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Originally published in 1976, Christopher and His Kind covers the most memorable ten years in the writer's life-from 1929, when Isherwood left England to spend a week in Berlin and decided to stay there indefinitely, to 1939, when he arrived in America. His friends and colleagues during this time included W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender, and E. M. Forster, as well as colorful Originally published in 1976, Christopher and His Kind covers the most memorable ten years in the writer's life-from 1929, when Isherwood left England to spend a week in Berlin and decided to stay there indefinitely, to 1939, when he arrived in America. His friends and colleagues during this time included W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender, and E. M. Forster, as well as colorful figures he met in Germany and later fictionalized in his two Berlin novels-who appeared again, fictionalized to an even greater degree, in I Am a Camera and Cabaret. What most impressed the first readers of this memoir, however, was the candor with which he describes his life in gay Berlin of the 1930s and his struggles to save his companion, a German man named Heinz, from the Nazis. An engrossing and dramatic story and a fascinating glimpse into a little-known world, Christopher and His Kind remains one of Isherwood's greatest achievements. A major figure in twentieth-century fiction and the gay rights movement, Christopher Isherwood (1904-1986) is the author of Down There on a Visit, Lions and Shadows, A Meeting by the River, The Memorial, Prater Violet, A Single Man, and The World in the Evening, all available from the University of Minnesota Press.


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Originally published in 1976, Christopher and His Kind covers the most memorable ten years in the writer's life-from 1929, when Isherwood left England to spend a week in Berlin and decided to stay there indefinitely, to 1939, when he arrived in America. His friends and colleagues during this time included W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender, and E. M. Forster, as well as colorful Originally published in 1976, Christopher and His Kind covers the most memorable ten years in the writer's life-from 1929, when Isherwood left England to spend a week in Berlin and decided to stay there indefinitely, to 1939, when he arrived in America. His friends and colleagues during this time included W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender, and E. M. Forster, as well as colorful figures he met in Germany and later fictionalized in his two Berlin novels-who appeared again, fictionalized to an even greater degree, in I Am a Camera and Cabaret. What most impressed the first readers of this memoir, however, was the candor with which he describes his life in gay Berlin of the 1930s and his struggles to save his companion, a German man named Heinz, from the Nazis. An engrossing and dramatic story and a fascinating glimpse into a little-known world, Christopher and His Kind remains one of Isherwood's greatest achievements. A major figure in twentieth-century fiction and the gay rights movement, Christopher Isherwood (1904-1986) is the author of Down There on a Visit, Lions and Shadows, A Meeting by the River, The Memorial, Prater Violet, A Single Man, and The World in the Evening, all available from the University of Minnesota Press.

30 review for Christopher and His Kind: A Memoir, 1929-1939

  1. 5 out of 5

    Seth

    Christopher Isherwood wrote several books about his experiences in the 1930s, including his Berlin Stories. But on the first page of Christopher and His Kind, he tells us that he wasn't completely honest in these earlier works, that he left out important details about himself, and that he now intends to, um, set the record straight. To tell his story, he draws on both memory and documentary evidence in the form of letters, diaries, and passages from his novels. The book has a definite "meta-" qua Christopher Isherwood wrote several books about his experiences in the 1930s, including his Berlin Stories. But on the first page of Christopher and His Kind, he tells us that he wasn't completely honest in these earlier works, that he left out important details about himself, and that he now intends to, um, set the record straight. To tell his story, he draws on both memory and documentary evidence in the form of letters, diaries, and passages from his novels. The book has a definite "meta-" quality, in the sense that he uses "Christopher" to describe himself in the 1930s, "I" to describe himself in the present, and "Isherwood" to describe the narrator of Berlin Stories. (I see other reviewers complaining this is weird and difficult to follow, but this wasn't my experience.) So what's the book about? Like any memoir, it focuses on the subject's day-to-day life: we see him interact with famous friends; move from place to place (he winds up in China at one point); react to historical events (Hitler, etc.); and write books, plays, and film scripts. We also see his private life, which (not to put too fine a point on it) revolves around twinks, specifically 16-17 year-old boys. "Why do I prefer boys?" he asks early-on. "Because of their shape and their voices and their smell and the way they move..." Clearly not for the faint of heart. Of course, from our 21st-century perspective, we can't help asking a couple of questions here: (a) Um...isn't that illegal? (b) You know teenage boys create a whole lot of drama, right? The answer to both questions is Yes, although it's (b) rather than (a) that causes most of Christopher's problems. Well, (b) plus a little thing called Fascism. So is the book worth reading? Absolutely. First, as a chronicle of gay life in the 1930s, with descriptions of the boy bars, dance halls, and hook-up culture of the time. Second, as the story of a gay man accepting who he is - not all at once and not without difficulty - and realizing, "My will is to live according to my nature, and to find a place where I can be what I am..." This place, of course, turns out be California - but that's the story for another book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Barney

    "he must never again give way to embarrassment, never deny the rights of his tribe, never apologize for its existence..." christopher and his kind provides a fascinating depiction of (privileged) gay life in western europe in the tinderbox years before ww2. what struck me thoroughly was how relatively uninhibited isherwood and his close circle of gay friends were. if i do come across gay characters set in this period, i'm used to them being deeply repressed and thoroughly self-hating, often torn "he must never again give way to embarrassment, never deny the rights of his tribe, never apologize for its existence..." christopher and his kind provides a fascinating depiction of (privileged) gay life in western europe in the tinderbox years before ww2. what struck me thoroughly was how relatively uninhibited isherwood and his close circle of gay friends were. if i do come across gay characters set in this period, i'm used to them being deeply repressed and thoroughly self-hating, often torn between family/duty and love - it was refreshing to read that here it wasn't really the case. while persecuted by society, they still lived and loved relatively openly. interestingly isherwood uses 'christopher', rather than the first person, for what is essentially an autobiography. in all of the books of his i've read so far, you get a real sense of isherwood having lived each moment through what he could later write about it - placing himself as a character ('christopher') in his own autobiography is an extension of that. it also somewhat mischievously makes the book even harder to categorize, to its merit. also worthy of mention, and something that (for some reason) i wasn't quite expecting, was the sheer amount of famous people who pop up in. it's almost ridiculous! w.h. auden, e.m. forster, virginia and lenoard woolf, benjamin britten, thomas mann and his family, to name just a few. to get the most out of this book, i think you have to read isherwood's earlier works - he goes into them in quite some detail, fleshing out the real people behind his eccentric cast of characters, and filling in the (gay) details left unsaid or subverted in his earlier fiction. part travelogue, part memoir, part fiction, part revisionist history, i don't think i've ever read anything quite like it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nigeyb

