logo
livingroom

decorative bar

biographies


corner Last update of this page: August 13th 2017 corner
Christopher Isherwood
(August 26, 1904 - January 4, 1986) U.K. - U.S.A.

Christopher Isherwood

Poet, novelist, and playwright

separator

Isherwood & AudenIsherwood, whose full name was Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood, was born in Disley, Cheshire, into an upper-middle class British family, and studied at Cambridge.

He realized at the age of ten that he was gay, he would wrestle with other boys and often had orgasms. But it wasn't until he was in college in his late teens that he actually had sex with another man.

Isherwood's experiences in Berlin - including his love affair with Heinz Neddermeyer, his friendship with Jean Ross, and his correspondence with E.M. Forster - formed the basis of many of the young writer's early works, collectively known as "The Berlin Stories," including Goodbye to Berlin (later adapted into the musical Cabaret ).

In 1929, Isherwood abandoned his studies in London and, along with friend and occasional lover, W.H. Auden, escaped to the libertine culture of Weimar-era Berlin.

Isherwood, W. H. Auden, and Stephen Spender, are the three best-known gay British-born writers. During the years from 1929 to 1939, Isherwood taught and wrote in Berlin. In 1939 went to USA and was naturalized in 1946.

Christopher Isherwood
Christopher Isherwood, February 6, 1939. Photo by Carl van Vechten

Christopher Isherwood described his coming-out:

"I told my mother quite early on. She provoked me. She didn't believe in any sexual relation that didn't involve a woman. She could have respected a lesbian relationship, perhaps. But she didn't believe men did anything together."

After leaving Berlin in 1933, Isherwood traveled Europe and to China before ultimately setting sail for the United States, with Auden, in 1939.

Settling in California, Isherwood had friendships with established writers, like Aldous Huxley, and up-and-coming writers, like Truman Capote.

Bachardy IsherwoodIn 1953, Isherwood met Don Bachardy on the Santa Monica beach. He fell in love with the 18-year-old college student, who later achieved independent acclaim as a painter, and with whom Isherwood would have his most enduring relationship.

While his relationship with Don initially caused scandal among Isherwood's friends - he was thirty years Bachardy's senior - the two lovers stayed together until the older man's death. Don Bachardy became a celebrated portrait artist.

They settled in Santa Monica, California, where they lived until Isherwood's death. About his relationship with Don, Isherwood said:

"When you fall in love, you feel you've discovered the bird of paradise, the magic person from the Other Land. You suddenly see a human being in all his magic extraordinariness. And you know that you can never understand him, never take him for granted. He's eternally unpredictable-and so you are to him, if he loves you. And that's the tension. That's what you hope will never end."

Bachardy Isherwood
Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy (b. May 18, 1934), Los Angeles, California, c. 1955. Photo c/o @losangeleslibrary

Christopher IsherwoodThe two collaborated on a dramatization of Isherwood's novel A Meeting by the River and on a book, October, which paired Isherwood's prose with Bachardy's portraits.

Isherwood and Bachardy, lived together, quietly in California, for more than 35 years.

In the latter years of his life, Isherwood became more active in the gay-rights movement.

Isherwood's novel "A Single Man" is considered by some to be the finest ever written about a homosexual male.

Throughout his prolific writing career, Isherwood articulated a revolutionary perspective on homosexual love: pride.

Isherwood wrote in Christopher and His Kind ,

"Girls are what the State and the Church and the Law and the Press and the Medical Profession approve and command me to desire... That is the will of Almost Everyone, and their will means my death. MY will is to live according to my nature, and to find a place where I can be what I am... If boys did not exist, I would have to invent them."

Christopher Isherwood wrote Christopher and His Kind, an account of his life as a gay man, and The Berlin Stories, which were the basis for the play I Am a Camera (1951) and subsequently the musical and movie Cabaret (1969), inspired on his book Goodbye to Berlin.


Christopher Isherwood
Christopher Isherwood during a lecture at St. Michael's College, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, February 8, 1977. Photo © Jearld Moldenhauer

Christopher Isherwood died of prostate cancer; he was eighty-one.

separator

Sources: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - http://lgbt-history-archive.tumblr.com/

Works:

  • All the Conspirators (1928)
  • The Memorial (1932)
  • Mr.Norris Changes Trains (1935) Christopher Isherwood
  • The Last of Mr. Norris (1935)
  • The Dog Beneath the Skin (1936, with Auden)
  • The Ascent of F6 (1936, with Auden)
  • Lions and Shadows (1938)
  • On the Frontier (1938, with Auden)
  • Goodbye to Berlin (1939)
  • Journey to a War (1939, with Auden)
  • Prater Violet (1945)
  • The Condor and the Crows (1949)
  • The World in the Evening (1954)
  • Down There on a Visit (1962)
  • A Single Man (1964)
  • Exhumations (1966)
  • A Meeting by the River (1967)
  • Kathleen and Frank (1972)
  • Christopher and His Kind (1976, about himself and his male lovers)
  • My Guru and His Disciple (1980)
Click on the letter I to go back to the list of names

corner © Matt & Andrej Koymasky, 1997 - 2017 corner