Lost Years: A Memoir 1945 - 1951
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The English writer Christopher Isherwood settled in California in 1939 and spent the war years working in Hollywood film studios, teaching English to European refugees, and converting to Hinduism. By the time the war ended, he realized he was not cut out to be a monk. With his self-imposed wartime vigil behind him, he careened into a life of frantic socializing, increasing dissipation, anxiety, and, eventually, despair. For nearly a half decade he all but ceased to write fiction and even abandoned his lifelong habit of keeping a diary.
This is Isherwood's own account, reconstructed from datebooks, letters, and memory nearly thirty years later, of his experience during those missing years: his activities in Santa Monica, and also in New York and London, just after the war. Begun in 1971, in a postsixties atmosphere of liberation, Lost Years includes explicit details of his romantic and sexual relationships during the 1940s and unveils a hidden and sometimes shocking way of life shared with friends and acquaintances--many of whom were well-known artists, actors, and film-makers. Not until the 1951 Broadway success of I Am a Camera, adapted from his Berlin stories, did Isherwood begin to reclaim control of his talents and of his future.
Isherwood never prepared Lost years for publication because he rapidly became caught up in writing the book that established him as a hero of gay liberation, Christopher and His Kind.
With unpolished directness, and with insight and wit, Lost Years shows how Isherwood developed his private recollections into the unique mixture of personal mythology and social history that characterizes much of his best work. This surprising and important memoir also highlights his determination to track down even the most elusive and unappealing aspects of his past in order to understand and honestly portray himself, both as a writer and as a human being.
oracle amidst ﬂags, bursting shells, whizzing planes and bombarding warships. He was handsome, temperamental and very much of an actor. Dave Eberhardt was [. . .] just discharged from the navy––a pale husky joli laid with a crew cut. Soon after Dave and Christopher met, Dave told Christopher that he found him “powerfully attractive.” Christopher reciprocated more than sufﬁciently, and they would neck whenever they were alone together, sometimes for long spells. Since they always had to do this at
this new affair of Christopher’s with condescending amusement, saying, “He’s about your speed.” On September 21, Christopher ﬁnished work at Warner’s (apparently) and celebrated this by buying a secondhand Lincoln Zephyr convertible, a ﬂashy car which was much better suited than the Packard1 to his show-off role of Uncle to the Denny– Johnny–Caskey gang. One amusing quirk of the Lincoln was that its speedometer would get out of whack at high speeds; if you were doing 80, it would sometimes climb
three rarest advantages ––human birth, the longing for liberation, and discipleship to an illumined teacher. Nevertheless, there are those who somehow manage to obtain this rare human birth, together with bodily and mental strength, and an understanding of the scriptures––and yet are so deluded that they do not struggle for liberation. Such men are suicides. They clutch at the unreal and destroy themselves. Shankara points his ﬁnger straight at Christopher. And what could Christopher reply, by
intimately for nearly ﬁve years suddenly ﬁnd themselves taking part in a seemingly unpremeditated sex act. But the act itself now seems easy to explain; it was a spontaneous 1 ¾ 1947 ¾ 115 On April 17, Christopher saw Tony Hyndman again in the afternoon, after lunching with a young man named Neville KingPage. I think Neville must have been a friend of John Lehmann and that Christopher met him at John’s party on the 15th. Neville must have let Christopher know through John that he was anxious
who fucked Christopher. On the 16th, Christopher also saw Gore Vidal, who had just arrived in England, at John Lehmann’s. Lehmann was publishing an English edition of The City and the Pillar and was trying to get Gore to agree to some expurgations––which he ﬁnally did, under protest. Tennessee Williams must have arrived at almost the same time. Christopher and Caskey saw him and Gore at John Lehmann’s on June 18. This is the only mention of Tennessee in the day-to-day diary for that month––yet I