Isherwood completists will pounce on The Animals, the collected correspondence between the English author and Don Bachardy, his three-decades-younger American artist boyfriend. It follows the publication in four volumes of Isherwood’s unabridged diaries, each carefully edited by Katherine Bucknell and encouraged by Bachardy, now approaching eighty and still working. The most recent volume of the diaries, Liberation (2012), saw Bucknell in her introduction, and Edmund White in a preface, confronting some of that book’s uglier moments. White conceded that Isherwood came across as ‘seriously anti-Semitic’ and made further reference to his accumulating misogyny. Still, White concluded, ‘we should forgive him with the same liberality we apply to ourselves and our friends’.
If the highly cultivated veil of autobiographical fictions and fictionalised memoirs that Isherwood fabricated during his lifetime has progressively been lowered by the publication of his diaries, it is now properly rent apart by these passionate love letters. They trace just part of the couple’s relationship, between 1956 and 1970,