    Frank, and beautifully written, however I was less captivated than I'd expected Immediately prior to reading "Christopher and His Kind" by Christopher Isherwood I read, and really enjoyed, "Mr Norris Changes Trains”, so I was excited to find out more about Christopher Isherwood’s life during the 1930s. "Christopher and His Kind" is an autobiographical account of Christopher Isherwood's life from 1929, when he left England to spend a week in Berlin and decided to stay there indefinitely, through to Frank, and beautifully written, however I was less captivated than I'd expected Immediately prior to reading "Christopher and His Kind" by Christopher Isherwood I read, and really enjoyed, "Mr Norris Changes Trains”, so I was excited to find out more about Christopher Isherwood’s life during the 1930s. "Christopher and His Kind" is an autobiographical account of Christopher Isherwood's life from 1929, when he left England to spend a week in Berlin and decided to stay there indefinitely, through to 1939, when he arrived in America. I hoped "Christopher and His Kind” would provide new insights into both Berlin in the 1930s and, in particular, the events related in "Mr Norris Changes Trains". The first thing that struck me was the use of the third person. Christopher Isherwood wrote "Christopher and His Kind" in the early 1970s and so I assume he decided to treat “Christopher” (his younger self) as a separate character. If so, whilst I understand the rationale, I found it both distracting and confusing. Christopher Isherwood explains how he kept himself out of the Berlin stories as he thought his homosexuality would distract from the narrative and, understandably given the attitudes of the era, he was guarded about being explicit. There is no such evasiveness or coyness in "Christopher and His Kind" - he is frank and open about his sex life and his relationships. As such "Christopher and His Kind” also reflects the era in which it was written (the early 1970s) as gay liberation was gaining momentum whilst Isherwood was writing this book. I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I hoped or expected. As always, Christopher Isherwood writes beautifully about the pre-war era, however it was too detailed for my level of interest and, as I said at the outset, the use of the third person did not work for me. I enjoyed reading about Gerald Hamilton, the real life Arthur Norris from "Mr Norris Changes Trains", and who was every bit as venal and morally bankrupt as his fictionalised version, and there are also some interesting anecdotes involving Isherwood’s friends W.H. Auden, Stephen Spender, and E.M. Forster. Overall though I was less captivated than I had hoped and expected. 3/5 Click here to read my review of "Mr Norris Changes Trains" by Christopher Isherwood

  4. 5 out of 5

    E

    Isherwood fills my mind and heart with his intelligence, serenity and pure literate swooning (poising over young boys- excuse the pun, without being irritating or disgusting in the detail). What I mean to say is this, for me, Isherwood, as with Wilde, Gibson (and other gay writers) fills my heart with this sense that, 'we are not alone'. Cliched, perhaps, but here's a few thoughts: 1. The topsellers among teenagers in recent years (The Hunger Games, Twilight etc.) have followed 'straight' relation Isherwood fills my mind and heart with his intelligence, serenity and pure literate swooning (poising over young boys- excuse the pun, without being irritating or disgusting in the detail). What I mean to say is this, for me, Isherwood, as with Wilde, Gibson (and other gay writers) fills my heart with this sense that, 'we are not alone'. Cliched, perhaps, but here's a few thoughts: 1. The topsellers among teenagers in recent years (The Hunger Games, Twilight etc.) have followed 'straight' relationships, rather than the rational, and oh-so-common notion that some of their readers may in fact be GAY. 2. 'Fifty Shades of Grey' sold 60 million copies. That's almost one per person in the UK. Does it follow the (rather disturbing) relationship between two men, or two women? No. But somehow society still condones it, despite the awful fact that many have linked its pages with domestic and sexual abuse. 3. 'Christopher and his Kind' not only demonstrates his homosexuality, but Isherwood admits there were other implications behind it. A sense of rebellion against his mother. His difficult relationship with his brother as a result. 4. We see that it wasn't always easy- Heinz was punished for his homosexuality in the end. And there had to be a victim- there had to be a corrupt party in order for this to take place. 5. This book may be discussing the 30s-40s but the connotations have not escaped the twenty-first century. They're still here. I, personally, feel that Isherwood is one of the most under-rated authors Britain has ever produced. His work follows his personal life, which I simply love. He depicted straight relationships, gay relationships and all the gruesome details of both. For those reason he talks to our hearts, and with his wit and intelligence, our minds too.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    In this memoir of 1930s Berlin Isherwood reflects on the writing of "The Berlin Stories," shifting back and forth between his real-life friends and events and the fictional characters and events they inspired. It sounds tiresome but it really works, and is even comprehensible to someone who hasn't read "The Berlin Stories." Because Nabokov lived, worked and set almost all of his Russian novels in 1920-30s Berlin, I'm accustomed to thinking of the city as his ground, but Isherwood made his own wo In this memoir of 1930s Berlin Isherwood reflects on the writing of "The Berlin Stories," shifting back and forth between his real-life friends and events and the fictional characters and events they inspired. It sounds tiresome but it really works, and is even comprehensible to someone who hasn't read "The Berlin Stories." Because Nabokov lived, worked and set almost all of his Russian novels in 1920-30s Berlin, I'm accustomed to thinking of the city as his ground, but Isherwood made his own world of it, too. The cover of this edition is rather lame, a Herbert List photograph of a scrawny teen in tighty-whities, standing contrappasto in knee-deep water. Now, I realize that publishers cannot issue a book by a gay writer without a homoerotic cover image, but come on: Herbert List has better pictures...and there's always August Sander if you want great images of German society at the time.

  6. 4 out of 5

    katrina

    So many things I loved about this book- 1. Clever switching between first and third person throughout. He'll say "I think that Christopher should have realized bla bla bla" when speaking about his current opinions and thoughts on himself in the past. 2. I had previously read "The Berlin Stories" and loved the way in which he described the "fictional" characters. In this work, he introduces them again but as actual people. It was funny to hear him admit that the girl upon whom "Sally Bowles" is bas So many things I loved about this book- 1. Clever switching between first and third person throughout. He'll say "I think that Christopher should have realized bla bla bla" when speaking about his current opinions and thoughts on himself in the past. 2. I had previously read "The Berlin Stories" and loved the way in which he described the "fictional" characters. In this work, he introduces them again but as actual people. It was funny to hear him admit that the girl upon whom "Sally Bowles" is based is somewhat warped in his memory, because of the version of her in the book, the version of her in the play, the version of her in the movies, and all of the actresses who have played her. No one is any less interesting, and it was good to meet the narrator of the stories- Isherwood was always very careful to leave himself (and mainly his homosexuality) out of the stories in order for the reader to better relate to him and the action. 3. There is very little plot, which some might have a problem with. The main action of the book is Isherwood traveling with his lover all over the world for several years, avoiding the oncoming war with Germany. The characters all react to this imminent danger in different ways, catastrophizing or genuine bravery or ignoring it entirely. 4. If you know anything of Isherwood's biography, the last passage of the book will just kill you. Especially if you ever get a chance to see the film "Chris and Don: A Love Story". I highly recommend it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

