Five Classic Isherwood Novels
Farrar, Straus and Giroux has re-released five of Christopher Isherwood’s best loved novels.
A peer to some of the greatest gay literary figures of the 20th century, Isherwood himself became a major figure in fiction and the gay rights movement. In a quest for sexual freedom in an era where mutual masturbation could put you in prison for six months, Isherwood fled to the sexual underworld of Berlin just before the outbreak of WWII. His record of this time through semi-autobiographical fiction inspired many adaptations plays like "I Am a Camera" to musicals like "Caberet." Inspired by the conflict between sexuality and spirituality, Isherwood’s finest fiction is recorded in his later works.
"The World in the Evening" (1953) is notable for its frank portrayal of bisexuality and its clear-eyed depiction of European and American sexual and religious mores. An aimless Englishman living in California, Stephen Monk finds himself living with a relative in a small Pennsylvania Quaker town, haunted by memories of his pre-war affair with a younger man during a visit to the Canary Islands.
By the time "Down There on a Visit" (1959) was published, Isherwood was already a kind of literary rock star. Groupies indulged in his funny, sad and deeply personal episodes of carnality and Eastern mysticism. Love, sex, spirituality and self-fulfillment are examined in four different encounters in four different places in the world.
"A Single Man" (1964) is thought by many to be Isherwood’s finest novel, and indeed it was Isherwood’s own favorite. It follows an ordinary twenty-four hours in the life of a gay middle-aged English professor, adjusting to solitude after the tragic death of his young partner.
Isherwood’s final work of fiction, "A Meeting by the River," (1967) is an epistolary novel that explores sexual identity and Eastern mysticism. Two brothers meet in India as one of them prepares to take his final vows as a Hindu monk. One of them is a successful capitalist with a complex love life and the other is a devout idealist. Ultimately, the brothers’ exposure to their respective differences deepens their awareness of themselves.
Stylishly bound with clean, large type, these re-releases are a beautiful prelude to the collection of love letters between Isherwood and his long-time partner, Don Bachardy, that will be released next year.
by Christopher Isherwood