mistake making it seem as though he was lying about himself Bradshaw s moral neutrality also gives the impression that he does not care about what is going on around him The main character Arthur Norris is a very thinly veiled Gerald Hamilton Hamilton was a complex character who at various times was imprisoned for theft bankruptcy gross indecency he was gay and he was interned during the second world war for being a threat to national security He ran guns for the IRA shared a flat with Aleister Crowley was a communist sympathiser and had his hands in numerous other schemes Hamilton wrote three volumes of autobiography all three had different biographical details He called one volume Mr Norris and I Isherwood wrote the forward He was a conman and raconteur with a good deal of charm Norris in the book is exactly that charming and endearing but always up to something and keeping many secrets There are some genuinely comic moments such as the party Norris and Bradshaw attend Bradshaw hears Norris screaming in a bedroom and bursts in assuming he is being attacked only to find him being soundly whipped by a dominatrix called Anni The various rituals surrounding Norris s wig and daily toilette are hilarious There is also a great supporting cast of minor characters who all add something to the whole The real star of the book is the underbelly of Berlin in the early 1930s which is marvellously drawn The various communists and the rather disorganised party machine contrasting with the well run and rather sinister Nazis who most people seem to think don t stand a chance of power This is the tail end of Weimar and a look at the sleazier side of Berlin It is beautifully written and is a joy to read The ending outlines the Nazis taking power and the destruction of the communist party I read the folio edition with some wonderful illustrations by Beryl Cook

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Mr Norris Changes Trains

Lished in Mr Norris Changes Trains piuantly evokes the atmosphere of Berlin during the rise of the Mr Norris eBook #186 Nazi. He had an animal innocence Isherwood sums up Mr Norris no I mean Gerald Hamilton 1890 1970 the flamboyant and flabby rogue who inspired Mr Norris The 2 met presumably in Berlin where Issyvoo lived fr 1929 33 This may be the coolest and finest book Isherwood wrote If he groused about it years later it s because he was probably ashamed of his own political naiveteI don t think Gerald Hamilton had any innocence at all But his bewigged and painted self gave birth to a wonderful fictional character the scheming Mr Norris who lacks any positive ualities but is still an unforgettable person I read this book a long time ago and now thanks to Google I reread anew after sleuthing HamiltonGerald Hamilton was a gun runner for the IRA a con man caught in embezzlement plots a Commie symp and then turning far far right he was against war with Germany espousing the views of fascist Oswald Mosley Facing arrest in the UK he tried to escape to Ireland dressed as a nun Isherwood published this book in 1935 while the wayward Gerald Hamilton was spinning left and right How could Isherwood resist using Hamilton as an amusing characterSally Bowles Co came later c 1939 when our author got the political pittcha Although the musical Cabaret is a rouser with everyone singing that life is a cabaret ole chun Isherwood focused on the lost and rejected He caught the tormented self destructive spirit of Berlin which Broadway excised He d gone to Berlin because of the favorable money exchange And coming from a strangulating UK environment where you faced jail if caught in the bushes with a boy he read that anything went in Berlin As Gerald Hamilton said We live in stirring times Tea stirring timesIsherwood wasn t known in the US until 1951 when John Van Druten took a couple of his Berlin stories and wrote the play I Am a Camera later a musicom He told an interviewer I ve never had a great success at first with anything I ve written He may have been the earliest to write about Berlin in the 30s but the forgotten and slighted Robert McAlmon caught the nether scene steeped in drugs and unzippered frolics ten years earlier in Miss Knight and Others which for years was unpublished hereIsherwood s writing style in Mr Norris is uietly dry in a way that may remind you of Graham Greene It s very effective You feel Berlin as a reckless scary crossroads Mr Norris is last spotted in Rio Gerald Hamilton expired while living above a Chinese restaurant in Chelsea called The Good EarthThis novel also has the title in some editions as The Last of Mr Norris