    The first book that I picked up after completing the last course for my English M.A. program was one that had been hovering near the top of my to-read list for a long while: Isherwood’s elegant autumnal autobiography Christopher and His Kind. If I had realized how much of it is devoted to clarifying references contained within The Berlin Stories and other earlier texts–almost all of which I have not yet read–I might have held off, but it turns out prior knowledge is not at all necessary to enjoy The first book that I picked up after completing the last course for my English M.A. program was one that had been hovering near the top of my to-read list for a long while: Isherwood’s elegant autumnal autobiography Christopher and His Kind. If I had realized how much of it is devoted to clarifying references contained within The Berlin Stories and other earlier texts–almost all of which I have not yet read–I might have held off, but it turns out prior knowledge is not at all necessary to enjoy Isherwood’s book. Rather, I was constantly drawn to the formal quality of “rewriting”–of Isherwood very consciously revisiting events that had found their way into his autobiographical writing over the years, and then later attempting to set the record “straight” about them. Wonderfully enough, being set “straight” in this situation entails being forthright about queer dimensions that had had to be necessarily encoded, deleted, or obscured. It’s a wonderful account of a great 20th century queer life, and the many figures and events that intersected it. In addition, with the careful differentiation between “Christopher” and “I” Isherwood perfectly captures the sensation I often experience when revisiting my own memories: of feeling at once both connected to and severed from them, as if they were observed but not actually experienced firsthand, and that it is only through the process of writing them down–and rewriting them again and perhaps even again–that makes them feel most “real.” [Capsule review from the post My Year of Reading Queerly over at my blog, Queer Modernisms.]

  8. 5 out of 5

    Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)

    Allow me to bitch my way towards praising Isherwood's memoir: it grated that he told it in the third person with a few retrospective first person observations; too much of it was an undisciplined diary dump, too much again a dull exposé of who, and, tediously, to what degree, his characters were based on real people. That said, there are too many wonderful stories here of 1930s gay and literary life for this not to be an enthusiastic pick. Allow me to bitch my way towards praising Isherwood's memoir: it grated that he told it in the third person with a few retrospective first person observations; too much of it was an undisciplined diary dump, too much again a dull exposé of who, and, tediously, to what degree, his characters were based on real people. That said, there are too many wonderful stories here of 1930s gay and literary life for this not to be an enthusiastic pick.

  9. 5 out of 5

    martin

    Oddly enough, I read this after seeing cabaret but before reading the Berlin Novels. It's a fascinating (partial) autobiography - at times embarrassingly, almost painfully personal and honest - but what would you expect from a skilled writer recalling life in Berlin with several other bright young literary stars at one of the most fascinating periods of its history? The Christopher here is not the rather confused, bisexual and passive Christopher we know and love from Cabaret or the Berlin Novels Oddly enough, I read this after seeing cabaret but before reading the Berlin Novels. It's a fascinating (partial) autobiography - at times embarrassingly, almost painfully personal and honest - but what would you expect from a skilled writer recalling life in Berlin with several other bright young literary stars at one of the most fascinating periods of its history? The Christopher here is not the rather confused, bisexual and passive Christopher we know and love from Cabaret or the Berlin Novels. He's far deeper, far more angst-ridden, aware of his sexuality and also far more interesting in many ways. The joys of Bohemian life in Berlin with a small group of privileged and talented friends are juxtaposed to the sad and desperate realities of his relationship with a young German lover whose life seems increasingly threatened by the onset of Hitler and Nazism. It's fascinating to read this alongside the fictional account he gives in the Berlin Novels and the even more fictionalised Cabaret film. The atmosphere and mores of contemporary Britain and America limited in some ways the plot of his novels but this tells a truer and often less flattering picture.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sean Kennedy

    (3.5 / 5) A fascinating view of Hitler's rise to power through the eyes of a group of friends, but Isherwood's style of narrating in both first and third person tends to distance you from it emotionally. Sometimes this is effective, but there are also times when it is to its detriment. (3.5 / 5) A fascinating view of Hitler's rise to power through the eyes of a group of friends, but Isherwood's style of narrating in both first and third person tends to distance you from it emotionally. Sometimes this is effective, but there are also times when it is to its detriment.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    I should confess up front that I have never read The Berlin Stories, nor have I even seen Cabaret. Blasphemer! The ultimate bad gay! ...but I do like Isherwood? Or at any rate I loved A Single Man (novel & film!). I was a bit baffled to see so many reviews here note that reading about the writing of The Berlin Stories was tedious, because I actually found Isherwood's reflective, sometimes nostalgic relationship to his own earlier writing endlessly fascinating, particularly in the sense of his co I should confess up front that I have never read The Berlin Stories, nor have I even seen Cabaret. Blasphemer! The ultimate bad gay! ...but I do like Isherwood? Or at any rate I loved A Single Man (novel & film!). I was a bit baffled to see so many reviews here note that reading about the writing of The Berlin Stories was tedious, because I actually found Isherwood's reflective, sometimes nostalgic relationship to his own earlier writing endlessly fascinating, particularly in the sense of his comments about self-censoring and the ways in which he felt his sight about the situations he was narrating appears so limited in hindsight. More interesting was Isherwood's hazy delineation between the writing-I and "Christopher," as he frequently referred to his past self/selves. Recently I read Edmund White's "City Boy," where he has no interest in a kind of metatextual consideration of identity--memoir writing should be founded on fact and authenticity to White's mind; on the other hand, Isherwood/"I"/"Christopher" seems almost to eroticize his relationship with his past, and clearly believes that there can't be an objective relationship between the self and the world that the self experiences, because we are not transparent to ourselves, and our understanding of our social being necessitates far too many subjective filters. Despite White's protestations, I found Isherwood's notion of memoir writing far more truthful and nuanced. All that said, the memoir is also incredibly fun to read. It covers his major Berlin years--basically, from when he went there at the end of the 20s until he decided to sail for America at the end of the 30s. We see his love affairs, his novel-writing, his "slumming," his experience with the Hirschfield Institute. There's a great deal of his passionate friendship with Auden, and Stephen Spender and the Woolfs and Thomas Mann and his daughter all wriggle in and out of the narrative here. Obvs the rise of European fascism (well, mainly Hitler) casts a broad shadow over Isherwood's time in Germany. There's a terror to this tale that recalls V Woolf's journals and letters--also, Between the Acts, her final novel and the one most anxious about the oncoming War. Isherwood is a quite exciting prose writer, too: even in mundane sections, nothing seems to drag, as he's constantly tossing a witticism or a strange anecdote or a viciously honest comment on himself in. This was my first of a journey into the "gay memoir" (well, gay male memoir--for whatever reason, I have, like, a pretty solid history with lesbian fiction, but almost none with the tradition of My People??), and I couldn't be more glad to have it as the initial touchstone, though I imagine using it as my yardstick may be a bit overreaching. We shall see...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Erik

