Like Paris within the '20s, Berlin within the early thirties used to be probably the most fascinating towns on the earth. because the Weimar Republic sputtered to a detailed and conflict loomed at the horizon, the town was once a magnet for gifted writers and artists. It was once during this now-vanished time and position that W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood lived, wrote and slept jointly. Norman web page tells the tale of ways those years formed those vital writers and, in doing so, illuminates a bygone period.
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Extra resources for Auden and Isherwood The Berlin Years
In Hamburg he experienced 'a tremendous sense of relief, of having got away from Oxford and home'. Two Young Englishmen 47 As with Isherwood's early weeks in Berlin, the sense of what has been left behind seems almost stronger than the awareness of what it has been exchanged for. If Isherwood's idealised Germany is reminiscent of Forster's idealised Italy ('the beautiful country where they say "yes" '), it is because both were to a large extent lands of fantasy and wish-fulfilment, and Isherwood's great admiration for Forster is once more to the point here.
It was to be a long-term relationship, for, despite his initial enthusiasm for the pick-up bars, Isherwood, like Auden, was attracted by the idea of a stable, loyal and affectionate partnership. Otto's family came from the Polish Corridor, the area ceded by Germany to Poland under the terms of the Versailles Treaty, and, like so many other migrant families then and later, had settled in Berlin: he was 16 or 17, had Slav rather than German looks and was not conventionally handsome, was heterosexual, and cajoled Isherwood into spending more on him than he could afford.
The tour seems to have been decided on at a moment's notice, though the earlier (and ungraciously rejected) invitation to Gerhart suggests that he had already entertained the wish to visit the mountains. His itinerary included Magdeburg (a medieval and baroque city until it was smashed to pieces on a January night in 1945), Kassel, Marburg, Cologne (where he met one of the anonymous boys listed in his journal) and Essen, and he was accompanied throughout by a young man called Herbert (also on the list) as well as an unidentified Dutchman named Dan who evidently shared his sexual tastes.