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Arthur Norris Norris is a man of contradictions lavish but heavily in debt excessively polite but sexually deviant First pub. A captivating novel about a duplicitous friendship set against the backdrop of a country in turmoil Mr Norris Changes Trains was the first book I have read by Christopher Isherwood since my teens back in the 1970s and I am delighted to report that Christopher Isherwood is every bit as good as I had remembered Mr Norris Changes Trains was published in 1933 and along with Goodbye to Berlin is drawn from Isherwood s experiences as an expatriate living in Berlin during the early 1930s William Bradshaw an English teacher in Berlin has a chance encounter on a train with the slightly sinister Arthur Norris On the surface Norris is a charming if highly strung and down at heel English gentleman As the reader realises and well before Bradshaw Norris s charm masks a morally bankrupt personality The character of Arthur Norris was based on a real life character who Christopher Isherwood befriended in Berlin called Gerald Hamilton Apparently Gerald Hamilton went through life managing to amass a large number of distinguished and not so distinguished friends despite being a liar a thief and completely two faced A man guaranteed in any political situation to choose the most repellent side and who fabricated almost every detail of his life Hamilton would sell a friend down the river for the smallest amount of money Despite being permanently bankrupt he freuently managed to live a life filled with five star hotels fine wines and good food whether in Weimar era Berlin or London in the swinging sixties All this and is so I understand contained in The Man Who Was Norris The Life of Gerald Hamilton by Tom Cullen a book as the title suggests devoted to The Man Who Was Norris and a book I plan to read soonCoincidentally Gerald Hamilton also appeared in another book I recently enjoyed the stunning Rendezvous at the Russian Tea Rooms The Spyhunter the Fashion Designer the Man From Moscow by Paul Willetts which is also well worth readingI heartily recommend Mr Norris Changes Trains it s an engaging tale which is also historically fascinating through its powerful evocation of the atmosphere of Berlin during the rise of the Nazis in the 1930s Towards the novel s conclusion politics dominates the story as the plot strands cleverly come together Just as William Bradshaw realises that he has been duped so the German people are also being taken in by their Nazi leader Unlike Hitler in the 1930s Norris s own plans never seem to uite work out and as the tragic ending presages the horrors that were to follow so it also signals hasty departures from Berlin for both Arthur Norris and William Bradshaw I ll leave you to discover Norris s fate for yourselves it is an entertaining and apt conclusion for one so despicable depraved and corruptOverall Mr Norris Changes Trains is a captivating novel about a duplicitous friendship set against the backdrop of a country in turmoilThe next book I will read is Christopher and His Kind an autobiographical account of Christopher Isherwood s life from 1929 when he left England to spend a week in Berlin and decided to stay there indefinitely to 1939 when he arrived in America I hope Christopher and His Kind will give me new insights into both Berlin in the 1930s and also the events related in Mr Norris Changes Trains 45EDIT I ve now finished Christopher and His Kind by Christopher Isherwood Click here to read my review


10 thoughts on “Mr Norris Changes Trains

  1. says:

    ”What repels me now about Mr Norris is its heartlessness It is a heartless fairy story about a real city in which human beings were suffering the miseries of political violence and near starvation The wickedness of Berlin's night life was of the most pitiful kind; the kisses and embraces as always had price tags attached to them but here the prices were drastically reduced in the cut throat competition of an over cro

  2. says:

    William Bradshaw an Englishman living in Berlin meets on the train Mr Norris He is remarkable and I may even sa

  3. says:

    This is one of Isherwood’s Berlin novels; almost an historical novel of the last years of the Weimar Republic and was published in

  4. says:

    Impressive rich in the anecdotal department I wholly agree that the book lacks a true plot It is of a character study of the flamboyant unpredictable Arthur Norris whose nature embodies the joie de vivre of the true bohemian his mishaps with the stirrings up of the Nazi party relevant as much today as EVER are p

  5. says:

    It's nice to be back with Isherwood This novel is nice Well it's Isherwood nice Meaning it's all great until something horrible happens and t

  6. says:

    A captivating novel about a duplicitous friendship set against the backdrop of a country in turmoil'Mr Norris Changes Trains' was the first book I have read by Christopher Isherwood since my teens back in the 1970s and I am delighted to report that Christopher Isherwood is every bit as good as I had remembered 'Mr Norris

  7. says:

    This novel begins with William Bradshaw a young English tutor meeting the slightly ridiculous Mr Arthur Norris on a train to Berlin Mr Norris is nervous at having to present his passport elusive about what he does and with his rather obvious wig and odd habits does not seem as though he is a character to take seriously at first However this chance meeting results in a firm friendship and fairly soon William is visiting

  8. says:

    He had an animal innocence Isherwood sums up Mr Norris no I mean Gerald Hamilton 1890 1970 the flamboyant and flabby rogue who inspired Mr Norris The 2 met presumably in Berlin where Issyvoo lived fr 1929 33 This may be the coolest and finest book Isherwood wrote If he groused about it years later it's because

  9. says:

    What I expected from this book Suave homosexual man has affair with Englishman he met on a train in Berlin against the backdrop of the rise of Nazism What I got from this book Weird possibly bisexual man gets into too much trouble with the authorities because of his schemes to make money while his possibly bisexual friend tries to protect him from himself It's a good book with fantastically understated writing but it'

  10. says:

    Berlin in the 30s the political unrest grows but the demimonde parties on The narrator William Bradshaw lives there nicely as an expat giving English classes and enjoying life This is pretty much all that we know about him he doesn’t even explicitly reveal his sexual orientation In fact this first person narrative tells us very little about narrator and focuses entirely on the person of Mr Norris a perfect English gentlemen a