    The most ironic part of being a reader of "Christopher and His Kind" is that one regrets having not read the rest of his oeuvre while simultaneously experiencing the dragging feeling that one really doesn't want to read the rest of his works. While this work is certainly speckled with important thoughts about pre-war gay life and vibrant recountings of the fear and anxiety that rifled much of the European continent in the 30s, it is weighed down by the oblivious bourgeois narcissism of, who woul The most ironic part of being a reader of "Christopher and His Kind" is that one regrets having not read the rest of his oeuvre while simultaneously experiencing the dragging feeling that one really doesn't want to read the rest of his works. While this work is certainly speckled with important thoughts about pre-war gay life and vibrant recountings of the fear and anxiety that rifled much of the European continent in the 30s, it is weighed down by the oblivious bourgeois narcissism of, who would later become, one of Britain's foremost writers of the decade. Perhaps the most difficult part of the book is Isherwood's decision to give a third-person retelling - supposedly as a way to demarcate a distinction between his older self and his much younger (naive?) self. In the end, this makes it difficult both for the reader to emotionally connect with young Christopher and, in turn, it makes Christopher Isherwood himself come off as described above. This coupled with the fact that Isherwood-the-narrator regularly intercedes into the telling of Isherwood-the-protagonist, made this a book that was both emotionally shallow and difficult to connect with (which is surprising considering what should have been deeply emotional source material involving friends and lost lovers.) While I appreciate this work for its significance to gay literature and history and for its truthful tellings of pre-war Europe, it lacked the depth needed to draw readers in and keep them connected. Whether or not I pick up another Isherwood (I have already read "A Single Man," but any others...) is still to be determined.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jack (That English Guy who Reads)

    I should start by saying that I like why Isherwood felt the need to write this autobiography; to revise some of the suppressed sexual nature within his previous written works; to do justice to his own sexuality and to clearly take a stance on social attitudes. This is certainly a statement piece and a clear indicator of social progress (it was written in 1976. Context: the first Gay Pride Rally in London was held in 1972). Despite being autobiographical, however, you do feel some sense of distanc I should start by saying that I like why Isherwood felt the need to write this autobiography; to revise some of the suppressed sexual nature within his previous written works; to do justice to his own sexuality and to clearly take a stance on social attitudes. This is certainly a statement piece and a clear indicator of social progress (it was written in 1976. Context: the first Gay Pride Rally in London was held in 1972). Despite being autobiographical, however, you do feel some sense of distance from Isherwood. It's there in the (wonderful, let me say) narrative voice where he reflects upon his own life and writes about his younger-self as an omniscient narrator. It's also there in Isherwood's clear lack of emotions. I don't doubt that he has an emotional depth but it is not present in this autobiography, in any of his relationships: be that lovers (Heinz, Wystan) or his own family (mother Kathleen, brother Richard). His relationship with Heinz dominates this book and it is very bittersweet and Isherwood decidedly does not dwell on it. Whilst I ultimately did enjoy reading this and learning a lot about an author I admire and value, I did find the aforementioned distance and a sometimes confusing writing style (for example the sudden introduction of new people often assumed that you had prior knowledge), did somewhat inhibit my enjoyment. That said, it has enthused me to seek out more of his works, so it can't all be bad!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Val

    Young Christopher Isherwood spent much of the 1930s in continental Europe, including a few years in Berlin. He wrote a novel and some short stories based on his experiences there. Middle-aged Christopher Isherwood wrote this book about young Christopher Isherwood, in the third person and gave details of what young Christopher was up to and how he came to write the stories. The style of talking about himself in the third person is rather off-putting until you get used to it, but it does work. The o Young Christopher Isherwood spent much of the 1930s in continental Europe, including a few years in Berlin. He wrote a novel and some short stories based on his experiences there. Middle-aged Christopher Isherwood wrote this book about young Christopher Isherwood, in the third person and gave details of what young Christopher was up to and how he came to write the stories. The style of talking about himself in the third person is rather off-putting until you get used to it, but it does work. The older author can look back and make sense of the younger man's experiences, while the younger one keeps the immediacy of those experiences. It is a very candid autobiography and includes details of his homosexual affairs and liaisons with teenage boys, which he could not have been quite as open about at the time (although he did not try to hide them from his friends and family).

  15. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Christopher Isherwood, more than most novelists, is able to walk the line between cynical distance and sincere emotion with grace, and he applies the same standard to his memoirs. Granted, his memoir drags a bit in places, but at other times, it's an absolutely fascinating portrait of prewar gay society, something that's hard to even imagine nowadays. And the parts where he tries to save his lover from the maelstrom of 1930s Germany, well, that's downright heartbreaking. Christopher Isherwood, more than most novelists, is able to walk the line between cynical distance and sincere emotion with grace, and he applies the same standard to his memoirs. Granted, his memoir drags a bit in places, but at other times, it's an absolutely fascinating portrait of prewar gay society, something that's hard to even imagine nowadays. And the parts where he tries to save his lover from the maelstrom of 1930s Germany, well, that's downright heartbreaking.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

