{Audiobooks} Christopher and His Kind, 1929 1939Author Christopher Isherwood – Mariahilff.de

Originally published in , Christopher and His Kind covers the most memorable ten years in the writer's lifefrom , when Isherwood left England to spend a week in Berlin and decided to stay there indefinitely, to , when he arrived in America His friends and colleagues during this time included W H Auden, Stephen Spender, and E M Forster, as well as colorful figures he met in Germany and later fictionalized in his two Berlin novelswho appeared again, fictionalized to an even greater degree, in I Am a Camera and Cabaret What most impressed the first readers of this memoir, however, was the candor with which he describes his life in gay Berlin of the s and his struggles to save his companion, a German man named Heinz, from the Nazis An engrossing and dramatic story and a fascinating glimpse into a littleknown world, Christopher and His Kind remains one of Isherwood's greatest achievements A major figure in twentiethcentury fiction and the gay rights movement, Christopher Isherwoodis the author of Down There on a Visit, Lions and Shadows, A Meeting by the River, The Memorial, Prater Violet, A Single Man, and The World in the Evening, all available from the University of Minnesota Press

10 thoughts on “Christopher and His Kind, 1929 1939

  1. Seth Seth says:

    Christopher Isherwood wrote several books about his experiences in the 1930s, including his Berlin Stories. But on the first page of Christopher and His Kind, he tells us that he wasn't completely honest in these earlier works, that he left out important details about himself, and that he now intends to, um, set the record straight.

    To tell his story, he draws on both memory and documentary evidence in the form of letters, diaries, and passages from his novels. The book has a definite meta- quality, in the sense that he uses Christopher to describe himself in the 1930s, I to describe himself in the present, and Isherwood to describe the narrator of Berlin Stories. (I see other reviewers complaining this is weird and difficult to follow, but this wasn't my experience.)

    So what's the book about?

    Like any memoir, it focuses on the subject's day-to-day life: we see him interact with famous friends; move from place to place (he winds up in China at one point); react to historical events (Hitler, etc.); and write books, plays, and film scripts. We also see his private life, which (not to put too fine a point on it) revolves around twinks, specifically 16-17 year-old boys.

    Why do I prefer boys? he asks early-on. Because of their shape and their voices and their smell and the way they move...

    Clearly not for the faint of heart.

    Of course, from our 21st-century perspective, we can't help asking a couple of questions here:

    (a) Um...isn't that illegal?
    (b) You know teenage boys create a whole lot of drama, right?

    The answer to both questions is Yes, although it's (b) rather than (a) that causes most of Christopher's problems.

    Well, (b) plus a little thing called Fascism.

    So is the book worth reading? Absolutely. First, as a chronicle of gay life in the 1930s, with descriptions of the boy bars, dance halls, and hook-up culture of the time. Second, as the story of a gay man accepting who he is - not all at once and not without difficulty - and realizing, My will is to live according to my nature, and to find a place where I can be what I am...

    This place, of course, turns out be California - but that's the story for another book.

  2. Barney Barney says:

    he must never again give way to embarrassment, never deny the rights of his tribe, never apologize for its existence...

    christopher and his kind provides a fascinating depiction of (privileged) gay life in western europe in the tinderbox years before ww2. what struck me thoroughly was how relatively uninhibited isherwood and his close circle of gay friends were. if i do come across gay characters set in this period, i'm used to them being deeply repressed and thoroughly self-hating, often torn between family/duty and love - it was refreshing to read that here it wasn't really the case. while persecuted by society, they still lived and loved relatively openly.

    interestingly isherwood uses 'christopher', rather than the first person, for what is essentially an autobiography. in all of the books of his i've read so far, you get a real sense of isherwood having lived each moment through what he could later write about it - placing himself as a character ('christopher') in his own autobiography is an extension of that. it also somewhat mischievously makes the book even harder to categorize, to its merit.

    also worthy of mention, and something that (for some reason) i wasn't quite expecting, was the sheer amount of famous people who pop up in. it's almost ridiculous! w.h. auden, e.m. forster, virginia and lenoard woolf, benjamin britten, thomas mann and his family, to name just a few.

    to get the most out of this book, i think you have to read isherwood's earlier works - he goes into them in quite some detail, fleshing out the real people behind his eccentric cast of characters, and filling in the (gay) details left unsaid or subverted in his earlier fiction.

    part travelogue, part memoir, part fiction, part revisionist history, i don't think i've ever read anything quite like it.

