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Sybille Bedford Biography

(1911–2006), A Legacy, A Favourite of the Gods, A Compass Error, The Sudden View

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British novelist and essayist, born in Charlottenburg, Germany; she has used her cosmopolitan background to explore the complexities of European heritage and experience. Her first novel, A Legacy (1956), depicts a German aristocratic family whose way of life is undermined by the Prussian hegemony, which values efficiency and military might over gentler, more civilized values. In A Favourite of the Gods (1963) and A Compass Error (1968) she deals with a mother and daughter, Constanza and Flavia, and their life in Italy, France, and England between the wars. Constanza, the daughter of a rich American woman and an Italian prince, marries an English politician but later goes to live with a lover in the South of France, at a time when the region was beginning to attract the fashionable and the artistic. Flavia, whose story dominates the second novel, is sexually attracted to women not men; her predicament is drawn with great richness of detail. Bedford's lucid style, as much French as it is English, has contributed to the success of her other books, which include a two-volume life of Aldous Huxley (1973 and 1974); an idiosyncratic and vivid travelogue of Mexico, The Sudden View (1953; reissued as A Visit to Don Otavio, 1960); The Best We Can Do: The Trial of Dr John Bodkin Adams (1958); The Faces of Justice (1961); and a collection of essays, As It Was (1990), which contains a remarkable account of the trial in Frankfurt of twenty-two former staff of Auschwitz concentration camp. Jigsaw (1989) is a memoir written as fiction, about Bedford's eccentric and artistic family.

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