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By Norman

Like Paris within the '20s, Berlin within the early thirties was once essentially the most interesting towns on the planet. because the Weimar Republic sputtered to an in depth and battle loomed at the horizon, town used to be a magnet for gifted writers and artists. It was once during this now-vanished time and position that W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood lived, wrote and slept jointly. Norman web page tells the tale of the way those years formed those very important writers and, in doing so, illuminates a bygone period.

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Moreover, frankness, both in emotional declarations and in sexual explicitness, comes much more easily to the inhibited when a foreign tongue is being spoken, provided that knowledge of the language is sufficiently rudimentary - as Isherwood's German certainly was at this stage. In a 1987 interview Spender also pointed to another dimension, remarking that 'sex with the working-class of course had political connotations. It was a way in which people with left-Wing sympathies could feel they were really getting in contact with the working class'.

At any rate they got on well enough for Isherwood to accept Francis's suggestion that he take a room in the same house, and Isherwood found it congenial enough to remain there after Francis left Berlin. He stayed, in fact, for about ten months, working on the third draft of The Memorial. So far as his social life was concerned, one of his great advantages was knowing very little German. For turning his back on England had set him free not only from family and background but from language and culture.

Through Karl he met a Communist ex-army gymnastics instructor called Erwin Hansen who was to remain a friend for some years and eventually leave Germany with him in 1933. Residents of the Institute were in the habit of meeting for tea each day in Giese's room, and this was only one item in an often rather formal community life that Isherwood seems to have come to share. Hirschfeld himself was getting on in years, had sober habits and went to bed early, but when he was away the younger residents would organise dinners and parties with dancing.

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