[1911 - 2006]
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 (naïve, 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)
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)
travel and courtroom observations, published between 1953 and 1967.
Quicksands: A Memoir
-- Finalist Lambda Literary 2005
Belles Lettres Award
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