‘I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking.’ Anyone familiar with the declaration by the narrator of Christopher Isherwood’s most enduring work of fiction, Goodbye to Berlin (1939), will be surprised by how uncinematic, indeed incomprehensive, his diary entries can be. There’s a lot of thinking, and nothing like the gestures towards abandoning subjectivity and self-consciousness that Isherwood crafted into his novels, not least the one masterpiece penned during the period covered by this second collection – A Single Man (1964). As in the first volume of diaries, published in 1996, Isherwood comes across as, by turns, rebarbative, loving, insecure, opinionated, self-critical, self-destructive, reticent, controlling and grand. His sing-song voice – caught in the 2007 documentary Chris and Don: A Love Story – is hard to square with these entries, which are rarely light-hearted. What they are, however, is a huge relief after this book’s thousand-page predecessor.

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