Isherwood, Christopher

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Isherwood, Christopher

Christopher Isherwood (ish´ərwŏŏd), 1904–86, British-American author. After the appearance of his first novel, All the Conspirators (1928), Isherwood went to Germany. The four years he spent there furnished him with the material for what are probably his best novels, The Last of Mr. Norris (1935) and Goodbye to Berlin (1939; reissued as The Berlin Stories, 1946); these books formed the basis for John Van Druten's play, I Am a Camera (1951) and for the musical Cabaret (1966; film, 1972). The Berlin novels, which report on the period of social and political unrest during the Nazi rise to power, illustrate Isherwood's general concern with the problem of the intellectual in a tyrannical society.

A close friend of W. H. Auden, Isherwood collaborated with him on the dramas The Dog Beneath the Skin (1935), The Ascent of F6 (1936), and On the Frontier (1938), as well as on Journey to a War (1939), a book on China. Isherwood emigrated (1939) to the United States, becoming a citizen (1946). During the 1940s his interests turned to Hinduism; see his Essentials of Vedanta (1969). Among his later works are Prater Violet (1945), The World in the Evening (1954), Down There on a Visit (1962), A Single Man (1964), and Meeting by the River (1967) and a study of his parents, Kathleen and Frank (1971). Isherwood was an early advocate of discarding the taboos against homosexuality, a subject discussed in his memoir, Christopher and His Kind (1972).

See K. Bucknell, ed., Diaries (3 vol., 1997–2012) and The Animals: Love Letters between Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy (2014); his Lost Years: A Memoir, 1945–1951 (2000); and J. J. Berg and C. Freeman, ed., Conversations with Christopher Isherwood (2001); biography by P. Parker (2004); studies by C. G. Heilbrun (1970), P. Piazza (1978), S. Wade (1991), and K. Ferres (1994).

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