    11/18/16: Oh boy. You know what, I'm almost tempted to knock a star off, only because reading this today I find Isherwood's "I" vs. "Christopher" conceit a little annoying. But, but, but. I won't. This project remains unmatched. 5/5/13: Something compelled Christopher Isherwood to set the record straight. Or, rather, to wade through all the suggested straightness (none of which I assumed, but that's the benefit of distance, Cabaret, an English degree, and a working knowledge of biography) in previ 11/18/16: Oh boy. You know what, I'm almost tempted to knock a star off, only because reading this today I find Isherwood's "I" vs. "Christopher" conceit a little annoying. But, but, but. I won't. This project remains unmatched. 5/5/13: Something compelled Christopher Isherwood to set the record straight. Or, rather, to wade through all the suggested straightness (none of which I assumed, but that's the benefit of distance, Cabaret, an English degree, and a working knowledge of biography) in previous stories and banish it once and for all. ("I am doing what Henry James would have done, if he had had the guts.") It's easy to understand this in the context of gay liberation, but it's even more interesting to look at it as an author meticulously revealing all his tricks. Reading Truman Capote, or Armistead Maupin, or any number of other writers, you often have to stop and ask yourself, "So who is this supposed to be, exactly?" In Christopher and His Kind Isherwood does all the work for us. Or does he? We'll never know. Perhaps, after all, all this truth-telling is just the outlines of another "Christopher." Or not, if what Isherwood says is true, all the Christophers were ultimately the same man, and "the evasiveness is in the Narrator's nature, not in his name." Where to begin reviewing a book I've already read before in three different iterations? As Isherwood crosses and recrosses the ground he covered in Berlin Stories, Lions and Shadows, and Down There on a Visit, he discusses and muses on the fates of primary, supporting, and tertiary characters alike. Most poignantly, the fictionalization of Wilfrid Israel, who becomes Bernhard Landauer: The story of Bernhard Landauer ends with the news of Bernhard's death. "Isherwood" overhears two men talking about it at a restaurant in Prague, in the spring of 1933, just after he himself has left Germany for good. One of them has just read in a newspaper that Bernhard has died of heart failure and both take it for granted that he has really been killed by the Nazis. The killing of Bernhard was merely a dramatic necessity. Wilfrid Israel's story is ten times richer, more interesting, and more dynamic. The seven pages Isherwood devotes to it here are reason enough for the book to exist. The only "dramatic necessity" I see, is the necessity to prevent Israel's story from completely taking over the book. And: I wish I could remember what impression Jean Ross--the real-life original of Sally Bowles in Goodbye to Berlin--made on Christopher when they first met. But I can't. Art has transfigured life and other people's art has transfigured Christopher's art. What remains with me from those early years is almost entirely Sally. Beside her, like a reproachful elder sister, stands the figure of Jean as I knew her much later. And: At school, Christopher had fallen in love with many boys and been yearningly romantic about them. At college he had at last managed to get into bed with one. This was due entirely to the initiative of his partner, who, when Christopher became scared and started to raise objections, locked the door, and sat down firmly on Christopher's lap. I am still grateful to him. I hope he is alive and may happen to read these lines. Ah, yes. The "Christopher felt X, as I recall" mode. Instead of finding it irritating, I was charmed. Throughout, Isherwood is more a historian then a memoir writer. He goes back over his diaries (those he didn't burn), his correspondence, and the correspondence of friends and relatives. He cites meticulously. And yet...there is so much he leaves unexplained. More than anything, it's a book about writing. Even more than David Mitchell's character waiting room, I appreciated the following assessment of the writing of what would eventually become Berlin Stories: Confronted by all his characters and their stories, Christopher was like an official who is called upon to deal with a crowd of immigrants and their belongings. They wait, absolutely passive, to be told where they are to live and what their jobs will be. The official regards them with growing dismay. He had imagined that he could cope with them all, somehow or other. Now he is beginning to realize that he can't. In setting the record straight, Isherwood comes across as endearing, conceited, oblivious, insightful, cruel, vulnerable, and (he would be thrilled to learn) lost as ever. These are the traits that have appeared in each version of the narrator. These traits, above all, are the truth. I was thrilled to read about Isherwood's friendship with E. M. Forster, because I am drawn to their writing for the same reason: they are unsparingly fond of all of their characters, it seems, and they are at their best when they are describing the most mundane exchanges. Christopher's mother Kathleen is a prime example. We see her several times through his eyes, always in the context of hearth and home and convention, and as his understanding of her grows ours does too. And there are his friends, the awesome Edward Upward, whose fictional counterpart I found so endearing in Lions and Shadows, and Stephen Spender, the reason for this moment of hilarious grace: Stephen was back in London, suffering from a tapeworm which he had picked up in Spain. The problem, in removing a tapeworm, is to get rid of its head... Sometimes the head can't be found in the stool so the doctor doesn't know if it has been lost or is still inside the patient. Christopher bought a particularly repulsive postcard photograph of the head of Goebbels and sent it to Stephen, inscribed: "Can this be it?!!" Above all, I am left with an overwhelming desire to read this story a fourth time. Not, I hasten to point out, as narrated by Isherwood, "Christopher," Christopher, or any of the others. No, I want to read this all over again from Auden's perspective. This is no Hemingway-Fitzgerald bathroom measurement contest. This is a lifelong friendship of multiple layers and nuances. It was sad, sad as dying, to leave these loved ones behind. But neither Wystan nor Christopher wanted to admit that this was in any sense a death or that they were the objects of a wake. As the boat train pulled out of the station and they need wave no longer, Christopher felt a quick upsurge of relief. He and Wystan exchanged grins, schoolboy grins which took them back to the earliest days of their friendship. "Well," said Christopher, "we're off again." "Goody," said Wystan.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Simone

    Not one of my favourites, I must admit. I thought it was cleverly written. However, I had to abandon it as I found it just so narcissistic, referring to himself as Christopher in one book, Isherwood in another and .... Lots of name dropping and self-indulgence. His constant fascination with his men at the time was just irritating. The book was supposed to be good as it was written at the time of the Second World War and these actual accounts were interesting but his fascination with himself is j Not one of my favourites, I must admit. I thought it was cleverly written. However, I had to abandon it as I found it just so narcissistic, referring to himself as Christopher in one book, Isherwood in another and .... Lots of name dropping and self-indulgence. His constant fascination with his men at the time was just irritating. The book was supposed to be good as it was written at the time of the Second World War and these actual accounts were interesting but his fascination with himself is just tiresome.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tex Reader

