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Quicksands: A Memoir by Sybille Bedford

Quicksands: A Memoir

by Sybille Bedford

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Bedford led a fascinating life living among such luminaries as Aldous Huxley, Brian Howard and the German literary refugees that flocked to southern France just before WW II. While evocative, I wanted to learn more about her and the people around her. I found annoying (and rather coy) her references to previous books and people whom she assumes we will identify even though she won't name them. I also found annoying the repetitive sentence structure (her writing is probably celebrated for its lyric qualities!) and the sentences so allusive that they didn't quite make sense. Too bad, because the life here has been deeply experienced and unlike that of anyone I might meet outside of the pages of a book. ( )
  PatsyMurray | Jun 30, 2013 |
a very non traditional auto biography. but very interesting. ( )
  mahallett | Feb 18, 2012 |
Born in Germany, partly Jewish, in 1911, and most casually, even neglectfully, `brought up' in Italy, France, and England, writing here in her nineties living in Chelsea, Sybille Bedford indeed has many fascinating stories to tell. Their sequence here, though, is random: as she writes, `I am attempting to give some account of the life of a fairly nonconformist individual in a variety of twentieth-century oases. An account by an amalgam of fragments.' Wonderful fragments they are, tales beautifully told: of a mother who finds her older step-daughter `more rewarding than a small inquiring child. She explained this to me rationally. "Let us see", she told me, "how you develop', and who sends her child away from Italy to England for some lacking education, into the fulltime care of `a couple she had met at a hotel, she didn't quite remember where. "They were amusing people ... they ran out of money." They were nice people, kind, "Sure to be glad to look after you and help to choose a school'; of the horror of Ursuline nuns on realizing that their new pupil, knowledgeable and a fluent reader, is quite unable to write; her half-sister leaving husband and child without warning, walking to the railway station in the middle of the night accompanied by the faithful Nanny wheeling the pram loaded with Jacko's clothes (Nanny with empty pram had returned to her charge)'; `the life of a full-blown middle-middle-class household in the English Midlands in the early 1920s ... a large complement of servants, all female, all in uniforms'; life in late 1920s Capri with Norman Douglas; the group of `writers in abrupt exile' at Sanary-sur-mer in 1933, `the one-time capital of German literature' -- Mann, Brecht, Zweig, Feuchtwanger among them; arranged marriages to obtain passports, including Erika Mann's to W H Auden, and Bedford's to a stranger, the wedding attended by Virginia Woolf; Aldous and Maria Huxley's saving Bedford from deportation from Britain; driving Thomas Mann’s poodle from the east to west US coast in a heat wave, alone; Paris in 1949 with `a nest of young American writers: Jane Bowles, Truman Capote, Carson MacCullers ... the nail-biters, sitting in a row'; moving into a squalid `kind of shed cobbled together, it would seem, from tarred paper and packing-case wood on top of an office building' in Rome on a public holiday -- and many more -- altogether a marvellous text. Little, though, following the second World War: Bedford writes, `Had I but world enough and time -- I have not. ... what happened in the fifty or so years between then and now, I shall merely catalogue.’
And the marvellous text is not well supported editorially. No contents list, although it would have made lively reading, with the chapter headings being of the narrative-resumé type -- Chapter I is headed, `Geneva: one neutral day -- Who was I? Where am I? -- Delays: events, unsuitable aspirations, love of living -- A kick into a future’. Photographs appear only on the jacket and endpapers; and, most lamentably -- with so many of the great and good (and less so) of the twentieth century presented here, and such splendid accounts of various places and periods, all bewilderingly out of proper chronological order for an autobiography -- the book is unindexed. ( )
2 vote KayCliff | Oct 26, 2008 |
While slightly disjointed at times, this is a fascinating memoir. Bedford's portrait of France's expat literary world in the buildup to WWII was the most interesting part of the book for me, but I found her discussion of her development as a writer quite interesting as well. ( )
  Lenaphoenix | Aug 9, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140279768, Paperback)

Beginning in 1956 with the publication of "A Legacy", Sybille Bedford has narrated in fiction and non-fiction what has been by turns her sensuous, harrowing, and altogether remarkable life. In this magnificent memoir, she moves from Berlin during the Great War to the artists' set on the Cote d'Azur of the 1920s, through lovers, mentors, seducers and friends, and from genteel yet shabby poverty to relative comfort in London's Chelsea. Whether evoking the simple sumptuousness of a home-cooked meal or tracing the heart-rending outline of an intimate betrayal, she offers spellbinding reflections on how history imprints itself on private lives.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:50 -0400)

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"In this memoir, Sybille Bedford takes us on an epic personal journey from World War I Berlin via the writers' and artists' bohemia of the Cote d'Azur in the 1920s, to post-World War II London, New York, Paris, and Rome." "Following no maxim but the need for a place and a space to write, Sybille Bedford's life has been that of the free-spirited, committed artist: precarious, passionate, and frequently impoverished. At the same time it has been a life richly lived: full of incident, impetuousness, danger, fun, friends, lovers, mentors, art, and writing." "Whether evoking the simple joys of a slow dinner with friends under the open sky or tracing the heart-rending outline of an intimate betrayal, recalling a madcap twenty-four-hour dash from northern France to Rome, or remembering a languorous summer on Capri, Sybille Bedford offers us a reflection on how history imprints itself on private lives."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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