Book Review: Prater Violet

Book Review: Prater Violet

Title: Prater Violet
Author: Christopher Isherwood
First Published: 1945
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars (average rating on Goodreads: 3.77)
Format: Paperback, 122 pages
First line: “Mr. Isherwood?”

Yes, the protagonist of this book is Mr. Isherwood himself. Quite unusual, but also quite brilliant. The story takes place in London just before WWII, where Isherwood is working on a screenplay with Friedrich Bergmann. We follow the writing process and part of the movie production of “Prater Violet” – probably inspired of Isherwood’s (i.e. the real Isherwood) own experience as a screenwriter in the 1930s.

The story is also about the friendship between Isherwood and Bergmann. Their relationship was very amusing to follow. What a character we have in Bergmann! Just take a look at what Bergmann utters after meeting Isherwood for the first time:

I am sure we shall be very happy together.
You know, already, I feel absolutely no shame before you.
We are like two married men who meet in a whorehouse.

I LOVE Isherwood’s writing! To me, he’s one of the best. And I always love his description of the 1930s and 40s. He knows how to create a interesting setting about to be destroyed by the Nazis lurking in the background. Take another look at what he says about the Nazis (again, speaking through Bergmann):

That is how they wish you to imagine them, as unconquerable monsters.
But they are human, very human, in their weakness.
We must not fear them. We must understand them.
It is absolutely necessary to understand them, or we are all lost.

Isherwood is a true master of setting, tone, characters and writing. His characters are always so real. And amusing. One of the things that really cracked me up was his description of himself as a fictional character: An arrogant, whiny, lazy little prat. But we love him for his honesty. And aren’t we all whiny, lazy and arrogant from time to time? And don’t we all know this feeling:

I was feeling temperamental and sulky that day, chiefly because I had a bad cold.
My conscience had driven me to Bergmann’s flat, and I felt that my sacrifice wasn’t being properly appreciated.
I had expected to be fussed over and sent home again.

That one made me laugh! So all in all, Prater Violet was an entertaining and unusual little story. But I’m still glad it was only 122 pages. I think I would have tired of the story had it been longer.


Ja, denne bogs hovedperson er selveste hr. Isherwood. Ret usædvanligt, men også ret genialt. Historien foregår i London lige før Anden Verdenskrig, hvor Isherwood arbejder på et manuskript sammen med Friedrich Bergmann. Vi følger deres skriveproces og noget af filmproduktionen til ”Prater Violet”- sandsynligvis inspireret af Isherwoods (dvs. den ”rigtige” Isherwood) egne erfaringer som manuskriptforfatter i 1930’erne.

Bogen handler meget om venskabet og samarbejdet mellem Isherwood og Bergman, og deres forhold var morsomt at følge. Sikke en karakter Bergmann er! Se fx hvad han siger efter at have mødt Isherwood for første gang:

I am sure we shall be very happy together.
You know, already, I feel absolutely no shame before you.
We are like two married men who meet in a whorehouse.

I ELSKER Isherwoods måde at skrive på! For mig er han en af de bedste. Og jeg er altid helt vild med hans beskrivelser af 1930’erne og 40’erne. Han kan virkelig beskrive et interessant men fredfyldt miljø på grænsen til at blive ødelagt af nazisterne, der lurer i baggrunden. Se fx hvad han – gennem Bergmann – siger om nazisterne:

That is how they wish you to imagine them, as unconquerable monsters.
But they are human, very human, in their weakness.
We must not fear them. We must understand them.
It is absolutely necessary to understand them, or we are all lost.

Isherwood er en sand mester i atmosfære, karakterer og sprog. Hans karakterer er altid så virkelige. En af de ting, der virkelig fik mig til at grine var hans beskrivelser af sig selv som en karakter i romanen: Et arrogant, klynkende og dovent lille fjols. Men vi elsker ham for hans ærlighed. Og er vi ikke alle klynkende, dovne og arrogante fra tid til anden? Og kender vi ikke alle denne følelse:

I was feeling temperamental and sulky that day, chiefly because I had a bad cold.
My conscience had driven me to Bergmann’s flat, and I felt that my sacrifice wasn’t being properly appreciated.
I had expected to be fussed over and sent home again.

Kan man andet end at grine? Alt i alt, var Prater Violet en underholdende og usædvanlig lille historie. Men jeg er stadig glad for den kun var på 122 sider. Jeg tror, jeg ville være blevet træt af historien, hvis den havde været længere.

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