    3.0 of 5 - Enlightening, Candid Account of a Gay Life in the 30s. I enjoyed this engrossing, dramatic and candid memoir of Christopher Isherwood's life in gay 1930s Berlin, his travels, and his struggles to save his German boyfriend from the Nazis. I found this to be a fascinating glimpse into a behind the headlines world I knew little about. Isherwood went to Berlin because "Berlin meant boys." I learned it was a hotbed of homosexuality, being the "gay capital" at the time. And I was drawn in by 3.0 of 5 - Enlightening, Candid Account of a Gay Life in the 30s. I enjoyed this engrossing, dramatic and candid memoir of Christopher Isherwood's life in gay 1930s Berlin, his travels, and his struggles to save his German boyfriend from the Nazis. I found this to be a fascinating glimpse into a behind the headlines world I knew little about. Isherwood went to Berlin because "Berlin meant boys." I learned it was a hotbed of homosexuality, being the "gay capital" at the time. And I was drawn in by viewing on the sidelines the historic moments when this decadence and, in essence, the first gay rights movement, was destroyed with the rise of Nazism, depicted from the personal (and therefore more limited) perspective of how Isherwood, his boyfriend and friends dealt with it. My favorite parts were how this was a Cabaret redo - The movie was based on his The Berlin Stories written in the 30s, in which he self-censored out almost all of the gay references, and corrected in this memoir. The first half of the book about his time in Berlin was the most engrossing because he related not just the actual events, but did it by making frequent comparisons of what he wrote then (in The Berlin Stories as well as other works), to who it really was he was writing about and what they really did. He included excerpts from those stories saying that part was true about the person or event; and he took us through his process of writing the stories. It made for a telling look into the mind of a writer while he was crafting his story and how the stories evolved, including title changes and shifts from original intentions to the final results that we read. I also enjoyed reading about the titular His Kind, who he also called "fellow travelers" (a common term at the time), but about which he most often referred to as his "homosexuality." Apparently he had a pretty active sex life; but I'm referring more to the male relationships, what it was like for his kind to live in the various countries with varying degrees of repression, and his reflections, both philosophical and personal, on how he viewed and accepted his own homosexuality. I never quite got used to Isherwood referring to himself in the past in the third person. I could see how it allowed him to distinguish his present thoughts and observations by putting those in the first person, but that was not enough to counterbalance the unfortunate effect of depersonalizing his whole experience through the entire story. I would have much preferred a sense of hearing about it more intimately. It also added to the sense of his being insulated from the turmoil around him due to the "protections" he benefited from by being an upper class Englishman in a foreign country, and he seemed rather snobbish about that as well. The last half is about his days after Berlin, which I eventually got tired of hearing about. While not as bad as some memoirs, and it might have been lessened even more if it was not in third person, but it still suffered some from the repetitive "I did this, I did that" patter about things of less interest to me. Without the connection to The Berlin Stories and the immediacy of those times in Berlin itself, these accounts indeed did not have the same draw. Throughout, I came to respect Isherwood for his honestly in how he portrayed himself. He presented a balanced view of himself, to which the third-person style may have helped to provide some objectivity, and helped as well by sharing accounts of others' views of him at the time. He naturally put himself in a good light, but he would also often be self-deprecating, made fun of himself, and revealed his less desirable traits, thoughts and actions. While I was reading, I was intrigued by the background of the memoir and its author, and did a bit of research. My theory is that Isherwood was motivated to write this after two significant events. Perhaps the more motivating, yet less obvious, event was that this book was five years after he published E.M, Forster's Maurice. He was close friends with Forster, such that (as he mentioned in this book), "Morgan" trusted him to read an early draft of this in 1935, and later when he died bequeathed it to Isherwood. Forster wrote it in its time of 1914, but was rightfully afraid to publish it early on and even in his lifetime because of what it would do to his reputation (he was haunted by his teenage memory of Oscar Wilde's trial). So in a way, Maurice was Forster's coming out to the world, which I think got Christopher thinking about his coming out to the world. Then a year later, the Oscar-winning movie Cabaret came out. Sure there was the earlier play and musical, but certainly this got the most attention and put him in the spotlight again in a more welcoming time (Stonewall had just energized the modern gay rights movement three years before). So why not focus on setting the record straight, so to speak, and talk about how gay Cabaret, and he, really were. As a result, he would become in the 70s an icon of gay liberation. [Gay Men’s Book Group-Chicago monthly selection]

  19. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    I really liked this book and thought that Christopher Isherwood comes across as a generous, warm, funny and self-depreciating character. His love for his friends shines through despite the odd bitchy argument. He is much more interesting character here than in either of his fictional versions of the period (Mr Norris Changes Trains or Berlin Stories). As he says himself, when he wrote those he was much more guarded about the gay aspects of himself and his characters and here he is more open about I really liked this book and thought that Christopher Isherwood comes across as a generous, warm, funny and self-depreciating character. His love for his friends shines through despite the odd bitchy argument. He is much more interesting character here than in either of his fictional versions of the period (Mr Norris Changes Trains or Berlin Stories). As he says himself, when he wrote those he was much more guarded about the gay aspects of himself and his characters and here he is more open about it. That is a strong reflection of the different eras in which the books were written – by the time this was published in the seventies it was the beginning of the gay liberation movement. Also interestingly Christopher mentions the film Cabaret - in which his character is bisexual and the play I am Camera in which his character was straight. The recent adaptation for the BBC of Christopher And His Friends which used scenes from this and The Berlin Novels was very explicitly gay - more so than the book. So all these versions go to show how acceptance has changed over the years. The truer versions of the characters sexuality also helps make the characters more rounded than the earlier books. Though I would still recommend reading those first as he quotes chunks of them here. He writes beautifully about this period just before the war and gives an account of the tribulations and the happiness that he encountered in Berlin and England and Europe during these tumultuous times.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sophy H

    Abandoned at 79 pages. Wasn't feeling the love. I can't be doing with Christopher referring to himself as Christopher and describing people who weren't really called what they were called in a previous book!!! Nope, haven't got time for that. Abandoned at 79 pages. Wasn't feeling the love. I can't be doing with Christopher referring to himself as Christopher and describing people who weren't really called what they were called in a previous book!!! Nope, haven't got time for that.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Elisha

