On Tuesday, July 9, at 7:00 pm at the Camden Public Library, writer and Rockport resident Stephen Harder will present Journey to a War: Auden and Isherwood in China.
In 1938, author Christopher Isherwood and poet W.H. Auden spent four months in China during the Japanese War. Isherwood and Auden, sometime lovers and lifelong friends, visited the British colony Hong Kong, the Chinese headquarters in Hankow, the Yellow River war zone, and the international enclave in Shanghai. They met Nationalist Chiang Kai-shek and Communist Chou En-lai, traveled to the front with Ian Fleming’s famous journalist brother Peter (the inspiration for James Bond), and witnessed the awful beauty and devastation of enemy air raids.
Isherwood and Auden returned by steamer and train to Europe via America on the eve of World War II. Changed by their experience of China and the US, both immigrated to America in early 1939. Later that year, “sitting in one of the dives on Fifty-second street” in New York, Auden wrote the famous poem September 1, 1939, about the “low, dishonest decade” of the 1930s and the onset of the European war, a poem that was re-read by thousands following September 11, 2001. Christopher Isherwood wrote The Berlin Stories, the inspiration for the film I Am a Camera and the musical Cabaret.
Stephen Harder will use photographs, film clips, and brief selections of Isherwood’s prose and Auden’s poems from their book Journey to a War to illustrate how their insights relate to war and history in China today. Stephen Harder is a student of the writings of W.H Auden, and has spent many years living and working in China. He is currently Professor of Practice of Law at New York University in Shanghai.