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Christopher William Bradshaw-Isherwood , known as Christopher Isherwood (Disley, Cheshire, UK, August 26, 1904 – Santa Monica, United States, January 4 1986) was a British naturalized American writer in 1946.
He was born in Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire, in the northeast of England, and his childhood was spent in the places where his father, colonel of the British Navy, was prominent. When his father died in the First World War he settled in London. He attended St. Edmund Scholl, where he met W. H. Auden, and then Repton School, where he established a relationship with Edward Upward and Stephen Spender (1909-1995), with whom he would spend time in Germany. Between 1928 and 1929 he studied medicine at King’s College in London. He studied in Cambridge, although he was in Oxford where he was part of the group of radical writers of the 1930s.
Of his friendship with W. H. Auden there are some dramatic pieces versified The dog under the skin (The Dog Beneath the Skin, 1935), The takeoff of the F6 (1936) and On the frontier (On the Frontier, 1938). In those years he lived with the violinist André Mangeot, as secretary, while writing People One Ought to Know.
Abandoned his aristocratic extraction and moved to the carefree capital of the Weimar Republic. As a teacher he worked in Berlin, where he met Gerald Hamilton, William Plomer, EM Forster, who would be his mentor, and Jean Ross, who would inspire the character of Sally Bowles in his story Goodbye to Berlin in 1939 (in turn inspiration for the piece theater I am a camera and the musical and later film Cabaret).
He left Berlin in 1933 because of his notable differences with the Nazi regime and the fear of persecution. I had previously traveled with Auden in Europe, living in Copenhagen and Sintra. He also traveled through China in 1938.
In January 1939 he traveled with Auden to the United States where they decided to settle, coincidentally just before the outbreak of World War II. After a few months in New York he moved to Hollywood, California.
In California he met the mystic and historian Gerald Heard (1889-1971), founder of the monastery of Trabuco Canyon, through whom he made contact with the Swami Prabhavananda and the Vedānta school, thus joining a group of philosophy fans. India that included intellectuals such as Aldous Huxley, Bertrand Russell, Chris Wood, John Yale or the philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti. He became editor of publications for the Vedanta Society of Southern California between 1943-45, remaining as editorial counselor until 1962.
Thanks to Huxley he met Igor Stravinsky and by chance in a bookstore to Ray Bradbury, whom he would help with a complimentary critique of Martian Chronicles.
For a long time there was a certain contempt for his work, given its great simplicity and the joy that the texts transmitted. He was also reproached during his stay in California for certain antimilitarism that he fought energetically. This can be seen in phrases such as the one that follows, said at the beginning of the United States-Japan conflict:
“If I fear something, I fear the atmosphere of war, the power this gives to all things, I hate newspapers, politicians, puritans … the ruthless middle-aged spinsters. I could behave, if I were exposed to that atmosphere. “
Isherwood became a naturalized American in 1946. He traveled to South America in 1947 with photographer William Caskey, with whom he lived. At 48 years old he met the young 18-year-old painter Don Bachardy, who became his companion until his death in 1986. He was also a professor of English literature at Los Angeles State College – today University of California – publishing in 1964 his best work according to the critic, A Single Man (dedicated to the writer Gore Vidal).
Established in Santa Monica, he lived the rest of his days with Bachardy. His life inspired the documentary Chris And Don (2008), he died at 81 years of prostate cancer.
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