    4.5 stars. Reread in May 2020 for my upcoming Isherwood dissertation (yaaaaaay). Reading Christopher and His Kind for a second time really highlighted to me just how problematic Isherwood is in a variety of ways (the bit where he calls his boyfriend the n-word because he's tanned is uncomfortable as HELL), but also what an engaging, reflective, and generally brilliant life writer he is. Also: it really showed me that it pays to have read Isherwood's other work before you dive into this so that y 4.5 stars. Reread in May 2020 for my upcoming Isherwood dissertation (yaaaaaay). Reading Christopher and His Kind for a second time really highlighted to me just how problematic Isherwood is in a variety of ways (the bit where he calls his boyfriend the n-word because he's tanned is uncomfortable as HELL), but also what an engaging, reflective, and generally brilliant life writer he is. Also: it really showed me that it pays to have read Isherwood's other work before you dive into this so that you actually understand what he's on about most of the time! I ended up enjoying this far more the second time than I did the first. I still can't quite bring myself to award it the perfect 5 star rating, however. -------------------------- This is one of the single most interesting books I've ever read. It's part memoir, part literary criticism, part history, and almost part fiction (since it interacts so inextricably with Isherwood's fictionalised accounts of this time period as well as what actually happened). I would imagine that this book is an absolute gift to Isherwood scholars, as it reveals both the present man and the past man AND provides an illuminating insight into his work. Honestly, Christopher and His Kind is just utterly fascinating. It is long, yes, and it can be confusing in places; Isherwood uses the first-person pronoun 'I' to mark his present self who is looking back on the events of 1929-1939, and refers to the version of himself living these events as 'Christopher' (even more confusingly, the fictional character 'Christopher Isherwood' from Goodbye to Berlin pops up a few times, and he is referred to as 'Isherwood'). Personally, once I got used to this division of different Christophers, I didn't find it too hard to follow, but I imagine that it would be quite jarring to other readers, especially if you read it slowly or in dispersed chunks. I also think that readers who are unfamiliar with Christopher Isherwood might struggle here, as it engages so directly with his other published work rather than presenting itself as a straightforward memoir. I personally had only read Goodbye to Berlin before this, which was fine as that's probably the text that Isherwood hearkens back to the most, but there were times that I felt I was missing out by not having read more of his work. Christopher and His Kind, then, is a highly unusual book, but it is one that I absolutely loved. I was interested in Isherwood before I read this, but that interest has increased tenfold having read it. In the most basic terms possible, Christopher and His Kind is a detailed memoir of Christopher Isherwood's time living as an expatriate in Berlin, explaining why he went there and what he did once he was there. Except it's not just that, really. It's also a commentary on Germany in the 1930s, detailing the country's slide into fascism and the consequences of this for (especially gay) people living in Germany (there's one particularly interesting segment on Magnus Hirschfeld and his institute for sexology research, which was producing pioneering work on homosexuality and particularly transgender people at the time before its archives were destroyed during Nazi book burnings). It also isn't just a book about Germany, as, once Isherwood falls in love with a German named Hans, who attempts to avoid conscription and prevent Nazis from discovering he is gay by leaving the country, he ends up travelling to various different parts of the world, before ultimately ending up in America with his best friend W.H. Auden, aiming to start a new life. Really, I guess that you could call this a travel narrative, but, again, there's so much more to it than that. What makes this book so fascinating is that it provides incredibly detailed insight into numerous different things: Isherwood's past and present lives, Isherwood's writing, Isherwood's famous friends (Auden, Stephen Spender, and E.M. Forster among others), Isherwood's German lovers ('Otto' and Hans), gay life in the 1930s, Nazi Germany, and various other countries and cultures. It encompasses so much, despite its narrow time frame and focus on just one life, and it is for this reason that it is utterly fascinating to read. Another thing that I really enjoyed about this book was the self-reflexivity of it. I think that in calling himself 'I' and his past self 'Christopher', Isherwood clearly demonstrates how much he had changed as a person from the time written about to the time of writing (1976), and that shows in moments of the narrative too. Isherwood's narrative voice is often critical of Christopher's decisions and behaviour, and comments upon what he would have done differently if he could live those years again. Not only does that show growth and acknowledgement of imperfections, but it also creates a really interesting duplicity in the image of Isherwood that you gain from reading this book: you see what he did then and what he thinks about it now, creating a rounded and realistic portrait of the man overall. As an autobiography, I think that this book absolutely excels in presenting so many complex, varied versions of Isherwood that you feel that you truly know him by the time it is finished. This is not to say that I think that Isherwood was a perfect person who successfully called out all of his old questionable behaviour, because he wasn't. Some of the things that he goes on record saying and doing in this book would be called problematic by modern standards, particularly his taste for younger men, which continued throughout his life (the last line of Christopher and His Kind is more than just a little icky). However, I do think that he's honest, and that makes his memoir ever more compelling than one that glamorises or censors the truth would be. Overall, this made for an incredibly interesting reading experience, and I'm still brimming with ideas nearly a month after reading it. Isherwood currently sits right near the top of my list of writers that I might like to write on when dissertation times rolls around again, and, if I do decide to write on him, I imagine that this book will be invaluable to me. It just contains so much, and everything within it is super interesting. That's the crux of the matter, really: Christopher and His Kind feels like a book that encompasses everything that interests me, and, as a result, it was a complete joy to read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Michael Pennington

    I loved it. So beautiful and melancholic and yet hopeful.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bob Schnell

    I can't say for sure why I am continually drawn to Christopher Isherwood autobiographies, but he did lead an interesting life. "Christopher and His Kind" starts in Berlin before the outbreak of WWII. The genesis of what would become "Cabaret" is here but the story is more focused on his relationship with his first love, a German named Heinz. Once it is clear that the Nazis are taking over and Heinz is in danger of being conscripted in Hitler's army, the two take flight, seeking refuge and sanctu I can't say for sure why I am continually drawn to Christopher Isherwood autobiographies, but he did lead an interesting life. "Christopher and His Kind" starts in Berlin before the outbreak of WWII. The genesis of what would become "Cabaret" is here but the story is more focused on his relationship with his first love, a German named Heinz. Once it is clear that the Nazis are taking over and Heinz is in danger of being conscripted in Hitler's army, the two take flight, seeking refuge and sanctuary in various countries. Along the way they meet various literary luminaries including E.M. Forster who becomes a friend and supporter. We also see the attitudes towards homosexuals in various cultures, from Britain to Japan. My only problem is that I keep envisioning Michael York as Isherwood which isn't really fair to either of them.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Richard Jespers

    My interest in this book was aroused after viewing a 2011 BBC production bearing the same title. Of course, reading the book version of a work is always more satisfying, though I do believe good films can spark interest in doing further research. The text is an appealing one for several reasons. An older Christopher Isherwood (seventy-two) writes about these ten years in the third person, as if this “Christopher Isherwood” is one of his fictional characters. At the same time, any passage in which My interest in this book was aroused after viewing a 2011 BBC production bearing the same title. Of course, reading the book version of a work is always more satisfying, though I do believe good films can spark interest in doing further research. The text is an appealing one for several reasons. An older Christopher Isherwood (seventy-two) writes about these ten years in the third person, as if this “Christopher Isherwood” is one of his fictional characters. At the same time, any passage in which he’s unsure about a fact or date or is definitely speaking retrospectively he employs the first person. I suppose the practice helps Isherwood to separate himself from the past, from the time when he may have acted as a callow yet, at times, callous fellow. “Christopher’s first visit to Berlin [1928] was short—a week or ten days—but that was sufficient; I now recognize it was one of the decisive events of my life. I can still make myself faintly feel the delicious nausea of initiation terror which Christopher felt as Wystan [W. H. Auden] pushed back the heavy leather door curtain of a boy bar called the Cosy Corner and led the way inside” (3). This is the callow part. It is indeed a lovely way of using the third person: “Christopher” is Isherwood’s manifestation as a young man. He will never again be quite like he is in 1928, age twenty-four, away from his home in England for the very first time, frozen in history, just like a fictional character. But Isherwood makes some startling admissions, one in particular concerning his feelings toward Heinz, a young man with whom he shares a life for five years, mostly in Berlin. When it comes time to help Heinz escape Nazi Germany (and conscription), many complications arise—including lengthy and expensive legal battles—that ultimately disallow it. They must part ways. Even though Isherwood draws on his diary for this passage, it is nonetheless very telling: “Heinz is always the last person I think of at night, the first in the morning. Never to forget Heinz. Never to cease to be grateful to him for every moment of our five years together. I suppose it isn't so much Heinz himself I miss as that part of myself which only existed in his company. I had better face it. I shall never see him again. And perhaps this is the best for us both. What should I feel, now, if, by some miracle, Heinz was let out of Germany? Great joy, of course. But also (I must be absolutely frank) I should be a little bit doubtful; for what, really, have I to offer him? Not even a proper home or a place in any kind of social scheme” (289). Why this interest in a largely British writer (even though he became an American citizen and spent more than half of his life in Los Angeles), who was born over a hundred years ago, and, except for garnering high praise from other fine writers, has not gained due recognition for his literary contributions? Perhaps this passage from the late Virginia Woolf’s diary sums up my response to his work: “Isherwood and I met on the doorstep. He is a slip of a wild boy: with quicksilver eyes: nipped; jockeylike. That young man, said W. Maugham, ‘holds the future of the English novel in his hands’” (325). Indeed.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tori

