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A Visit to Don Otavio by Sybille Bedford
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A Visit to Don Otavio (1953)

by Sybille Bedford

Other authors: Val Biro (Illustrator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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287362,220 (3.91)17
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.… (more)

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a strange book but quite interesting. bedford writes well. just something didn't click with me. ( )
  mahallett | Nov 14, 2011 |
This entertaining book is an account of a journey that [[Sybille Bedford]] made to Mexico shortly after WWII.

A few chapters deal with the major sights they saw, but more time is spent describing tortuous journeys to places which turn out to be not quite worth it. Bedford portrays herself as someone who puts up pretty stoically with the discomforts ("There was a road bed, in a fairly advanced stage of construction, much of it really passable"), and her friend E as highly unimpressed by her surroundings and by Bedford's hare-brained travelling schemes ("E stalked past it all, the way Doctor Johnson must have stalked about the Hebrides").

There are happier elements to the visit too, from the beauties of some of the countryside to the titular visit to Don Otavio, a young and otherworldly Mexican from an aristocratic family who lives in a mansion by a lake.

Although I don't think this book told me much about Mexico, I still found Bedford an engaging companion. She gets as much humour from the foibles of the expats that she meets from the vagaries of transport and accommodation difficulties, and she appreciates the good sides of what she sees.

Sample: The posadas are most jolly. The ground floor is always a large, unkempt parlour opening into the patio without much transition, full of overgrown plants, wicker-chairs, objects without visible use, birds free and caged, and a number of sleeping dogs. Here the innkeepers jot their accounts, sort the linen, drive bargains with the poultry woman and the egg child, arraign the servants, play the gramophone, drink chocolate, chat and doze; and here the guests sit, smoke cigars, have their hair cut, shout for servants, play the gramophone, drink rum and chocolate, chat and doze. Everybody has their own bottle, sent out for by the mozo. The innkeeper would think you mad to pay him bar prices; every time you draw cork he will supply you - compliments of the house - with glasses, lime, salt (without which spirits are considered to be unswallowable), pistachio nuts, fried anchovies, toasted tortillas strewn with crumbs of cheese and lettuce, stuffed cold maize dumplings and pickled chilli peppers. ( )
2 vote wandering_star | Aug 10, 2011 |
This is a semi-autobiographical story about the author's travels in Mexico after WWII. Having decided to return to her native England from America, she wanted a travel adventure before she returned to Europe. She decided on Mexico, and with her friend "E." (as she's referred to throughout the book, and in one place as E.M.A.; the book is dedicated to Esther Murphy Arthur) embarks on a tortuous journey to, through, and from Mexico, in a trip that lasts at least a year, by my calculations. Through it all, this densely written book, like good travel writing, offers ravishing details about its main topic, Mexico - its people, its history, its geography, climate, and sights. And like good writing of any kind, deeper observations on human nature. The book has a strong Euro-centric (I hate that word, but it applies), with the author's focus on the European influence on the country and her rather dismissive treatment of the true, native Mexicans, the "Indios". So the reader is given perhaps only a partial view of Mexico, but strongly rendered nonetheless. ( )
  Goodwillbooks | May 10, 2007 |
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bedford, Sybilleprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Biro, ValIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lundblad, JaneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Törnell, AidaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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