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Condor and the Cows

A South American Travel Diary

2003
Author:

Christopher Isherwood
Foreword by Jeffrey Meyers
Photography by William Caskey

Condor and the Cows

A lost treasure of this major writer

Photographs by William Caskey

In September 1947, long before mass tourism and with no knowledge of Spanish, Christopher Isherwood and his lover Bill Caskey left for a six-month tour of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina. Isherwood’s account of this journey, The Condor and the Cows, is one of very few classic travel books on South America and was among the books Isherwood considered his best.

A very entertaining narrative . . . One is immensely grateful to the writer for having suffered the discomforts of dreary journeys by train, dangerous drives along precipices, and repellent accommodations in order to tell us, in pleasantly assimilable prose, what is to be found in these inaccessible places.

Edmund Wilson, New Yorker

In September 1947, long before mass tourism and with no knowledge of Spanish, Christopher Isherwood and his lover Bill Caskey left for a six-month tour of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina. Isherwood’s account of this journey, The Condor and the Cows, is one of very few classic travel books on South America and was among the books Isherwood considered his best.

Based on his trip journal and loosely structured by the vagaries of his travels, these pages give us an Isherwood who dreams of voluntary exile in the tropical paradise of Curaçao and dines out on stories of Nazis in Berlin, missionaries in China, and movie stars in Hollywood. He describes the surprising and sometimes unnerving people and places he encounters through telling, cinematic details—of Inca drinking vessels, the Spanish colonial city of Cuzco (which he calls “one of the most beautiful monuments to bigotry and sheer brutal stupidity in the whole world”), a bullfight in Bogotá, the towering ruins of Machu Picchu. Unsentimental, rich, and wonderfully rendered, this expanded edition includes additional photographs by Bill Caskey and a new foreword by Jeffrey Meyers.

Condor and the Cows

A major figure in both twentieth-century fiction and the gay rights movement, Christopher Isherwood (1904–1986) is also the author of A Single Man, Down There on a Visit, Lions and Shadows, The Memorial, The World in the Evening, and A Meeting by the River.

Jeffrey Meyers lives in Berkeley, California, and is the author of Inherited Risk: Errol and Sean Flynn in Hollywood and Vietnam.

Condor and the Cows

A very entertaining narrative . . . One is immensely grateful to the writer for having suffered the discomforts of dreary journeys by train, dangerous drives along precipices, and repellent accommodations in order to tell us, in pleasantly assimilable prose, what is to be found in these inaccessible places.

Edmund Wilson, New Yorker

It makes the big, sad, mist-shrouded, sun-parched continent to the south of us come alive with an emotional impact, a vividness, and sense of tangible reality.

New York Times

Isherwood’s eye and wit are as lively as ever . . . the same quick sympathies, the squirrelish scrutiny, the open nerves and senses. . . . His gift and his eye are a poet’s, and these permit his final pages to rise to an eloquence and vision of their own.

The Nation

Isherwood has conveyed the crowded effervescence of being there, he has persuaded on, that on such a trip, this is exactly what the normal, nonplussed traveler would have seen and heard on a journey that was undramatic and unromantic, but was heady, disturbing. . . . The Condor and the Cows is not the Isherwood we have known, it is a larger, cinematic version, but the smaller, agile, eel-quick figure is there inside, and the two have made them an irresistible feature.

V.S. Pritchett, New Statesman and Nation

Graceful.

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