Berlin, Unter den Linden, Victoria Hotel zwischen 1890 und 1900 (wiki)

Quella notte che dormii per strada, a Berlino, fu la notte seguente al primo giorno che vi arrivai, un mattino di sette anni fa. Faceva febbraio fuori. Avevo viaggiato in treno tutta la notte, da Hauptbahnhof Station (Monaco), attraverso la Bavaria, la Turingia, Brandeburgo, fino a Zoologischer Garten, la stazione a ovest di Berlino in cui mi fermai. Non conoscevo nessuno, non avevo un posto dove dormire, appena 250 euro dentro la tasca dei jeans.
Di Zoologischer Garten avevo letto da ragazzina in quel romanzo di Christiane F., poi diventato un film nell’81.
C’è una cosa che caratterizza e distingue i luoghi, e questa è la luce. Berlino è una città di ombre. Profuma di sporco e graffiato. E’ una scheggia tra le costole degli edifici monumentali, le costruzioni moderne, tracce di guerra, avanzi di storia nelle rovine. Il Funkturm, la Neue Synagoge, il Muro, Christopher Street Day, il Checkpoint Charlie, Good Bye Lenin. Ogni angolo di Berlino è rottura e giunzione. Il tempo è una fotografia sgualcita e accartocciata negli angoli.
Qualche settimana fa ho trovato un romanzo che ho pensato sarebbe stato bello leggere a quei tempi, Goodbye to Berlin, dello scrittore inglese Christopher Isherwood. ‘Brilliant skretches of a society in decay’, avrebbe detto George Orwell
Christopher Isherwood nasce nel 1904 a Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire, in North West England, da padre tenente colonnello delle armi inglesi, morto durante la prima guerra mondiale. Dopo la morte del padre, Christopher la madre e il fratello minore si trasferiscono a Londra, dove lo scrittore intraprende un corso di medicina. Isherwood inizia a scrivere da ragazzino, dapprima poesie, poi un primo romanzo, All the Conspirators, del 1928, che non riscuote grande fortuna.
In quegli anni conosce W. H. Auden, di cui si innamora e per il quale abbandona medicina e si trasferisce a Berlino, dove i due vivranno insieme, con spirito da kamikaze, fino al ’38. E’ durante gli anni trascorsi nella repubblica di Weimar che Isherwood concentra la propria produzione narrativa prima di un definitivo trasferimento in America, da dissidente, dove inizia ad occuparsi di cinema, teatro e commedia.
Qualche anno prima, al cugino francese Ferdinand Bardamu, protagonista del romanzo Viaggio al termine della notte, di Louis-Ferdinand Céline, sarebbe toccata ben altra sorte; partito per la guerra, la prima, e rientrato a Parigi dall’America, avvierà uno studio medico a La Garenne-Rancya, rinomato sobborgo parigino che farà da cornice agli sproloqui dello scrittore contenuti  in questo romanzo meraviglioso pubblicato a cavallo fra le due guerre.
Goodbye to Berlin, del 1939, è parte di una raccolta ‘The Berlin Stories’ che inquadra la società berlinese attraverso gli occhi e l’umore della gente che Isherwood incontra per strada, nei campi da golf, nei club, le sale da tea, i salotti. Quasi la guerra fosse appena un contrattempo e un fastidio, e a farla soltanto i soldati e la gente ammazzata oltre il confine. I campi di concentramento uno scherzo d’ebrei, l’omosessualità una malattia infettiva, il nazismo una preghiera, Hitler un messia.

A collection of six overlapping short stories set against the backdrop of the declining Weimar republic as Hitler rose to power. Isherwood, appearing himself as a fictional narrator, lives as a struggling author in the German capital, describing his meetings with the decadent, often doomed eccentrics, bohemians, and showgirls around him. The sense of oblivious naivety to the gathering storm around them gives his characters tremendous pathos and tragedy. The title refers not just to Isherwood’s departure from a city he clearly loved, but also to the sense that the Berlin of the early thirties was irrecoverably destroyed by the rise of the Nazis, and the destruction of the Weimar State. Isherwood is evoking an age that will never be seen again. It’s not so much a story of sorrowful departure as an obituary.

via . BOOK REVIEW CHRISTOPHER ISHERWOOD GOODBYE TO BERLIN

The Berlin Stories ispirò il regista John Van Druten a dirigere il film ‘I am a Camera’, del 1951, una commedia ‘Cabaret’, del 1966, e l’omonimo film del 1972 che valse a Liza Minelli un Academy Award per aver interpretato Sally, una giovane flapper inglese in cerca di fortuna come attrice a Berlino
E’ giusto Sally Bowles il racconto più spassoso contenuto in Goodbye to Berlin, di cui vi propongo una parte
She lived a long way down the Kurfustendamm on the last dreary stretch which rises to Halensee. I was shown into a big gloomy half-furnished room by a fat untidy landlady with a pouchy sagging jowl like a toad. There was a broken-down sofa in one corner and a faded picture of an eighteenth-century battle, with the wounded reclining on their elbows in graceful attitudes, admiring the prancings of Frederick the Great’s horse.
‘Oh, hullo, Chris darling!’ cried Sally from the doorway. ‘How sweet of you to come! I was feeling most terribly lonely. I’ve been crying on Frau Karpf’s chest. Nicht wahr, Frau Karpf?’ She appealed to the toad landlady, ‘ich habe geweint auf Dein Brust.’ Frau Karpf shook her bosom in a toad-like chuckle.
‘Would you rather have coffee, Chris, or tea?’ Sally continued. ‘You can have either. Only I don’t recommend the tea much. I don’t know what Frau Karpf does to it; I think she empties all the kitchen slops together into a jug and boils them up with the tea-leaves.’
‘I’ll have coffee, then.’
‘Frau Karpf, Liebling, willst Du sein ein Engel und bring zwei Tassen von Koffee?’ Sally’s German was not merely incorrect; it was all her own. She pronounced every word in a mincing, specially ‘foreign’ manner. You could tell that she was speaking a foreign language from her expression alone. ‘Chris darling, will you be an angel and draw the curtains?’
I did so, although it was still quite light outside. Sally, meanwhile, had switched on the table-lamp. As I turned from the window, she curled herself up delicately on the sofa like a cat, and opening her bag, felt for a cigarette. But hardly was the pose complete before she’d jumped to her feet again:
‘Would you like a Prairie Oyster?’ She produced glasses, eggs and a bottle of Worcester sauce from the boot-cupboard under the dismantled washstand: ‘I practically live on them.’ Dexterously, she broke the eggs into the glasses, added the sauce and stirred up the mixture with the end of a fountain-pen: ‘They’re about all I can afford.’ She was back on the sofa again, daintily curled up.
She was wearing the same black dress today, but without the cape. Instead, she had a little white collar and white cuffs. They produced a kind of theatrically chaste effect, like a nun in grand opera. ‘What are you laughing at, Chris?’ she asked.
‘I don’t know, ‘I said. But still I couldn’t stop grinning. There was, at that moment, something so extraordinarily comic in Sally’s appearance. She was really beautiful, with her little dark head, big eyes, and finally arched nose- and so absurdly conscious of all these features. There she lay, as complacently feminine as a turtle-dove, with her poised self-conscious head, and daintily arranged hands.
‘Chris, you swine, do tell me why you’re laughing?’
‘I really haven’t the faintest idea.’
At this, she began to laugh too:’You are mad, you know!’
‘Have you been here long? I asked, looking round the large gloomy room.
‘Ever since I arrived in Berlin. Let’s see- that was about two months ago.’
Taken from ‘Goodbye to Berlin, by Christopher Isherwood, 1939

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