“It is indeed tragic to see how, even in these days, a clever and unscrupulous liar can deceive millions.”— “Mr. Norris”—himself a “clever and unscrupulous liar,” commenting on the far more dangerous one who took over Germany in 1933, in Christopher Isherwood, Mr. Norris Changes Trains (1935)
Christopher Isherwood’s novel is not just a study in a louche, corrupt con man, but also of how the society that makes his kind possible also endangers the prospects of democracy. I’m afraid that this year, as in no other in my lifetime (and that includes Richard Nixon’s twists and turns amid Watergate and his impeachment crisis), we are witnessing a similar frail democracy thrashing about. Let’s hope it doesn’t lead to what transpired in 1930s Germany.