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This interview is taken from Poetry Nation 4 Number 4, 1975.

'A Kind of Left-wing Direction': An Interview with Christopher Isherwood David Lambourne


A NOVELIST'S appearance may often serve for us as an emblem of the kind of book he writes. Thus, for instance, Graham Greene himself would seem the perfect casting for one of the wry tormented sceptics who inhabit the Jansenistic darkness of his novels; thus George Orwell's dour seamed face at once transports us to a dilapidated quarter of poverty and hopeless indignity; while the portly tweediness of Evelyn Waugh, one shade too blatant for complete plausibility, gives us ample warning that for him life is apt to be absurd. This applies equally to Christopher Isherwood, virtually the exact contemporary of these three novelists; with the sole difference that the image of him with which most of us are familiar tends also to evoke a specific period, the thirties. How, one wondered, visiting him early in 1970 to record the interview which follows, would he have changed from the dapper bright-eyed Novelist-hero of the Auden circle, the greatcoated ex-public-schoolboy leaving by train on a dangerous mission, the camera-eye, as William Plomer describes him, with a uniquely diamond-like twinkle?

Six years earlier Isherwood had completed a novel -
A Single Man - which takes as a main theme the business of ageing and death. Its hero, George, is moving reluctantly into late middle-age, abdicating by stages from control over his body, and drawing ever nearer to the heart-attack that on the book's last page will leave his corpse 'a cousin to the garbage in the container ...


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