Sybille Bedford (1911–2006) was born Sybille von Schoenebeck in Charlottenburg, Germany, to an aristocratic German father and a partly Jewish, British-born mother. Raised variously in Germany, Italy, France, and England, she lived with her mother and Italian stepfather after her father’s death when she was seven, and was educated privately. Encouraged by Aldous Huxley, Bedford began writing fiction at the age of sixteen and went on to publish four novels, all influenced by her itinerant childhood among the European aristocracy: A Legacy (1956), A Favourite of the Gods (1963), A Compass Error (1968), and Jigsaw (1989, short-listed for the Booker Prize). She married Walter Bedford in 1935 and lived briefly in America during World War II, before returning to England. She was a prolific travel writer, the author of a two-volume biography of her friend Aldous Huxley, and a legal journalist, covering nearly one hundred trials. In 1981 she was awarded the Order of the British Empire.

On the Go

In Patagonia is one of the most exhilarating travel books I have read. Chatwin has a young and individual voice and yet writes in the tradition of the traveler scholar or the traveler poet—one of the “vrais voyageurs” of Baudelaire’s lines,    …ceux-là seuls qui partent Pour partir; coeurs légers …

Careful Rapture

Once upon a time there was a young French girl who loved prose and poetry and art. She dreamed about minding a bookshop. Though of country stock, she was born and bred in Paris. Her father was a postal clerk who sorted mail on trains; her mother educated her. The …

Durchkomponiert

In 1958 Janice Warnke published a novel called The Narrow Lyre. The title was taken from a line in Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus, and it was her first. It is a work of rare quality, impassioned, haunting, rising to moments of great power, entirely lucid. It might have been highly …

Tragic Comedians

“As one grows older the writing of a novel does not become more easy, and it seemed to me when I wrote the last words that I had reached an age when another full-length novel was probably beyond my powers.” —Graham Greene after finishing A Burnt-Out Case, his ninth …

The Good Life of Paul Klee

The choice for him, Paul Klee said, had been smooth. At nineteen he decided “to study painting and devote my life to art.” Despite, he pointed out, the risk of such a career and the fact that every other one was open to him by virtue of his education. A …

The Agony of Oscar Wilde

It was a savage sentence. It was, in fact, the highest which the law allowed. To the trial judge, Mr. Justice Wills, it appeared inadequate. Two years imprisonment with hard labor—“totally inadequate for a case such as this,” he said, addressing Oscar Wilde from the bench at the Old Bailey …

Stoic Traveler

I had been travelling around for nearly seven months. I was getting tired. In Jamaica my diary entries grew shorter and shorter… There was nothing new to record. Every day I saw the same things—unemployment, ugliness, over-population, race—every day I heard the same circular arguments. The Middle Passage is a …