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Kathleen and Christopher

Christopher Isherwood’s Letters to His Mother

2005
Author:

Christopher Isherwood
Lisa Colletta, editor

Kathleen and Christopher

Isherwood’s previously unpublished letters to his mother cast his early years as a writer in a new light

Edited and with an introduction by Lisa Coletta

Kathleen and Christopher collects more than one hundred previously unpublished letters Christopher Isherwood wrote to his mother between 1935 and 1940. Composed while Isherwood was still a struggling writer, these letters offer a brilliant eyewitness account of Europe on the brink of war and an intimate look at the early career of a major literary figure.

Kathleen and Christopher

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Literature

Opening a window into the most fascinating and, in many ways, most mysterious period in Christopher Isherwood’s life, Kathleen and Christopher collects more than one hundred previously unpublished letters the young author wrote to his mother between 1935 and 1940. Composed while he was still a struggling writer, they offer a brilliant eyewitness account of Europe on the brink of war and an intimate look at the early career of a major literary figure.

Because Isherwood destroyed his diaries from these years, these letters—published for the first time and edited and introduced by Lisa Colletta—provide one of the few records of this part of his life not filtered through the lens of time and memory. They contain requests for money and books, descriptions of his travels, stories of his friends W. H. Auden and Stephen Spender, reactions to the critical reception of his Berlin Stories, and a tense account of his failed attempt to save his lover Heinz from conscription into the Nazi military. The final letters in this volume document Isherwood’s journey to Los Angeles, where he permanently settled. Also included are thirty images from Isherwood’s personal photo album and reproductions of postcards from his international travels.

Warm, confiding, and sometimes quite caustic, the letters also reveal a closer affection between the young Isherwood and his mother than his biographers have portrayed. While Isherwood acknowledged that it took him a long time to come to terms with his mother’s influence on his life, the letters in Kathleen and Christopher dispute the prevalent idea that theirs was a relationship rife with conflict. Isherwood’s everyday correspondence, written in extraordinary times, reveals a complex yet wholly recognizable and very close bond between mother and son. She was for him, in turns, an agent, a sounding board, and an unbreakable connection to England.

Kathleen and Christopher

A major figure in twentieth-century fiction and the gay rights movement, Christopher Isherwood (1904-1986) is 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.

Lisa Colletta is assistant professor of English at Babson College. She is the author of Dark Humor and Social Satire in the Modern British Novel.

Kathleen and Christopher

Contents

Introduction Lisa Colletta

Acknowledgments

1935 Copenhagen—Brussels—Amsterdam—Sintra, Portugal
1936 Sintra, Portugal—Ostende—Brussels
1937 Brussels—Luxembourg—Dover
1938 Paris—Marseilles—Djibouti—Ceylon—Singapore— Hong Kong—Canton—Hankow—Shanghai—"Empress of Asia"—Dover—Brussels
1939 New Haven, Connecticut—New York City— Grand Canyon—Hollywood—Santa Monica

Editor's Notes

Index