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review 2018-02-02 22:20
La violetta del Prater - Christopher Isherwood,Giorgio Manganelli,Giorgio Monicelli

Scrive Manganelli nella nota finale: “Se Isherwood scrivesse musica, la sua predilezione ha qualcosa di infantile andrebbe ai fiati: romanzi per oboe, clarinetto, per corno di bassetto. Il corno di bassetto è aereo di quella ariosità serale e boschiva che s’accompagna ad una solitudine insieme pittoresca e irreparabile; un precario sorriso custodisce una delicata risonanza, l’allucinazione dell’eco, una sonorità pensosa, e insieme elegante; la sonorità delicata di una angoscia ostinata ma inafferrabile; l’imprecisa, cattivante angoscia dell’esistenza.”

Londra, anni Trenta. 
Chatsworth sogna di realizzare una Tosca scritta da Maugham, con Greta Garbo come protagonista, invece è alle prese con La violetta del Prater. A dirigerlo è il regista ebreo-tedesco Friedrich Bergmann, sceneggiatore il giovane e promettente scrittore Christopher Isherwood. 
Si lavora in un clima di esaltazione, di entusiasmo, ma in Europa incombe la catastrofe. A Berlino è in corso il processo per l’incendio del Reichstag; in Austria gli scontri con le masse operaie sono aspri, seguono arresti, condanne, uccisioni. Gli inglesi non vogliono credere. Non ancora. Meglio illudersi che non accadrà. Meglio non pensare allo scoppio di una guerra europea. Meglio vivere nell’inconsistenza della finzione.
“Questo rispettabile ombrello è la bacchetta magica con la quale l’inglese cercherà di fare scomparire Hitler. Quando poi Hitler rifiuterà di scomparire, allora l’inglese aprirà il suo ombrello e dirà: “Dopo tutto, che può farmi un po’ di pioggia?”. Ma la pioggia sarà una pioggia di bombe e di sangue. L’ombrello non è a prova di bomba”.
Solo Bergmann pare inquieto. Sente la guerra avvicinarsi. L’Austria, dove ha lasciato moglie e figlia, non è più sicura. 
E mentre fra le macchine dell’illusione volteggia la leggerezza, si scivola, dolcemente, verso il baratro della follia nazista. 

La favola bella è pretesto per riflettere. Perché certa “leggerezza” tanto leggera non è.
“Che cosa ti spinge a vivere? Perché non ti ammazzi? Perché si riesce a sopportare tutto? Che cosa te lo fa sopportare?
Potevo rispondere a una domanda del genere? No. Sì. Forse… Supponevo, vagamente, che fosse per una sorta di equilibrio, un complesso di tensioni. Si fa la cosa che viene dopo nell’elenco. Un pasto da consumare. Il capitolo undici da scrivere. Il telefono che suona. Si esce in taxi, diretti in un posto qualunque. Il proprio lavoro. I divertimenti. La gente. I libri. Le cose che si possono comperare nei negozi. C’è sempre qualche cosa di nuovo. Deve esserci. Diversamente, l’equilibrio verrebbe interrotto, la tensione spezzata.”


“La morte, bramata, temuta. Il sonno, tanto desiderato. Il terrore del sopraggiungere del sonno. La morte. La guerra. La vasta città addormentata, destinata alle bombe. Il rombo degli aeroplani incursori. Le batterie contraeree. Le urla. Le case sbriciolate. La morte universale. La mia morte. La morte del mondo visto, conosciuto, assaporato, tangibile. La morte col suo esercito di paure. Non le paure che tutti conoscono, le paure cui si fa pubblicità, ma quelle più terribili: le paure segrete dell’infanzia. Paura del tuffo dal trampolino, del cane del fattore e del cavallino del parroco, paura degli armadi, dei corridoi scuri, paura di spaccarsi un’unghia con un taglierino. E, al culmine, la più indicibilmente temibile, la paura prima: quella di aver paura.
[…]
Forse avrei potuto volgermi a Bergmann e chiedergli: «Chi sei? E io, chi sono? Che cosa facciamo qui?». Ma gli attori non possono rivolgersi domande simili durante lo spettacolo.”

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review 2018-01-18 03:15
A Single Man
A Single Man - Christopher Isherwood

I am just FLYING through books this year! I can't believe I've already finished my fourth book of the year. Granted, 3 of the 4 were pretty short so I have to take that into account, and should probably start reading some longer titles. Anyhow...

 

A Single Man was a stunning novel. Absolutely beautiful. I'm in love with the writing style and the way it almost reads like an inner monologue of George, despite being in 3rd person. 

 

The narrative is simple, following a typical day in the life of our protagonist, George, an English professor at a college in Los Angeles in the 1960s. His lover, Jim, has recently died and deals with the aftermath of that, as well as him interacting with his friend Charlotte and a student, Kenny. 

 

I vaguely remember watching the movie several years ago, but I don't remember enough of it to know how it compares to the novel. I'm certain the movie amped up the relationship between George and Kenny more than the book does, but I can't be certain. 

 

The ending is heartbreaking. The writing was subtle but beautiful, and Isherwood doesn't let a single word go to waste. I think this is probably my definition of the perfect novel. This is definitely being added to my list of favorites. HIGHLY recommend. 