    He asked himself: Do I now want to go to bed with more women and girls? Of course not, as long as I can have boys. Why do I prefer boys? Because of their shape and their voices and their smell and the way they move. And boys can be romantic. I can put them into my myth and fall in love with them. Couldn't you get yourself excited by the shape of girls, too—if you worked hard at it? Perhaps. And couldn't you invent another myth—to put girls into? Why the hell should I? My will is to live according He asked himself: Do I now want to go to bed with more women and girls? Of course not, as long as I can have boys. Why do I prefer boys? Because of their shape and their voices and their smell and the way they move. And boys can be romantic. I can put them into my myth and fall in love with them. Couldn't you get yourself excited by the shape of girls, too—if you worked hard at it? Perhaps. And couldn't you invent another myth—to put girls into? Why the hell should I? My will is to live according to my nature, and to find a place where I can be what I am... But I'll admit this—even if my nature were like theirs, I should still have to fight them, in one way or another. If boys didn't exist, I should have to invent them. I wish I had the words this book deserves to have lavished upon it. Christopher's thoughts and experiences resonate decades later, and his writing style is so compelling and hilarious. I laughed aloud at least a dozen times, which made the times that I gasped and cried with his heartbreak all the more moving. I'm so thankful that I got to read this, and I look forward to reading more by Christopher Isherwood and his other gay author friends that he made me fall in love with while reading Christopher and His Kind.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Marshall

    When Isherwood wrote his classic books Mr Norris Changes Trains and Goodbye to Berlin, he positioned himself as a camera recording everything but revealing little or nothing about himself. The decision was partly because it was illegal to be gay in the thirties but mainly because if he had been more honest, his story would have eclipsed his characters (or so he believed at the time). Christopher and his kind is a memoir from the same period and gives us the back stage story and explains the libe When Isherwood wrote his classic books Mr Norris Changes Trains and Goodbye to Berlin, he positioned himself as a camera recording everything but revealing little or nothing about himself. The decision was partly because it was illegal to be gay in the thirties but mainly because if he had been more honest, his story would have eclipsed his characters (or so he believed at the time). Christopher and his kind is a memoir from the same period and gives us the back stage story and explains the liberties with truths behind these books and several others. Having read the two Berlin novels quite recently I was a little bored. It is interesting to know more about the relationship between Auden, Isherwood and Spender but the novels are more vivid. My involvement grew as Isherwood tried desperately to keep his lover out of Germany - moving all over Europe - to avoid military service and when we went backstage in some later novels that I haven't read yet. On balance, however, I think this is for fans and for fellow writers who want a better understanding of how life feeds into the art of a great novelist

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    Enjoyable, but the third person while enabling Isherwood to take a self-deprecating tone does get distracting. It also dampens any insight into his creative process, even though I hate that term--Go away, mind mappy business types! Auden sounds like a riot; Heinz not so much. The diary of a kindly Weimar sex tourist.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Terence Manleigh

    Demmit, I do wish I didn't find biography, autobiography, and memoir so tedious. This frank memoir has its moments, but give me artful fiction any day and I'll be quite happy, thank you. It's a failing, I know, but the recounting of facts has never grabbed me as much as the unfolding of a good novel. Demmit, I do wish I didn't find biography, autobiography, and memoir so tedious. This frank memoir has its moments, but give me artful fiction any day and I'll be quite happy, thank you. It's a failing, I know, but the recounting of facts has never grabbed me as much as the unfolding of a good novel.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Miller

    A most fascinating book on many levels, and one that offers so much to the reader, providing insight into a period of time that has been much written of before, but coming from an angle perhaps not previously considered. It offers insight into the changes in Germany in a most turbulent period, but one filled with art, life, hope and beauty; it glimpses the literary world of the Bloomsbury Group as it came towards the end of its focus; it provides an insight into how one of the Twentieth Century' A most fascinating book on many levels, and one that offers so much to the reader, providing insight into a period of time that has been much written of before, but coming from an angle perhaps not previously considered. It offers insight into the changes in Germany in a most turbulent period, but one filled with art, life, hope and beauty; it glimpses the literary world of the Bloomsbury Group as it came towards the end of its focus; it provides an insight into how one of the Twentieth Century's great writers went about his craft and, of course, is an invaluable record of what it was to be a homosexual during this period, but taking in many different cultures and classes as Christopher moves around a variety of Countries. It takes a few pages to get used to him writing in the third person, but this is not an autobiography, or even a biography written by the subject, this is a reflection of history and a correction to what he may have previously elaborated or altered in his works Mr Norris Changes Trains and Goodbye To Berlin. This is setting the record straight with an incredible level of honesty and candour. I love Christopher Isherwood. He is from a time I would have loved to have known and believe I would have been more suited to. Indeed the people who casually appear in this book read like my list of heroes; Orson Welles, Bertolt Brecht; Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya amongst many others. His level of honesty is occasionally shocking, but that's who he was, and throughout the book I kept returning to an early quote "My will is to live according to my nature, and to find a place where I can be what I am". As someone who has lost many people in my life due to being who I am and never flinching from this, I can truly believe that Mr Isherwood would have accepted me as one of his kind.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nupur Chowdhury

    3.5 stars. My very first audiobook. The narrator was good (and very deft with accents)! I really enjoyed reading about Christopher Isherwood's travels and his writing process. All his boyfriends were really annoying, though, probably because they were teenagers. Heinz was the least annoying of them all and I felt terrible when he got arrested by the Gestapo, but like, how stupid do you have to be to get drunk and fight with the police when you're literally a fugitive fleeing a dictatorial regime? 3.5 stars. My very first audiobook. The narrator was good (and very deft with accents)! I really enjoyed reading about Christopher Isherwood's travels and his writing process. All his boyfriends were really annoying, though, probably because they were teenagers. Heinz was the least annoying of them all and I felt terrible when he got arrested by the Gestapo, but like, how stupid do you have to be to get drunk and fight with the police when you're literally a fugitive fleeing a dictatorial regime? And I don't know why Christopher was so determined to only have relationships with underprivileged teenagers; that was kind of uncomfortable to read about. Apart from the annoying relationships, the book was really fun! I loved the friendship between Isherwood, Auden, and Spender and the trip they took to war-torn China was really exciting. Overall, I'm glad that I read this book. I just wish it focused more on the adventures, the writing, and the friendships than it did. I'd probably have enjoyed reading about the romantic relationships more if they didn't all involve teenagers. Sigh.

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