If you read my “B” post about Bertolt Brecht, you may have been surprised to learn that he wrote “Mack the Knife,” although not the version we’re familiar with, sung by the incomparable Bobby Darin. Today in the April Blogging From A to Z Challenge the letter is “I” – and I’m focusing on Christopher Isherwood, who lived from 1904 to 1986.
Are you familiar with Christopher Isherwood? I knew the name, from various readings. Because he lived around the same time as some of my favorite writers, I wasn’t surprised to learn that he knew W.H. Auden (my “A” post). Auden sent some of his poems to Isherwood for feedback. Isherwood and Auden spent some time together in Berlin in the late 1920’s, enjoying the tolerant, accepting environment. Isherwood met a woman in Berlin who became his inspiration for a character named Sally Bowles. You may have made the connection already.
In the early 1930’s, Isherwood was introduced to E.M. Forster (my “E” post), and Forster became a mentor for Isherwood, much as Isherwood had been for Auden. (I love how the dots connect).
While working as a tutor in Berlin, Isherwood wrote the novels “Mr. Norris Changes Trains” and “Goodbye to Berlin,” which were published in a collection called “The Berlin Stories.” This collection of stories was the seed for a Broadway play (1951) and film (1955) called “I am a Camera,” and that became the inspiration for the musical Cabaret (1966) and film of the same name (1972), which you probably recognize by now.
“He was the kind of writer who wrote very close to the bone,” said novelist Gavin Lambert. “He found his own life his best subject. He wrote with complete honesty and with a clarity of style that few of us possess.”