Christopher Isherwood's "Right" and "Wrong" Anti-Semitism: A Political Reading

Authors

  • Francesc Gámez Toro Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED)

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.26754/ojs_misc/mj.20216055

Keywords:

Christopher Isherwood, Jews, social identity theory, cognitive association, anti-Semitism

Abstract

There are numerous references to Christopher Isherwood’s prejudices against Jews in scholarly literature; however, this subject has not yet been approached in depth. This study aims to fill that void by dissecting the author’s bias against Jews: its origin and nature. The article discusses the references to Jews in the writer’s novels, memoirs and diaries within the frame of reference of Tajfel and Turner’s social identity theory which holds that humans innately derogate those who are perceived as being opposed. A close reading reveals that Isherwood, in a specific social and political context, considered Jews alien to him and —in accordance with social identity theory predictions— he instinctually derogated them. Before his stay in Berlin, Judaism did not interest him and he disliked Jews because he regarded them as ‘exotic’. During the rise and rule of Nazism, the writer felt compelled to support Jews —although reticently— because they had become the main target of persecution of national socialism. Later, once in America, Isherwood distinguished between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ anti-Semitism and stated that Jewish politics were whining and belligerent. Even though he had Jewish friends, his diaries show a persistent instinctual dislike of Jews. Ironically, the anti-prejudice fighter could not help having his own prejudices.

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Published

2021-12-18

Issue

Section

ARTICLES: Literature, film and cultural studies