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Mr Norris Changes Trains

Ster Arthur Norris Norris is a man of contradictions; lavish but heavily in debt excessively polite but sexually devian 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 part of true history and another plus for the short novel As part of The Berlin Tales of which I am henceforth bewitched I mean we yet have to meet Sally Bowles ain't we it is a nod to the writer's authentic experience of a crucial point in time That it is all laced delicately with gay wisdom wit makes it truly worthwhile

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After a chance encounter on a train the English teacher William Bradshaw starts a close friendship with the mildly sini William Bradshaw an Englishman living in Berlin meets on the train Mr Norris He is remarkable and I may even say sophisticated person; by turns charming and crafty narcissistic and vain his manners and attire are elegant and impeccable and his approach to life may be summed up in his own words I only wish to have three sorts of people as my friends those who are very rich those who are very witty and those who are very beautiful No wonder that from the first moment William is fascinated by Arthur Norris and accidental meeting right away turns into friendshipWilliam in good faith and due to innate gullibility I show him a little mercy not naming it stupidity attends new friend's life He accompanies Arthur to Berlin's underworld engages in political activity and convinced about his financial problems let himself get entangled in spy affair His interest and friendship to Norris does not falter despite warnings from other friends and Arthur's opaue explanations about his finances dubious activities and disreputable acuaintances Mr Norris changes trains is very well written novel with great evocation of prewar Berlin its inhabitants and decadent atmosphere And though we can sense overwhelming presence of coming Nazis novel has ironic touch and abounds in hilarious incidents Isherwood focuses predominantly on Norris but also introduces distinctive and memorable supporting characters like Baron Pregnitz indulging himself with peculiar likings Olga rather resourceful woman she was a procuress a cocaine seller and a receiver of stolen goods; she also let lodgings took in washing and when in mood did exuisite fancy needlework dominattrix Anni or devious Arthur's assistant Schmidt of whom Arthur used to say those who are foolish enough to keep snakes as pets usually have cause to regret it sooner or later We can observe born of the fascism participate in communist rally and drunken orgy as well and our pockets are empty due to galloping inflation But in the turn of events step by step we're coming to the truth of the real Arthur's face and in the end despite his ridiculous excuses and attempts to justify himself we can even oddly enough pity him though we can’t deny that he got exactly what he deserved And I may assure you that it was not Anni's whip at all

Review ñ PDF, DOC, TXT, eBook or Kindle ePUB free Ò Christopher Isherwood

T First published in 1933 Mr Norris Changes Trains piuantly evokes the atmosphere of Berlin during the rise of the Nazi 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's a far cry from what I expected I also didn't see the point Not all fiction must have a point it can exist simply for the sake of itself but here given the structure and the characters it feels as if Isherwood should have delivered Apart from offering a screenshot of Berlin at the crossroads of History I didn't uite see the idea behind the story In any case it's a good fast read great to get into Isherwood


About the Author: Christopher Isherwood

Christopher Isherwood was a novelist playwright screen writer autobiographer and diarist He was also homosexual and made this a theme of some of his writing He was born near Manchester in the north of England in became a US citizen in and died at home in Santa Monica California in January Isherwood was the grandson Mr Norris PDF/EPUB ² and heir of a country suire and his boyhood was privile.