  3. Nigeyb Nigeyb says:

    Frank, and beautifully written, however I was less captivated than I'd expected

    Immediately prior to reading Christopher and His Kind by Christopher Isherwood I read, and really enjoyed, Mr Norris Changes Trains”, so I was excited to find out more about Christopher Isherwood’s life during the 1930s.

    Christopher and His Kind is an autobiographical account of Christopher Isherwood's life from 1929, when he left England to spend a week in Berlin and decided to stay there indefinitely, through to 1939, when he arrived in America. I hoped Christopher and His Kind” would provide new insights into both Berlin in the 1930s and, in particular, the events related in Mr Norris Changes Trains.

    The first thing that struck me was the use of the third person. Christopher Isherwood wrote Christopher and His Kind in the early 1970s and so I assume he decided to treat “Christopher” (his younger self) as a separate character. If so, whilst I understand the rationale, I found it both distracting and confusing.

    Christopher Isherwood explains how he kept himself out of the Berlin stories as he thought his homosexuality would distract from the narrative and, understandably given the attitudes of the era, he was guarded about being explicit. There is no such evasiveness or coyness in Christopher and His Kind - he is frank and open about his sex life and his relationships. As such Christopher and His Kind” also reflects the era in which it was written (the early 1970s) as gay liberation was gaining momentum whilst Isherwood was writing this book.

    I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I hoped or expected. As always, Christopher Isherwood writes beautifully about the pre-war era, however it was too detailed for my level of interest and, as I said at the outset, the use of the third person did not work for me.

    I enjoyed reading about Gerald Hamilton, the real life Arthur Norris from Mr Norris Changes Trains, and who was every bit as venal and morally bankrupt as his fictionalised version, and there are also some interesting anecdotes involving Isherwood’s friends W.H. Auden, Stephen Spender, and E.M. Forster.

    Overall though I was less captivated than I had hoped and expected.


    Click here to read my review of Mr Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood

  4. Eric Eric says:

    In this memoir of 1930s Berlin Isherwood reflects on the writing of The Berlin Stories, shifting back and forth between his real-life friends and events and the fictional characters and events they inspired. It sounds tiresome but it really works, and is even comprehensible to someone who hasn't read The Berlin Stories.

    Because Nabokov lived, worked and set almost all of his Russian novels in 1920-30s Berlin, I'm accustomed to thinking of the city as his ground, but Isherwood made his own world of it, too.

    The cover of this edition is rather lame, a Herbert List photograph of a scrawny teen in tighty-whities, standing contrappasto in knee-deep water. Now, I realize that publishers cannot issue a book by a gay writer without a homoerotic cover image, but come on: Herbert List has better pictures...and there's always August Sander if you want great images of German society at the time.

  5. E E says:

    Isherwood fills my mind and heart with his intelligence, serenity and pure literate swooning (poising over young boys- excuse the pun, without being irritating or disgusting in the detail). What I mean to say is this, for me, Isherwood, as with Wilde, Gibson (and other gay writers) fills my heart with this sense that, 'we are not alone'.

    Cliched, perhaps, but here's a few thoughts:
    1. The topsellers among teenagers in recent years (The Hunger Games, Twilight etc.) have followed 'straight' relationships, rather than the rational, and oh-so-common notion that some of their readers may in fact be GAY.
    2. 'Fifty Shades of Grey' sold 60 million copies. That's almost one per person in the UK. Does it follow the (rather disturbing) relationship between two men, or two women? No. But somehow society still condones it, despite the awful fact that many have linked its pages with domestic and sexual abuse.
    3. 'Christopher and his Kind' not only demonstrates his homosexuality, but Isherwood admits there were other implications behind it. A sense of rebellion against his mother. His difficult relationship with his brother as a result.
    4. We see that it wasn't always easy- Heinz was punished for his homosexuality in the end. And there had to be a victim- there had to be a corrupt party in order for this to take place.
    5. This book may be discussing the 30s-40s but the connotations have not escaped the twenty-first century. They're still here.

