cover image Auden and Isherwood

Auden and Isherwood

Norman Page, N. Page N.. Palgrave MacMillan, $100 (220pp) ISBN 978-0-312-21173-8

Although the revival of Cabaret makes Page's study timely, the opportunity is mishandled. His visit to the Berlin years of W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood reads like a series of rambling academic lectures. Source notes clot the narrative, pronoun references are often vague, and the detailed survey of 1928-1933 urban topography further erodes the narrative. Friends and, briefly, lovers, the two writers escaped to Weimar Berlin to sample its gay clubs and rent boys. Auden, who would visit during holidays, found much inspiration but little of literary value in the sexual turn-ons of the scene. Isherwood would casually mask his experience in the novellas collected as The Berlin Stories (1935-1939), which Page (A.E. Housman) calls ""too discreet, too evasive, too readily disposed to encode and displace, to make use of what must have been wonderfully colourful material."" That Isherwood's stories were autobiographical fiction rather than autobiography and were written for a more censorious generation, yet inspired the play I Am a Camera and the musical Cabaret, seems less significant to Page than their less-than-complete exposure of the depression-driven daydream that Berlin seemed to be before the rise of Hitler. From Isherwood's 1977 memoir, Christopher and His Kind, Page quotes the author's rueful confession, ""Seldom have wild oats been sown more prudently."" This book reflects that disappointment. Photos not seen by PW. (June)