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 crowded market As for the monsters they were uite ordinary human beings prosaically engaged in getting their living through illegal methods The only genuine monster was the young foreigner who passed gaily through these scenes of desolation misinterpreting them to suit his childish fantasy” Christopher Isherwood Christopher IsherwoodIsherwood wrote the above uote in the forward to a book by Gerald Hamilton aptly called Mr Norris and I that was published in 1956 Isherwood based the character of Mr Norris on his friend Gerald Hamilton Isherwood was being hard on himself He originally went to Berlin in the 1930s to experience the deviant sexual lifestyle that was available to a young Englishman in search of expressing his sexual preferences preferences that may have been considered deviant in the community he grew up in In 1935 when this book was published very few people knew just how horrible things would become and those that could imagine some of it could not imagine the worst of it William Bradshaw names that come from Isherwood’s middle names comes to Berlin in search of adventure He meets the enigmatic Arthur Norris on the train and despite the best efforts of the subject of his interest to warn him that all was not as it seemed Bradshaw becomes fast friends with Norris As Bradshaw learns about Norris’s nefarious affairs all revolving around Arthur’s frivolous use of money when he had some and a penchant for criminal behavior when he needed William expects to be kept abreast of the rise and fall of Norris’s fortunes After all Norris and his peculiar behavior are a major form of entertainment for him When Arthur is called away on “business” in Paris or actually running away from a problem that has becomewelltoo problematic William realizes that he has formed an unnatural attachment to his friend ”My first reaction was to feel perhaps unreasonably angry I had to admit to myself that my feeling for Arthur had been largely possessive He was my discovery my property I was as hurt as a spinster who had been deserted by her cat And yet after all how silly of me Arthur was his own master; he wasn’t accountable to me for his actions I began to look round for excuses for his conduct and like an indulgent parent easily found them Hadn’t he indeed behaved with considerable nobility? Threatened from every side he had face his troubles alone He had carefully avoided involving me in possible future unpleasantness with the authorities”Norris is a survivor so despite whatever noble characteristics that Bradshaw wishes to naively attach to Norris ultimately if need be he would trade anyone or anything to avoid pain unpleasantness or imprisonment Now on the other hand Bradshaw is basically a tourist on extended vacation in Berlin tutoring people to keep himself in pocket money He can feel some of the thrill of associating with criminals communists and people engaging in “perverted” behavior but at the end of the day when the chips are down he can ring up the embassy and find himself safely back on a train to England As Norris’s friends begin to disappear some turning up dead and others providing information that tightens the net around Norris’s activities Bradshaw begins to feel uncomfortable The game has become all too real Norris has a predilection to being dominated and beaten A severe young lady named Anni with long boots and an assortment of whips provides him with the euivalent of sexual release in the form of controlled torture To Norris Anni is a beauty beyond earthly compare ”Do you think it’s an exuisitely beautiful face? uite perfect in its way Like a Raphael Madonna The other day I made an epigram I said Anni’s beauty is only sin deep I hope that is original? Is it? Please laugh”Isherwood decided not to make Bradshaw gay He did not want to distract the reader or give the reader a reason not to identify with the character He basically made him asexual He is subject to an occasionally pawing or a game of footsy from time to time but overall he is an observer a keen observer of the behavior of others You can almost sense the stories that Isherwood wanted to tell about his experiences in Berlin They are there in this book just barely off stage If you listen closely you might even hear an occasional muffled scream or cry of pleasure coming from a back bedroom or sifting through the floorboards from downstairs The book did remind me of a class I had in sixth grade The teacher’s first name was Francis which I remember because I had an Aunt named Frances and I couldn’t figure out why this guy was named Francis He decided as a lesson in discrimination to take the most Aryan among us blond and blue eyed prefered and drap construction paper billboards around us graffitied with anti aryan rhetoric We also had to wear dunce caps and for the length of the school day one day only we had to walk to all our classes wearing these ridiculous raiments Students continued to scrawl their own thoughts of our unworthiness on us as the day progressed I of course was an Aryan poster child a bit gaunt but you know the artist could have plumped me up a bit to promote a healthy version of Hitler youth It was one of the longest days of my life I will never forget the feeling of being held apart unable to escape even for a moment that I had been singled out for persecution It was horribleIt scared the crap out of meAnd it made me a better person ”They were suddenly proud to be blonde And they thrilled with a furtive sensual pleasure like schoolboys because the Jews their business rivals and the Marxists a vaguely defined minority of people who didn’t concern them had been satisfactorily found guilty of defeat and the inflation and were going to catch it”This was really just an entertainment a very good one with witty prose and interesting characters Mr Norris in his assortment of vanity wigs and his troubles with an irate butler intent on his destruction will reside in my memory forever Bradshaw shadowy though he was still provided us with a view of events filled with awe and excitement He was a puppy let loose from his society shackles to explore whatever scent caught his attention I do wonder what kind of gritty novel this would have been if Isherwood had not been afraid of losing the monetary sponsorship of an indulgent Uncle or of incurring the ire of his friends William receives a message from Arthur that may just sum up the whole novel ”Tell me William his last letter concluded what have I done to deserve all this?”If you wish to see of my most recent book and movie reviews visit also have a Facebook blogger page at


  2. says:

    William Bradshaw an Englishman living in Berlin meets on the train Mr Norris He is remarkable and I may even say sophisticated person; by turns charming and crafty narcissistic and vain his manners and attire are elegant and impeccable and his approach to life may be summed up in his own words I only wish to have three sorts of people as my friends those who are very rich those who are very witty and those who are very beautiful No wonder that from the first moment William is fascinated by Arthur Norris and accidental meeting right away turns into friendshipWilliam in good faith and due to innate gullibility I show him a little mercy not naming it stupidity attends new friend's life He accompanies Arthur to Berlin's underworld engages in political activity and convinced about his financial problems let himself get entangled in spy affair His interest and friendship to Norris does not falter despite warnings from other friends and Arthur's opaue explanations about his finances dubious activities and disreputable acuaintances Mr Norris changes trains is very well written novel with great evocation of prewar Berlin its inhabitants and decadent atmosphere And though we can sense overwhelming presence of coming Nazis novel has ironic touch and abounds in hilarious incidents Isherwood focuses predominantly on Norris but also introduces distinctive and memorable supporting characters like Baron Pregnitz indulging himself with peculiar likings Olga rather resourceful woman she was a procuress a cocaine seller and a receiver of stolen goods; she also let lodgings took in washing and when in mood did exuisite fancy needlework dominattrix Anni or devious Arthur's assistant Schmidt of whom Arthur used to say those who are foolish enough to keep snakes as pets usually have cause to regret it sooner or later We can observe born of the fascism participate in communist rally and drunken orgy as well and our pockets are empty due to galloping inflation But in the turn of events step by step we're coming to the truth of the real Arthur's face and in the end despite his ridiculous excuses and attempts to justify himself we can even oddly enough pity him though we can’t deny that he got exactly what he deserved And I may assure you that it was not Anni's whip at all


