Simeonstraße – This typical working-class street was located in the district of Kreuzberg. Christopher Isherwood lived there for a period and used it as a setting in Goodbye to Berlin.
Simeonstraße was a typical working-class street of old Berlin located in the district of Kreuzberg. In 1930, Christopher Isherwood lived for a period at Simeonstraße 4, with the family of his teenage lover Walter Wolff. A fictional account of his experiences, titled ‘The Nowaks’, was published in the first issue of the British anti-fascist literary magazine New Writing, edited by John Lehmann. The story, which captures the harsh domestic life of working-class families in the city, then became part of Goodbye to Berlin (1939).
In Berlin’s large tenement blocks, revealingly known as Mietskasernen or rent barracks, wealthier families typically occupied apartments in the front, while poorer tenants were crammed in less spacious – often downright insalubrious – accommodations in the many inner courtyards. Inner courtyards are a distinctive and now much beloved feature of Berlin’s urban landscape. Isherwood gave a vivid description of the life of the inner courtyards on Simeonstraße. The experience of social injustice in Berlin made a strong impression on Isherwood, W. H. Auden and Stephen Spender. All raised in privileged circumstances in Britain, these writers experienced working-class life for the first time in Berlin, often introduced by young prostitutes and male lovers. Stefano Evangelista