Christopher Isherwood’s reputation has stood on shaky ground ever since he and W. H. Auden left Europe for the United States in 1939, on the eve of the Second World War. It was seen by many in England as abandonment, even flight, and ill-wishers scoffed as the two writers who had been the darlings of literary anti-fascism throughout the Thirties turned tail for America the moment war seemed imminent.

There is a certain amount of justice in this interpretation of events, as Isherwood himself was only too aware, though he considered himself a committed pacifist and stated that, should war break out, he would be perfectly willing to return to England and do whatever work the government might require of conscientious objectors. In the event, he did not go back to England, but he did volunteer for wartime work with the Quakers in Pennsylvania, helping European refugees to get settled and launched in the United States. Yet he was never to...


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