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Patrician Poverty

Rosemary Hill: Sybille Bedford, 18 August 2005

Quicksands: A Memoir 
by Sybille Bedford.
Hamish Hamilton, 370 pp., £20, June 2005, 0 241 14037 4
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... Beginning in the middle, as she announces at once she intends to do, Sybille Bedford starts her memoir in 1953, the middle, more or less, of her long life and of ‘our frightful century’ whose history is as much her subject as her own peculiar story. Her opening scene is a summer morning in Geneva, where she passed a few hours between trains, a woman in her early forties, ‘free to live where, if not how, I chose’, a neutral observer in a neutral country ...

Nonchalance

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 27 July 1989

Jigsaw: An Unsentimental Education 
by Sybille Bedford.
Hamish Hamilton, 328 pp., £12.95, May 1989, 0 241 12572 3
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... It’s a characteristic of all Sybille Bedford’s fiction to tell the reader less than he wants to know. Ivy Compton-Burnett was a friend of hers and perhaps gave her lessons in leaving things out. She calls Jigsaw, which has to do with her own early life, ‘a biographical novel’; and it may not be a coincidence that the book’s most sympathetic reviewers have been those who seem already to know her life story ...

Noovs’ hoovs in the trough

Angela Carter, 24 January 1985

The Official Foodie Handbook 
by Ann Barr and Paul Levy.
Ebury, 144 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 85223 348 5
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An Omelette and a Glass of Wine 
by Elizabeth David.
Hale, 318 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 0 7090 2047 3
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Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook 
by Alice Waters, foreword by Jane Grigson .
Chatto, 340 pp., £12.95, March 1984, 0 7011 2820 8
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... sums up an entire way of life. It is no surprise to discover that Mrs David admires the novels of Sybille Bedford, nor that she was a friend of Norman Douglas. It is a little surprising that she has never turned her acclaimed prose style to fiction, but has always restricted herself to culinary matters, if in the widest sense: taking aboard aspects of ...

I Could Sleep with All of Them

Colm Tóibín: The Mann Family, 6 November 2008

In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain: The Erika and Klaus Mann Story 
by Andrea Weiss.
Chicago, 302 pp., £14.50, May 2008, 978 0 226 88672 5
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... where Erika began an affair with a German doctor who was staying at her hotel. According to Sybille Bedford, she ‘went off women, she really became interested in men, she went off with people’s husbands even.’ Klaus had an affair with an American dancer. The Peppermill was to be performed in New York with its European cast. Although the ...

Her Body or the Sea

Ian Patterson: Ann Quin, 21 June 2018

The Unmapped Country: Stories and Fragments 
by Ann Quin.
And Other Stories, 192 pp., £10, January 2018, 978 1 911508 14 4
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... it with two pages of almost verbatim quotation from a 1966 article about the Auschwitz trials by Sybille Bedford. The character makes no comment on the extract, but the pattern of emotional disengagement Bedford reports has clear resonances within the novel, which is built round the need for the young convalescent ...

You better not tell me you forgot

Terry Castle: How to Spot Members of the Tribe, 27 September 2012

All We Know: Three Lives 
by Lisa Cohen.
Farrar Straus, 429 pp., £22.50, July 2012, 978 0 374 17649 5
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... may have had an affair.) They shared friends and lovers, or at least lovers-in-law, on occasion. (Sybille Bedford floats around in this book like a benign sapphic putto.) And though residing in different places at different times, all of them moved for more than half a century in the same impossibly glamorous literary and artistic circles in ...

British Worthies

David Cannadine, 3 December 1981

The Directory of National Biography, 1961-1970 
edited by E.T. Williams and C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 1178 pp., £40, October 1981, 0 19 865207 0
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... father, John Pearson on Ian Fleming, P.N. Furbank on E.M. Forster, Philip Williams on Gaitskell, Sybille Bedford on Aldous Huxley, Michael Holroyd on Augustus John, J.E. Morpurgo on Allen Lane, Ronald Lewin on Slim and Christopher Sykes on Evelyn Waugh. On the other hand, we do get José Harris on Beveridge, James Lees-Milne on Harold ...

Whose Candyfloss?

Christopher Hilliard: Richard Hoggart, 16 April 2014

Richard Hoggart: Virtue and Reward 
by Fred Inglis.
Polity, 259 pp., £25, October 2013, 978 0 7456 5171 2
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... off for ‘lecturing’ the court: ‘You are not at Leicester University at the moment.’ Sybille Bedford, sitting in the gallery, felt that Griffith-Jones stressed the word ‘Leicester’. Hoggart too recalled a slight pause before Griffith-Jones named the university, ‘as if he had to recover the name of so insignificant a place from the ...

