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Works by
Sybille Bedford
(Writer)

[1911 - 2006]

Profile created March 5, 2006
  • A Visit to Don Otavio (1953)
    Before returning to the Old World after World War II, Sybille Bedford resolved to see something more of the New. "I had a great longing to move," she said, "to hear another language, eat new food, to be in a country with a long nasty history in the past and as little present history as possible." And so she set out for Mexico--and, incidentally, to write what Bruce Chatwin called the best travel book of the twentieth century, "a book of marvels, to be read again and again and again."

  • Pleasures and Landscapes (1954)
    Sybille Bedford once wrote that "travel writing is inseparable from the writer's tastes, idiosyncrasies, and general temperament--it is what happens to him when he is confronted with a column, a bird, a sage, a cheat, a riot; wine, fruit, dirt; the delay in the dirt, the failing airplane." Pleasures and Landscapes is what happened to Mrs. Bedford when, at the peak of her literary powers, she traveled through France, Italy, and the rest of Europe for Vogue, Esquire, and other magazines --eight classic essays that secure her a place at the table with A. J. Liebling and M. F. K. Fisher.

  • A Legacy (1956)
    The Kaiser's Germany is the setting of Sybille Bedford's first and best-known novel, in which two families-one from solid, upholstered Jewish Berlin, the other from the somnolent, agrarian Catholic South -become comically, tragically, irrevocably intertwined. "Each family," writes the author, "stood confident of being able to go on with what was theirs, while in fact they were playthings, often victims, of the now united Germany and what was brewing therein." Did the monstrous thing that followed have its foundation in families such as these? "Writing about them made me think so. Hence the title."

  • The Trial of Dr. Adams (1959)

  • The Best We Can Do (1961)

  • The Faces of Justice:  A Traveller's Report (1961)

  • The Wife's Tale (1961)

  • A Favorite of the Gods (1963)
    Henry James's theme of the New World (nave, upright, puritanical) confronting the Old (steeped in sophisticated and unscrupulous charm) is here explored by a novelist who has witnessed two world wars. Her protagonist is Constanza, a beautiful Italian-American pagan born to privilege and happiness-a seeming "favourite of the gods." But in the years of her maturity she becomes aware of what she lacks-a purpose and a part. Who am I, she asks, and what is it I can do? "This," writes Bedford, "is not a poor little rich girl's plaint. It is the quest that lurks within every human creature fortunate to lift its head above the daily grind."

  • Sudden View: A Traveller's Tale from Mexico (1963)

  • The Trial of Marie Besnard (1963)

  • Her Majesty's Incorruptible, Imperturbable, Incomparable Judges [The Lutheran Church in the City] (1965)

  • A Compass Error (1968)
    Sequel to A Favourite of the Gods

  • Aldous Huxley (1974)

  • Jigsaw (1989)
    Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Sybille Bedford's latest novel walks the borderline between autobiography and fiction. It picks up where A Legacy leaves off, leading us from the Kaiser's Germany into the wider Europe of the 1920s and the limbo between world wars. The narrator, Billi, tells the story of her apprenticeship to life, and of her many teachers: her father, a pleasure-loving German baron; her brilliant, beautiful, erratic English mother; and later, on the Mediterranean coast of France, the Huxleys, Aldous and Maria. Jigsaw, wrote the Sunday Times, is "the most unusual, most resonant of all Sybille Bedford's unusual and resonant books."

  • As It Was: Pleasures, Landscapes and Justice (1991)
    Collection of travel and courtroom observations, published between 1953 and 1967.

  • Quicksands: A Memoir (2005) -- Finalist Lambda Literary 2005 Belles Lettres Award

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