    I, personally, feel that Isherwood is one of the most under-rated authors Britain has ever produced. His work follows his personal life, which I simply love. He depicted straight relationships, gay relationships and all the gruesome details of both. For those reason he talks to our hearts, and with his wit and intelligence, our minds too.

  6. katrina katrina says:

    So many things I loved about this book-

    1. Clever switching between first and third person throughout. He'll say I think that Christopher should have realized bla bla bla when speaking about his current opinions and thoughts on himself in the past.

    2. I had previously read The Berlin Stories and loved the way in which he described the fictional characters. In this work, he introduces them again but as actual people. It was funny to hear him admit that the girl upon whom Sally Bowles is based is somewhat warped in his memory, because of the version of her in the book, the version of her in the play, the version of her in the movies, and all of the actresses who have played her. No one is any less interesting, and it was good to meet the narrator of the stories- Isherwood was always very careful to leave himself (and mainly his homosexuality) out of the stories in order for the reader to better relate to him and the action.

    3. There is very little plot, which some might have a problem with. The main action of the book is Isherwood traveling with his lover all over the world for several years, avoiding the oncoming war with Germany. The characters all react to this imminent danger in different ways, catastrophizing or genuine bravery or ignoring it entirely.

    4. If you know anything of Isherwood's biography, the last passage of the book will just kill you. Especially if you ever get a chance to see the film Chris and Don: A Love Story. I highly recommend it.

  7. Jesse Jesse says:

    The first book that I picked up after completing the last course for my English M.A. program was one that had been hovering near the top of my to-read list for a long while: Isherwood’s elegant autumnal autobiography Christopher and His Kind. If I had realized how much of it is devoted to clarifying references contained within The Berlin Stories and other earlier texts–almost all of which I have not yet read–I might have held off, but it turns out prior knowledge is not at all necessary to enjoy Isherwood’s book. Rather, I was constantly drawn to the formal quality of “rewriting”–of Isherwood very consciously revisiting events that had found their way into his autobiographical writing over the years, and then later attempting to set the record “straight” about them. Wonderfully enough, being set “straight” in this situation entails being forthright about queer dimensions that had had to be necessarily encoded, deleted, or obscured. It’s a wonderful account of a great 20th century queer life, and the many figures and events that intersected it. In addition, with the careful differentiation between “Christopher” and “I” Isherwood perfectly captures the sensation I often experience when revisiting my own memories: of feeling at once both connected to and severed from them, as if they were observed but not actually experienced firsthand, and that it is only through the process of writing them down–and rewriting them again and perhaps even again–that makes them feel most “real.”

    [Capsule review from the post My Year of Reading Queerly over at my blog, Queer Modernisms.]

  8. Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac) Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac) says:

    Allow me to bitch my way towards praising Isherwood's memoir: it grated that he told it in the third person with a few retrospective first person observations; too much of it was an undisciplined diary dump, too much again a dull exposé of who, and, tediously, to what degree, his characters were based on real people. That said, there are too many wonderful stories here of 1930s gay and literary life for this not to be an enthusiastic pick.

  9. martin martin says:

    Oddly enough, I read this after seeing cabaret but before reading the Berlin Novels.

    It's a fascinating (partial) autobiography - at times embarrassingly, almost painfully personal and honest - but what would you expect from a skilled writer recalling life in Berlin with several other bright young literary stars at one of the most fascinating periods of its history?

    The Christopher here is not the rather confused, bisexual and passive Christopher we know and love from Cabaret or the Berlin Novels. He's far deeper, far more angst-ridden, aware of his sexuality and also far more interesting in many ways. The joys of Bohemian life in Berlin with a small group of privileged and talented friends are juxtaposed to the sad and desperate realities of his relationship with a young German lover whose life seems increasingly threatened by the onset of Hitler and Nazism.

    It's fascinating to read this alongside the fictional account he gives in the Berlin Novels and the even more fictionalised Cabaret film. The atmosphere and mores of contemporary Britain and America limited in some ways the plot of his novels but this tells a truer and often less flattering picture.

  10. Sean Kennedy Sean Kennedy says:

    (3.5 / 5)

    A fascinating view of Hitler's rise to power through the eyes of a group of friends, but Isherwood's style of narrating in both first and third person tends to distance you from it emotionally. Sometimes this is effective, but there are also times when it is to its detriment.