  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 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


  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 part of true history and another plus for the short novel As part of The Berlin Tales of which I am henceforth bewitched I mean we yet have to meet Sally Bowles ain't we it is a nod to the writer's authentic experience of a crucial point in time That it is all laced delicately with gay wisdom wit makes it truly worthwhile


  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 then he stamps on your heart and never looks back This is a fantastic study of male friendship in the 30s aka hella gay and of the rise of Nazism It odd seeing just how much the people in this novel don't like Hitler or the Nazis even though this was published in 1933 they don't even know what's coming I must read Isherwood and so must you If you haven't read Isherwood then ugh what are you doing with your life?


  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 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


  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 his new friend freuently and becomes involved in his disreputable life and associates; including his bullying secretary Herr SchmidtMr Norris is a man who lives well despite his soon obvious lifestyle of debts despair and dodgy dealings The novel is set in 1930’s Berlin and so it is impossible to ignore the political situation unfolding there Mr Norris is keen to shine at the local Communist Party meetings but these activities also lead to him being uestioned by the authoritiesI have never read Christopher Isherwood before but I liked the way that the author allowed us to interpret events for ourselves He trusted the reader to keep up and so it is enough to infer certain things or show us glimpses so that we can make our own assumptions The style of the novel seems deceptively slight but this is a very clever book – beautifully written it flows wonderfully and is filled with great characters and has an excellent setting


  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 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 character?Sally 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


  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's a far cry from what I expected I also didn't see the point Not all fiction must have a point it can exist simply for the sake of itself but here given the structure and the characters it feels as if Isherwood should have delivered Apart from offering a screenshot of Berlin at the crossroads of History I didn't uite see the idea behind the story In any case it's a good fast read great to get into Isherwood


  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 charming scoundrel William meets Mr Norris on the train in the first chapter and sadly there aren’t that many trains afterwards Sadly as I love reading about what happens on the trains Mr Norris while keeping up the appearances of a refined Englishman of delicate sensibilities seems rather murky William’s favourite pastime becomes watching Mr Norris and gosh is that boy observant He notices everything every furtive glance every twitch of the mouth every tense muscle “’Do you know what time we arrive at the frontier?’Looking back on the conversation this uestion does not seem to me to have been particularly unusual It is true that I had no interest in the answer; I wanted merely to ask something which might start us chatting and which wasn’t at the same time inuisitive or impertinent Its effect on the stranger was remarkable I had certainly succeeded in arousing his interest He gave me a long odd glance his features seemed to stiffen a little It was the glance of a poker player who guesses suddenly that his opponent hold a straight flush and that he had better be careful At length he answered speaking slowly and with caution‘I’m afraid I couldn’t tell you exactly In about an hour’s time I believe ‘His glance now vacant for a moment was clouded again An unpleasant thought seemed to tease him like a wasp; he moved his head slightly to avoid itI told you; nothing goes past this boy But you get used to it and become eually obsessed about every change in Mr Norris’ body language trying to read what he’s not telling you and that’s uite a lot Isherwood has created a rich and fascinating character apparently he didn’t create him from scratch as Mr Norris was modeled on Gerald Hamilton whom we can’t help but cut a lot of slack despite the fact he is obviously a total scumbag As a reader I found myself just as gullible as William while believing like him that I had it all under control and saw Mr Norris throughI liked this book a lot but maybe I’m wrong to like it Isherwood himself ended up hating it saying it was dishonest and shallow I think he is being too hard on himself Literally on himself because the narrator William Bradshaw is than just an alter ego; it’s the author himself Isherwood came to the conclusion that it was William who was the villain of the novel insensitive to the misery and horror that was surrounding him in the prewar Germany If I were Chris I wouldn’t beat myself about it so much His descriptions of the state of the decaying German society were powerful And I felt the sense of impending doom Although it was maybe because I knew how it all escalated Anyway he wouldn’t be the only one to dismiss the seriousness of the situation How do you think Chamberlain felt?There is so much awesomeness in this book like dominatrix scenes a sleazy homosexual baron playing footsie under the table a Communist pimp but I think you should read it all for yourself


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