Christopher Isherwood

Christopher Isherwood (1904-1986) rejected his role as heir to his family estate in the north of England, deliberately flunked out of Cambridge University, and in 1929 ran away to Berlin to find sexual freedom as a gay man, live among the working class, and to write. His reputation-making third and fourth novels—Mr. Norris Changes Trains and Goodbye to Berlin – offer an unparalleled portrait of Berlin during Hitler’s rise to power. His creation Sally Bowles, based on a Berlin friend, embodies his own rebellious spirit and his gift for turning shocking, even ugly truths into irresistible black comedy for mainstream audiences. With his lifelong friend the poet W.H. Auden, Isherwood wrote three plays which established them as leaders of the literary left. At the height of their fame, in 1938, they circled the globe to write a book about the Sino-Japanese war, then emigrated to the U.S. in January 1939. Isherwood settled in Hollywood and wrote for the movie studios. He also became a disciple of the Hindu monk Swami Prabhavananda. He lived as a monk himself during World War II, and with Prabhavananda made an acclaimed translation of the Bhagavad Gita. He became a U.S. citizen in 1946. In 1953, he began a relationship with Don Bachardy, eighteen years younger, who became a portrait painter. During their 33 years together, Isherwood produced the works that made him an icon of the gay liberation movement: his novel A Single Man and his ground-breaking autobiography Christopher and His Kind which retold his Berlin experiences, with the sex in, and described his years on the run from the Nazis with his German boyfriend Heinz Neddermeyer. Isherwood’s work includes nine novels, four volumes of autobiography, two travel books, a biography of Ramakrishna, countless screenplays, and over a million words of diaries.