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review 2017-07-29 20:54
A Single Man
A Single Man - Christopher Isherwood

Waking up begins with saying am and now.

That which has awoken then lies for a while staring up at the ceiling and down into itself until it has recognised I, and therefrom deduced I am, I am now. Here comes next, and is at least negatively reassuring; because here, this morning, is where it had expected to find itself; what’s called at home. But now isn’t simply now. Now is also a cold reminder; one whole day later than yesterday, one year later than last year.

Every now is labelled with its date, rendering all past nows obsolete, until – later or sooner – perhaps – no, not perhaps – quite certainly: It will come.

 

For its brevity, this book is packed with ideas and story. It's such a fine example of an author making every word count.

 

Making things count is also on the mind of George, our MC, who is trying to come to grips with life after the death of his partner, Jim. Right from the start of the book, he is looking for a way to emerge from his loss and live again as a single man. But in a setting where he cannot be openly himself, where he even feels like his best friend does not understand him, it is difficult for him to express himself and to be acknowledged. Instead, he feels invisible.

‘You’re going to walk home like that? Are you crazy? They’d call the cops!’

Kenny shrugs his shoulders good-humouredly.

‘Nobody would have seen us. We’re invisible – didn’t you know?’

Invisibility is a theme in that run through the book from George's bathroom window a few pages from the start to the invisible inner workings of his heart at the end of the book.  

It's an invisibility that is heartbreaking: George's expression of shock and grief at learning of Jim's death gets mistaken for ambivalence, and even when he breaks down at his friend Charlotte's it happens under the cloak of darkness. No one sees him. No one sees Jim. 

 

Christopher Isherwood is one of the writers that I would like to read more of. I had mostly thought of him as the creator of Sally Bowles and the Berlin novels that inform so much of our pop culture view of the 1920s, but this 1960s novel of his makes me really want to revisit the Berlin novels from the point of looking at his writing. I really loved how much he could make happen in a such a concise way.

But is all of George altogether present here? Up the coast a few miles north, in a lava reef under the cliffs, there are a lot of rock pools. You can visit them when the tide is out. Each pool is separate and different, and you can, if you are fanciful, give them names – such as George, Charlotte, Kenny, Mrs Strunk. Just as George and the others are thought of, for convenience, as individual entities, so you may think of a rock pool as an entity; though, of course, it is not.

The waters of its consciousness – so to speak – are swarming with hunted anxieties, grim-jawed greeds, dartingly vivid intuitions, old crusty-shelled rock-gripping obstinacies, deep-down sparkling undiscovered secrets, ominous protean organisms motioning mysteriously, perhaps warningly, toward the surface light. How can such a variety of creatures coexist at all? Because they have to. The rocks of the pool hold their world together. And, throughout the day of the ebb tide, they know no other.

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review 2017-01-03 12:20
Jacob's Hands
Jacob's Hands: A Fable - Aldous Huxley,Christopher Isherwood,Laura Archera Huxley

Deceivingly simple. Loved it! Simple and at the same time multiple layers that deal with ethical questions, faith, sense of self (and) love. Gorgeous.

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review 2016-08-20 21:12
A SINGLE MAN Review
A Single Man - Christopher Isherwood

Synopsis: Welcome to sunny suburban 1960s Southern California. George is a gay middle-aged English professor, adjusting to solitude after the tragic death of his young partner. He is determined to persist in the routines of his former life. A Single Man follows him over the course of an ordinary twenty-four hours. Behind his British reserve, tides of grief, rage, and loneliness surge―but what is revealed is a man who loves being alive despite all the everyday injustices.

 

When Christopher Isherwood's A Single Man first appeared, it shocked many with its frank, sympathetic, and moving portrayal of a gay man in maturity. Isherwood's favorite of his own novels, it now stands as a classic lyric meditation on life as an outsider.

 

*****

 

Never before have I identified so much with a character in a book than I did with George, the protagonist and titular character of A Single Man. Reading this book was an extraordinary experience for me because the author said things I've thought, but have never said aloud. It is a story which the inspiration for seems to have come straight from my own head. We all have that experience from time to time, and A Single Man was mine. George is a shy, introspective man. He compartmentalizes. He doesn't reach out, and hates that about himself. This book is a meditation on loneliness and 'outsiders'. 

 

This is a short book, detailing a day in the life of a lonely, gay college English professor who is still mourning the death of his lover. He's introverted and filled with rage, grief . . . He wants happiness. He wants peace. He wants stability. By the story's end there are hints that he could have that, that there is a possibility for him of moving on . . . but there might not be. This book is cold and honest, which I appreciate. The reader is not cheated.

 

George is a fascinating character, drawn remarkably by Christopher Isherwood. Written in the early '60s, the topic this novel most deftly covers — homosexuality — was, of course, highly controversial when this was published in 1964 and is still questionable in some corners of the world today. The subject matter is handled with loving care, never coming up short or crossing unnecessary lines. It all feels true.

 

This is a beautiful, moving, daring, and wholly original work worth reading at least once. I finished it in about four hours, and I was tempted to flip to the beginning and start again. This is a quiet, subdued work that yields many treasures, and is certainly among my very favorite reads of this year.

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