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Kathleen and Christopher: Christopher Isherwood's Letters to His Mother

by Christopher Isherwood

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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mysterious period in Christopher Isherwood’s life, Kathleen and Christopher collects more than one hundred previously unpublished letters the young author wrote to his mother between 1935 and 1940.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.  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.… (more)
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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mysterious period in Christopher Isherwood’s life, Kathleen and Christopher collects more than one hundred previously unpublished letters the young author wrote to his mother between 1935 and 1940.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.  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.

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