Hug me till you drug me

Alex Harvey: Aldous Huxley, 4 May 2016

After Many a Summer 
by Aldous Huxley.
Vintage, 314 pp., £8.99, September 2015, 978 1 78487 035 5
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Time Must Have a Stop 
by Aldous Huxley.
Vintage, 305 pp., £9.99, September 2015, 978 1 78487 034 8
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The Genius and the Goddess 
by Aldous Huxley.
Vintage, 127 pp., £8.99, September 2015, 978 1 78487 036 2
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... Throughout his fiction there’s a puritan unease about the emasculating effect of sex. Sybille Bedford, Huxley’s first biographer, notes his distaste for promiscuity, ‘which spends itself purposely, without producing love or even, in the long run, amusement’. After Many a Summer, Time Must Have a Stop and The Genius and the Goddess all ...

Was Ma Hump to blame?

John Sutherland: Aldous Huxley, 11 July 2002

Aldous Huxley: An English Intellectual 
by Nicholas Murray.
Little, Brown, 496 pp., £20, April 2002, 0 316 85492 1
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TheCat's Meow 
directed by Peter Bogdanovich.
April 2002
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... received less biography than one might have expected. Nicholas Murray usefully fills a gap between Sybille Bedford’s thirty-year-old life of Aldous and the awaited definitive biography by David Bradshaw. With the passing of time, Murray can tell us things prohibited to his predecessor by discretion and the libel laws. At the same time, like Murray’s ...

Weimar in Partibus

Norman Stone, 1 July 1982

Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World 
by Elizabeth Young-Bruehl.
Yale, 563 pp., £12.95, May 1982, 0 300 02660 9
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Hannah Arendt and the Search for a New Political Philosophy 
by Bhikhu Parekh.
Macmillan, 198 pp., £20, October 1981, 0 333 30474 8
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... It is also an extremely difficult read. It was felicitously summed up in an English newspaper by Sybille Bedford as ‘relentlessly abstract, slow, cluttered, static, curiously oppressive; reading it feels like sitting in a hot-house without a watch.’ Marriage to Günther Stern, with whom she had lived, did not work out at all well. He was a promising ...

Terror on the Vineyard

Terry Castle: Boss Ladies, Watch Out!, 15 April 1999

A Likely Story: One Summer with Lillian Hellman 
by Rosemary Mahoney.
Doubleday, 273 pp., $23.95, November 1998, 9780385479318
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... Mansfield, Sylvia Plath, Daphne Du Maurier, Ivy Compton-Burnett, Iris Murdoch, Elizabeth Jolley, Sybille Bedford and many others. Female autobiographers have been similarly forthright about such hatreds – if less so about the pleasures of posthumous retribution. When a famous and idealised older woman fails to live up to the needs of a younger ...

No Intention of Retreating

Lorna Scott Fox: Martha Gellhorn’s Wars, 2 September 2004

Martha Gellhorn: A Life 
by Caroline Moorehead.
Vintage, 550 pp., £8.99, June 2004, 0 09 928401 4
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... experience and practice of writing, in private notebooks and letters to colleague-confidants like Sybille Bedford. Some notebooks, undated, contain particularly distressing passages: Week after week of dead pages . . . I have no discipline in work hours, no order in my mind, no theories of literature, no universal view of anything. Oh I am ...

Siding with Rushdie

Christopher Hitchens, 26 October 1989

The Rushdie File 
edited by Lisa Appignanesi and Sara Maitland.
Fourth Estate/ICA, 268 pp., £5.95, July 1989, 0 947795 84 7
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CounterBlasts No 4: Sacred Cows 
by Fay Weldon.
Chatto, 43 pp., £2.99, July 1989, 0 7011 3556 5
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Salman Rushdie and the Third World: Myths of the Nation 
by Timothy Brennan.
Macmillan, 203 pp., £29.50, September 1989, 0 333 49020 7
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... drew a warm seconding letter from the reliably reactionary Elizabeth Jane Howard and her friend Sybille Bedford. If Berger had slyly blamed all the mayhem onto ‘the Rushdie affair’, these two went him one better in the business of culpability. The violence was not the result of some artfully displaced ‘affair’ but of the existence of Rushdie ...

Take a bullet for the team

David Runciman: The Profumo Affair, 21 February 2013

An English Affair: Sex, Class and Power in the Age of Profumo 
by Richard Davenport-Hines.
Harper, 400 pp., £20, January 2013, 978 0 00 743584 5
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... In this, he and Christine Keeler were well suited. ‘She is a very, very pretty girl,’ Sybille Bedford wrote about her after the scandal broke. ‘All the curves and lines are as good as they can be, the head has charm and grace, and there is a faint oriental touch about the face: the pure smoothness, the hint of high cheekbone, the slant of ...

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