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  • Published: 12 November 2020
  • ISBN: 9781473546035
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 432

Sybille Bedford

An Appetite for Life




The first full and intimate biography of writer and bon viveur Sybille Bedford

The first full and intimate biography of writer and bon viveur Sybille Bedford

'A fantastic read' India Knight, Sunday Times
'A wonderful biography' Sara Wheeler, Spectator

Born in Germany to aristocratic parents, Sybille Bedford's (1911-2006) life contained all the grand feeling and seismic event of the twentieth century: war and peace, love and trauma, friendship and death, as well as the need to write and rescue something from this wreckage. Openly gay, Bedford once said 'I wish I'd written more books and spent less time being in love. It's very difficult doing both at the same time.' In her forties she published her breakthrough novel, A Legacy, continuing to publish until her early nineties, writing some of the outstanding and most original novels, memoirs and travel books of the century.

Bedford's father died when she was just fourteen and her mother, a great socialite and litterateur, fell victim to a debilitating morphine addiction. Striking out on her own, Bedford fell under the spell of Aldous Huxley, who was to become her friend and mentor. Staying with Aldous and his wife Maria in their sunlit villa in the south of France between the wars were some of the happiest and most enlivening years of Bedford's life - even as she failed and failed again at finding her own voice on the page. And yet it was these years that would provide the material for Jigsaw: An Unsentimental Education, widely considered to be her masterwork and which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1989.

A bon viveur, lover of French wine and cuisine, and admired by her peers ('One of the most dazzling practitioners of English prose' Bruce Chatwin once commented) she roamed from country to country - Germany, France, England, Italy and the United States - in search of fresh experience, with ear and eye attuned to her surroundings, typewriter at the ready. Full of intense friendships (Martha Gellhorn and Elizabeth Jane Howard among them), a fierce commitment to the craft of writing, as well as an insatiable appetite for love and sex, Sybille Bedford blazed her own path in her life and her art.

*A DAILY TELEGRAPH, THE TIMES AND SUNDAY TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR 2020*

  • Published: 12 November 2020
  • ISBN: 9781473546035
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 432

About the author

Selina Hastings

Selina Hastings is a writer and journalist, biographer of Somerset Maugham, Evelyn Waugh, Nancy Mitford and Rosamund Lehmann and, in The Red Earl, of her father.

She is the winner of the Marsh Biography Prize, the Spear's Award for Outstanding Achievement and the Biographers' Club Lifetime Services to Biography Award.

Also by Selina Hastings

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Praise for Sybille Bedford

[A] richly entertaining biography

Ysenda Maxtone Graham, Daily Mail, *Book of the Year*

[An] elegantly written, intimate biography... This is a remarkably candid, minutely detailed and compulsively readable book about a life lived to the full

Rebecca Wallersteiner, Lady

A fantastic read... I can't express how wonderful her novels are, or this biography, which brings a fundamentally shy and private woman out into the light and is populated by the sorts of people who don't seem to exist any more - madly clever, slightly louche, culturally omnivorous, sexually fluid, crisscrossing Europe and each other in search of fun and new ideas.

India Knight, Sunday Times

A wonderful biography... Hastings... is an accomplished stylist and her prose suits her subject: elegant, deft and restrained

Sara Wheeler, Spectator

An extraordinary story

Laura Freeman, The Times

Beautifully written

Week

Comprehensive

Cressida Connolly, Literary Review

Hastings is one of our greatest living biographers

Simon Heffer, Daily Telegraph

Hastings's approach to Bedford's biography is [. . .] judicial. She enters her subject's life through a side door, puts her witnesses in the box, and hears the evidence for and against Bedford's literary merit. . . . The biographer's task is to preside over the rituals by which the truth is formally established by presenting, without prejudice, a full range of critical opinion

Frances Wilson, New York Review of Books

I found myself gripped from the first page to the last, astonished by the pace of revelation

Barnaby Rogerson, Oldie

Perhaps this scrupulous biography's greatest achievement is to remind us that Bedford had a second string to her writerly bow

Kathryn Hughes, Guardian

Rivetingly entertaining... Selina Hastings' biography is a wonderful chronicle of one life amid a myriad of other, fascinating, now ghostly, interlocking lives. And it's a depiction of a small, vivid, condensed world gone forever

Lucy Lethbridge, Tablet

Selina Hastings...fills in many of the blanks that Bedford, basically a reticent person, left even when writing obliquely of herself and a wide circle that included Martha Gellhorn and Thomas Mann. [Sybille Bedford is] gracefully written, largely sympathetic, and very gossipy

Elissa Altman, Avenue

Selina Hastings...fills in many of the blanks that Bedford, basically a reticent person, left even when writing obliquely of herself and a wide circle that included Martha Gellhorn and Thomas Mann. [Sybille Bedford is] gracefully written, largely sympathetic, and very gossipy

Brenda Wineapple, Wall Street Journal

Selina Hastings's wonderful, gossipy biography is a gem, revealing not just the shy writer, but also the colourful, turbulent 20th-century literary world in which she lived

Lucy Atkins, Sunday Times, *Books of the Year*

So good, so full of naughty detail, evocation and grudging affection that you can enjoy it without ever having to read the works of Sybille Bedford

Barry Humphries, Oldie

Sybille Bedford is not a household name, but among her coterie of admirers in Europe and America she is held in high esteem . . . [Bedford's life is] elegantly related by Selina Hastings, the author of finely wrought, literate biographies . . . It is to be hoped that Sybille Bedford, a largely sympathetic and very readable biography, will bring new readers to Bedford's oeuvre . . . [Bedford's] works are dense, exotic, rich with historical hindsight. In a life that spanned most of the 20th century, she lived that century in all its high drama and delivers it to the 21st in idiosyncratic, textured prose

Brooke Allen, New York Times

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