Isherwood, Christopher

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Isherwood, Christopher Gender: M
Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood
born on 26 August 1904 at 23:45 (= 11:45 PM )
Place Disley, England, 53n21, 2w02
Timezone GMT h0e (is standard time)
Data source
Rodden Rating B
Collector: Penfield
Astrology data s_su.18.gif s_vircol.18.gif 03°16' s_mo.18.gif s_piscol.18.gif 13°31 Asc.s_cancol.18.gif 04°10'

Christopher Isherwood
photo: Allan warren, license gfdl


British-American novelist, essayist, screenwriter and playwright. Isherwood wrote over 20 books and is best known for his quasi-autobiographical "Berlin novels," one of which, entitled "Good bye to Berlin" was the basis for the play "I Am A Camera" by John Van Druten and which later became the stage musical "Cabaret." He won a history scholarship to Cambridge, where he was expelled for deliberately failing his exams by answering the questions in limericks.

By age 24 he had published his first novel "All the Conspirators" which was soon followed by "The Memorial." While not well received by many critics, writer Somerset Maugham predicted at the time that Isherwood "...holds the future of the English novel in his hands." During this time period Isherwood acknowledged his homosexuality and decided to open the closet door, a bold stance for that day.

Isherwood's father was an amateur actor, musician and British army officer and his mother a homemaker. His precocious literary talent was encouraged during his boyhood. After the death of his father during WW I at the second Battle of Ypres on 4/22/1915, he learned to "hate and fear the past because it threatened to swallow my future." After attending St. Edmonds School in Surrey where he became close friends with W.H. Auden.

Moving to Berlin to visit Auden in 1929 and because "Berlin meant boys," Isherwood immersed himself in the divine decadence of nightclub life and witnessed the insidious rise of the Nazi regime. When Hitler rose to power in 1933 and began to arrest homosexuals, a terrified Isherwood fled back to England with his lover Heinz, who was denied entry when the nature of their relationship became known. The couple spent the next four years traveling across Europe while Isherwood recorded his Berlin experiences in novels, "Mr. Norris Changes Trains," The Last of Mr. Norris," in 1935, "Lions and Shadows," in 1938 and, most notably, "Goodbye to Berlin" in 1939, in which he wrote, "I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking" and where he introduced the expatriate madcap entertainer Sally Bowles. In 1937 Heinz risked a visit to Nazi Germany but was abruptly arrested and imprisoned for draft evasion and homosexuality.

Heartbroken, Isherwood returned to England, when in 1938 he and W.H. Auden collaborated on an account of the war between China and Japan. The combined horrors of Berlin and Nanking left Isherwood a committed pacifist and, the outbreak of WW II drove Isherwood from Europe to Los Angeles in 1939. Severely criticized back in England for refusing to fight for his country, Isherwood quietly served in the U.S. during the war in a Quaker refugee camp as a conscientiousness objector. Quickly adapting to the immigrant community in Los Angeles that included Aldous Huxley and Bertolt Brecht, he wrote the screenplay "The Loved One" from the novel by Evelyn Waugh.

Once settled in Santa Monica, California, the pacifist Isherwood became a lifelong friend and disciple of Swami Prabhavananda. "One is never really converted by opinions," he once wrote. "One is converted by a person. If he'd been a Catholic priest I'd probably have gone Catholic. This man had faith; he quite evidently believed what he said. I had been quite anti-religious and he turned me right around to the strong devotional feelings I had deep down all along and an acceptance of the truth of all religions. The feeling was analogous to falling in love."

Embracing Hindu philosophy, Isherwood then translated the "Bhagavad Gita" in 1944 and subsequently was a guest lecturer at Los Angeles State College, University of California at Santa Barbara and was regents professor at UCLA. In 1959, he was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters. His novels "Down There On A Visit" in 1962 and "The Single Man" in 1964, a novel in which he "kind of came out" received popular and critical acclaim.

In his later years, Isherwood became active in gay rights. In an interview with The New York Times in 1972, he said "I have written about homosexuals in my novels and in taking up the cause of one minority, that of homosexuals against the dictatorship of heterosexuals, I have spoken out for all minorities." He came out publicly in 1972 in his book of fact about his parents entitled "Kathleen and Frank" and, in 1976, "Christopher And His Kind" was an autobiographical volume that focused on this aspect of his life. When asked why he wrote, he replied, "I write because I am trying to study my life in retrospect and find out what it is, what it is made of, what it is all about.."

Isherwood was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1981. He died at home on 1/4/1986 at 11:15 AM with his partner of 33 years, artist Don Bachardy, at his side. Rejecting a funeral or memorial service, he left his body to UCLA for medical research.

Link to Wikipedia biography


  • friend relationship with Auden, W.H. (born 21 February 1907)
  • role played of/by Smith, Matt (born 28 October 1982). Notes: 2011 BBC TV film "Christopher and His Kind"


  • Family : Change residence 1929 (Moved to Berlin)
  • Family : Change residence 1933 (Fled to England to avoid prosecution from Hitler)
  • Relationship : End significant relationship 1937 (Partner Heinz arrested while in Berlin, imprisoned)
  • Work : Published/ Exhibited/ Released 1938 ("Lions and Shadows")
  • Work : Begin Major Project 1938 (Collaborated on works with W.H. Auden)
  • Family : Change residence 1946 (Moved to the U.S. from England)
  • Social : Joined group 1946 (Became U.S. citizen)
  • Work : Gain social status 1959 (Elected to the Ntbl. Inst. of Arts and Letters)
  • Work : Published/ Exhibited/ Released 1962 ("Down There on a Visit")
  • Health : Medical diagnosis 1981 (Prostate cancer)
  • Death by Disease 4 January 1986 at 11:15 AM in Santa Monica (Prostate cancer, age 81)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.

Source Notes

Penfield Collection quotes his autobiography, "Kathleen and Frank," p.271, verified by LMR


  • Traits : Mind : Exceptional mind (Analytical, broad overview)
  • Traits : Personality : Principled strongly
  • Diagnoses : Major Diseases : Cancer (Prostate)
  • Family : Childhood : Family supportive (Encouraged his writing)
  • Family : Relationship : Married late/never (Never)
  • Family : Relationship : Mate - Same sex (With Don Bachardy over 33 years)
  • Lifestyle : Social Life : Friends (Literary community)
  • Lifestyle : Home : Expatriate (Moved to U.S.)
  • Passions : Sexuality : Gay
  • Personal : Religion/Spirituality : Eastern (Hindu faith)
  • Personal : Death : Long life more than 80 yrs (Age 81)
  • Vocation : Education : Public speaker (Guest lecturer at Universities)
  • Vocation : Military : Pacifist/ Objector (Quaker pacifist)
  • Vocation : Writers : Autobiographer
  • Vocation : Writers : Fiction
  • Vocation : Writers : Religion/ Philosophy
  • Notable : Book Collection : American Book