I is for Christopher Isherwood

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.”


A is for Auden

Note: Some of my fellow bloggers started their “A” posts yesterday, which I thought was exempt, as it was Sunday.  They’re onto “B” today, so I guess I will be, again, behind.  Unless I can get two posts out today.

My theme for this A to Z Blogging Challenge will be: authors.  That includes writers, storytellers, novelists, poets, and even songwriters.

A is for Auden.  W.H. Auden, whose first name was Wystan and middle name was Hugh, is not as well-known as, say, T.S. Eliot, Thomas Hardy, or the American Robert Frost.  Unless you count “Four Weddings and a Funeral” as one of your favorite movies.  His name sounds suspiciously British, and it is.  He was born in England and later became an American citizen.  Born in 1907, died in 1973.

I remember reading one or two of his poems in college.  “September 1, 1939” was about the start of World War II, but also about oppression, and I couldn’t even grasp the complexity of his writing back then.  It wasn’t until I heard “Funeral Blues” (also known as “Stop All the Clocks”) read by the character of Matthew (John Hannah) at the funeral service of Matthew’s partner Gareth in “Four Weddings,” that I paid attention to Auden again.  Click on the link if you want to watch it again.

“Funeral Blues”


Funeral Blues (Song IX / from Two Songs for Hedli Anderson)
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.