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Biography of Christopher Isherwood (1904-1986)


Narrator and American born British dramatist, born in Disley (High Lane, Cheshire County) in 1904, and died in Santa Monica (California) in 1986.

Born in the bosom of a wealthy family - son of an army officer was the British-, it received a careful education from his early childhood, first at Repton School and then at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge University. Thanks to this select education, it also developed from an early age her innate inclination towards the study of the humanities and literary creation, and before having fulfilled the thirty already it had been know as a writer through some new narrations of undoubted interest, such as the titled All the Conspirators (1928) and The Memorial (1932).

Insert, from then on, in the main intellectual and artistic forums of England in the 1930s (in which participated both as a writer and in his capacity as Professor and journalist), shared one strong relationship of friendship with one of the great revelations of the English letters of the time, poet and dramatist of York Wystan Hugh Auden, with who came to write several plays written in verse, as the titled The dog beneath the skin (the dog beneath the skin, 1935), The ascent of F6 (the ascent of F6, 1936) and On the frontier (En la frontera, 1938). All them, Christopher, and Auden left patent well his interest in more radical proposals for the post-WWI German art, and, as far as theatrical concerns is concerned, his admiration for one of the best exponents of these new aesthetic trends, Bertolt Brecht.

Installed in Berlin between 1933 and 1936 (where shared housing with Auden and coincided with another former teammate of classroom interaction, the poet and critic Stephen Spender), he had the opportunity to attend as witness to the rise of Nazism, circumstances which contributed mightily to the forge in their ideology of a political commitment that, in its repudiation of all forms of totalitarianism that were taking over Europethen joined other many English authors of his generation (including the aforementioned Auden, who took an active part in the Spanish Civil War by the Republican Army in 1936). The theme of Nazism seized, in addition, the literary production of Christopher Isherwood, who reflected their ravages in the fictionalized autobiography Lions and shadows (Lions and shadows, 1938) and some novels as bright as Mr. Norris changes train (El Mr Norris changes of train, 1935) and Goodbye to Berlin (goodbye to Berlin, 1939). The first of these stories describes the corruption of Berlin - City that had become, in those years, the core theme of his work - through the degradation of a character; the second, which uses the technique of the story to reflect the interwar Berlin, led years later to one of the films that have addressed the phenomenon of Nazism with greater rigour and originality: Cabaret, the American filmmaker Bob Fosse, starring Liza Minelli, Michael York Helmut Criem and Marisa Berenson. But the success of this novel by Isherwood (starring the English girl Sally Bowles, cabaret in a sleazy Berlin night club) already had generated, long before the premiere of the aforementioned film of Fosse, other curious adaptations, as the play by John van Druten-I Am a Camera (1951), in which an immediate film version entitled I am became in turn a camera (1955)shot by South African director Henry Cornelius. In 1968, Americans Kander and Ebb presented with great success the musical entitled Cabaret, directly inspired by the original Isherwood narration and soon after become the immediate base to the script of the homonymous film that rescued from oblivion this great novel that was Goodbye to Berlin, more than thirty years after its first edition.

The same year that the printing press gave this narration, Christopher Isherwood also published a travel book titled Journey to a War (1939), written in collaboration with her at that then inseparable Auden and centered in the long journey that both authors had been carried out by the distant and mysterious China. A few months before the appearance of this volume (in particular, in January of that year of 1939), before the imminent outbreak of World War II, the two British writers had migrated to the United States of America, where would acquire American citizenship in 1946.

Deeply affected by the cruelty of the warlike contest, Christopher Isherwood experienced a deep self-absorption that it manifested itself above all in its increasingly more pronounced tendency to autobiography, well patent in some narrations so intense as A Single Man in his literary production, (a single man, 1964) that reflects the loneliness of a homosexual who stops to analyze their own existence - and A Meeting by the River (1967) - where he proposes as a model of life the meditation and contemplation, after being converted to Hinduism through the reading of the works of the philosopher of Calcutta Narendranath Datta-. In the same intimate line must fit his splendid autobiographical recreation of the 1930s, published in 1976 under the title of Christopher and his kind, 1934-1939 (Christopher and his people, 1934-1939).

Other notable works of this second stage of his narrative production are the titled Prater violet (violet of the Prater, 1945), The World in the Evening (the world at dusk, 1954), Down There on Visit (1962), Kathleen and Frank (1971) and My Guru and his disciple (my guru and his disciple, 1980).

J. R. Fernández Cano.


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