Test
Download document

ISHERWOOD, Christopher

Goodbye to Berlin : excerpt

         From my window, the deep solemn massive street. Cellar shops where the lamps burn all day, under the shadow of top-heavy balconied facades, dirty plaster frontages embossed with scrollwork and heraldic devices. The whole district is like this: street leading into street of houses like shabby monumental safes crammed with the tarnished valuables and second-hand furniture of a bankrupt middle class.         

I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking. Recording the man shaving at the window opposite and the woman in the kimono washing her hair. Some day, all this will have to be developed, carefully printed, fixed.

        At eight o’clock in the evening the house-doors will be locked. The children are having supper. The shops are shut. The electic sign is switched on over the night bell of the little hotel on the corner, where you can hire a room by the hour. And soon the whistling will begin. Young men are calling their girls. Standing down there in the cold, they whistle up at the lighted windows of warm rooms where the beds are already turned down for the night. They want to be let in. Their signals echo down the deep hollow tree, lascivious and private and sad. Because of the whistling, I do not care to stay here in the evenings. it reminds me that I am in a foreign city, alone, far from home. Sometimes I determine not to listen to it, pick up a book, try to read. But soon a call is sure to sound, so piercing, so insistent, so despairingly human, that at last I have to get up and peep through the slats of the venitian blind to make quite sure that it is not as I know very well it could not possibly be for me.

* * *

        The extraordinary smell in this room where the stove is lighted and the window shut; not altogether upleasant, a mixture of incense and stale buns. The tall tiled stove, gorgeously coloured, like an altar. The washstand like a Gothic shrine. The cupboard also is Gothic, with carved cathedral windows; Bismark faces the King of Purssian in stained glass. My best chair would do for a bishop’s throne. In the corner, three sham medieval halberds are fastened togeher to form a hatstand. Frl. Schroeder unscrews the heads of the halberds and polishes them from time to time. They are heavy and sharp enough to kill.

        Everything in the room is like that: unnecessarily solid, abnormally heavy and dangerously sharp. Here, at the writing table, I am confronted by a phalanx of metal objects -- a pair of candlesticks shaped like entwined serpents, an ashtray from which emerges the head of a crocodile, a paper knife copied froma Florentine dagger, a brass dolphin holding on the end of its tail a small broken clock. What becomes of such things? How could they ever be destroyed? They will probably remain intact for thousands of yeasr: people will treasure them in museums. Or perhaps the will merely be melted down for munitions in a war. Every morning Frl. Schroeder arranges them very carefully in certain unvarying positions: there they stand, like an uncomprosmising statement of her views on Capital and society, Religon and Sex.