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Christopher Isherwood (Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood) Biography

(1904–87), (Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood), All the Conspirators, The Memorial, Mr Norris Changes Trains

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British novelist, born in Cheshire, educated at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. Isherwood knew W. H. Auden at his preparatory school, and Edward Upward (Allen Chalmers) at Repton and Cambridge; later he enjoyed a close friendship with Auden's Oxford friend, Stephen Spender, and played a strong creative part in the development of their poetry. His first novels, All the Conspirators (1928) and The Memorial (1932), are works revealing the moral bankruptcy of the English upper-middle class and its tendency to retreat into sickness and daydream. Mr Norris Changes Trains (1935), a short novel, and Goodbye to Berlin (1939), a sequence of short stories, reflect his years in Berlin during 192933 and are excerpts from a long novel of interconnected Berlin lives, ‘The Lost’, which was never completed; the novels are incomparable renderings of a society at the point of disintegration. Goodbye to Berlin contains the memorable ‘Sally Bowles’ (published separately, 1937) which was adapted for the stage by John Van Druten as I Am a Camera (1951) and as a musical (Cabaret, 1968). The memoir Lions and Shadows (1938) anatomizes his own and his friends' imaginations as they attempt to live with the demands of the larger world and to overcome the tensions imposed on their psyches by upperclass England. During the 1930s Isherwood collaborated with Auden on three plays, The Dog Beneath the Skin (1935), The Ascent of F6 (1936), and On the Frontier (1938); expressionist presentations of Freudian and Marxist ideas; and Journey to a War (1939), the fruits of their journey to China together. In 1939 Auden and Isherwood left for America; Isherwood received American citizenship in 1946. As a leading anti-Fascist writer, his departure from England was often seen as a defection. Isherwood settled near Hollywood, where he worked on film scripts, and associated with Aldous Huxley and Gerald Heard, whose pacifism he had come to share. His study of Hindu wisdom resulted in a translation, with Swami Prabhavananda, of the Bhagavad-Gita (1944) and Vedanta for the Western World (1945). The World in the Evening (1954), which contains a memorable account of a homosexual relationship, provides the first literary discussion of the term ‘camp’. The stories in Down There on a Visit (1962) carry frankness about homosexuality further still. This was followed by A Single Man (1964), A Meeting by the River (1967), Kathleen and Frank (1972), and the memoir Christopher and His Kind (1977). My Guru and His Disciple (1980) is a persuasive presentation of his religious re-education.

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