Zossener Straße 7 – The Cosy Corner was a shabby gay bar located in the working-class district of Kreuzberg, frequented by Auden, Isherwood, and other English writers. In their myth of Weimar Berlin, it came to embody the free and transgressive ethos of the city.
The Cosy Corner was a shabby gay bar located in the working-class district of Kreuzberg, just around the corner from W. H. Auden’s lodgings on Fürbingerstraße. Auden and Christopher Isherwood were regular customers, using it as a place to meet working-class men and boys. In Goodbye to Berlin (1939), Isherwood fictionalised the Cosy Corner as the ‘Alexander Casino’; and he revisited it many years later, in Christopher and His Kind (1976), as the site of his sexual initiation.
In Isherwood’s self-mythology, the Cosy Corner became symbolic of the complete rejection of bourgeois morality that Berlin enabled him to achieve. This was not a commercialised venue that catered for queer-curious straight customers and tourists, like the Eldorado, but a truly decadent place. Isherwood introduced other English visitors to the Cosy Corner, including John Lehmann, who left a candid account of his visit in his erotic memoir, In the Purely Pagan Sense (1976).
While these English writers used the Cosy Corner imaginatively to escape their social privilege, the working-class men and boys who sold their bodies there for money must have had a very different experience of the place. Their voices have remained unrecorded. But it is important to remember that Weimar Berlin’s internationally famous sex industry created exploitation as well as emancipation. Isherwood became aware of this problematic aspect of his narrative of sexual liberation in Berlin later in life, describing it as a ‘colonial situation’. Stefano Evangelista
1— See Aydan Greatrick, ‘“Goodbye the Berlin”: Sexuality, Modernity, and Exile’ http://refugeehistory.org/blog/2017/10/19/goodbye-to-berlin-sexuality-modernity-and-exile [accessed 9 March 2021].
2— Christopher Isherwood, Christopher and His Kind (London: Vintage, 2012), p. 33.