Christopher Isherwood looks remarkably like his renamed and slightly-altered authorial avatar in the film adaptation of Cabaret, a fitting shorthand for the trend of his best-known works (A Single Man, The Berlin Stories) to draw heavily from his own life and immediate surroundings. The theatrical adaptation of The Berlin Stories was even titled I Am a Camera after a line from his novel’s first page: “I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking.”
It would not, however, be accurate to describe Isherwood himself as ‘not thinking’. He was a prolific author and translator, completing dozens of published works, some of which – such as the satirical short story collection he collaborated on with Edward Upward, an old school friend – were only released posthumously. As E.M. Forster influenced him, so he left his mark on Truman Capote in turn. Although his critical coverage of the Weimar Republic’s downward slide brought him enduring fame, his pacifist philosophy extended still further to an interest in Hinduism and an uneasiness with adopting US citizenship because doing do involved swearing an oath to serve in the nation’s defense. When he finally released his un-fictionalized memoirs of his time in 1930s Berlin he was hailed as a gay hero for his honesty.