The Berlin Stories
by Christopher Isherwood
Time 100 Novels, Guardian 1000 Novels
There's not really a plot to The Berlin Stories, which is a series of short semi-autobiographical tales set in Berlin in the 1930's: instead, the tales are more about the the setting of the city itself and the characters that expatriate Isherwood (and his alter ego William Bradshaw) encounters in his semi-idle adventures. The Nazis are taking over Germany, which directly affects some of the Isherwood's friends, but for most of the people it's just background for their affairs, crimes, scandals, and insecurities. His famous "I am a camera" line has mostly been interpreted as Isherwood serving as a silent, non-participating observer, but it also reflects his unbiased eye: even when the narrator is personally hurt by Arthur Norris' machinations and Sally Bowles' capriciousness, he still sees their good points as well as their faults.