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Quicksands: A Memoir [Paperback]

Sybille Bedford
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Jun 2006
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, altogether remarkable life. In this magnificent memoir, she moves from Berlin during the Great War to the artists' set on the Côte 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.

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Quicksands: A Memoir + A Legacy (Penguin Classics) + Jigsaw: An Unsentimental Education
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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (1 Jun 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140279768
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140279764
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 42,264 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"A splendid book, lucid, balanced, humane, and civilized. It does what we ask books to do." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Sybille Bedford was born in Germany in 1911 and was brought up in Italy, England and France. In 1989 her novel Jigsaw was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She has published eight other books and lives in London.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
I shall begin as I hope to continue: from the middle. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A class of her own 14 Mar 2009
By Simon4
Format:Paperback
Sybil Bedford is (or, rather, was) a rare and remarkable writer. In this memoir, her last book, she retells the stories around which she varied the narratives of her novels: A Legacy, A Compass Error, A Favourite of the Gods and Jigsaw. All of them fragment personal experience across the fragmented geography of mid-century Europe, and yet none is the same and none is quite as extraordinary as the life that comes out of Quicksands, at once privileged and yet subject to frequent privation; fiercely intellectual but seldom immune to emotional intelligence. She flies between the autocratic and the democratic; admires luxury and asceticism; and she is as wise and wonderful a guide through her extraordinary life as one could wish for. Ravishingly well written, sparkling with a life richly led, this is one of those few books you want to re-read as soon as you come to the end. That it marks the end of such a remarkable and generously rendered life is a gift for which we should all give thanks.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Legacy 3 May 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A wonderful memoir containing vignettes of the authors history. Her life touched a highly unusual range of people and places. As always her writing is simply wonderful. Was there any other person of her period who was born partly into the German aristocracy and partly into the very rich German bourgeoisie who lived when young in German, Italy (from where she acquired a step father), France and Briton (with an erratic artist and his wife and kids). #

Whose life touched that of disgraced Nazi's, German Jewish family members, British Literati, Italian step fathers, drug addict, highly cultured and intelligent German mother's, German, British and French artists and American Journalists - to reference only her most obvious influences. She seems to have loved and been loved by the some of the greatest creatives of her time.

Beautifully told and written Ms Bedford's life stories are her legacy to us all.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Sybille Bedford, OBE (16 March 1911 - 17 February 2006) was a German-born English writer: a novelist, journalist and biographer. She was born Sybille von Schoenebeck in Berlin. Her parents were Baron Maximilian Josef von Schoenebeck (1853-1925 and his wife, Elizabeth Bernard (1888-1937). Sybille was raised in the Roman Catholic faith of her father at Schloss Feldkirch in Baden, and had a half-sister, from her father's first marriage ( Maximiliane Henriette von Schoenebeck). Her parents divorced in 1918, and she remained with her father, until his death in 1925. Sybille then went to live in Italy with her mother and stepfather. With the rise of fascism in Italy, her mother and stepfather settled in Sanary-sur-Mer, a small fishing village in the south of France. Sybille settled there as a teenager, living near Maria and Aldous Huxley, with whom she became friends. Sybille Bedford also met some of the other writers and intellectuals (including Alma Mahler, Wilhelm Herzog, Lion Feuchtwanger, Thomas Mann and Bertolt Brecht) who also settled in this area during that period.

During this period, Sybille's mother became addicted to morphine and, in what was for me, some of the most moving writing in this memoir, Sybille describes how this occurred and how she became responsible for procuring and administering the drug to her mother. There is no self-pity in Ms Bedford's account, simply a description of causation, events and consequences.

`My next account - not joyful - will have to be about a destructive blow of fate brought about through a blend of antecedents, chance, ill luck.'

In 1935, Sybille entered a marriage of convenience with Walter `Terry' Bedford. The marriage did not last, her use of his family name did.
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5.0 out of 5 stars excellent 18 Jun 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
i am a fan of sybille bedford and this is a beautifully written autobiography of a very unusual life! excellent!
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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment 15 July 2005
By J. Marren - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I had eagerly awaited "Quicksands," undoubtedly the last of this wonderful writer's books, given her advanced age, but sadly I was disappointed. Bedford's novels, which I have read, are autobiographical, despite her disclaimers, but I didn't realize how true to life they were until reading her memoir. Bedford lived an erratic, charmed, difficult life, part of the European artistic generation between the wars, when one could exist for long periods of time on the generosity of friends and move relatively freely from country to country. But Bedford's memoir feels removed from her life, in a way her vivid novels are not. "Jigsaw's" characters reappear--her father and mother, Oriane, Issa, Allessandro--but she observes them from afar, and they feel flat to me. She assumes the reader knows a lot already from her novels, so some incidents are briefly and cryptically covered in a way that without prior knowledge they are meaningless. An example is the story of Rosie, whose lover was a famous English jurist who secretely led a double life for many years. Bedford covers this emotional, painful, amazing story in a page and a half for the sole purpose of finally revealing the jurist's name, but without the vivid background from her novel the revelation has little impact. "Quicksands" is leading me back to the novels I haven't yet read--she's an exquisite writer. Try "Jigsaw" for the real story of this amazing woman's life.
17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quicksilver 5 Jun 2005
By Christian Schlect - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A very good writer tells of her unconventional past in Europe, with the memories harvested mainly from the time between the two great wars. Ms. Bedford omits the retelling of many episodes covered in her previous books (none of which I have read) and assumes the reader knows more of history and twentieth century literature than is probably true of most current readers. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the book and admired its many "true" sentences.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars `I shall begin as I hope to continue: from the middle.' 2 May 2012
By Jennifer Cameron-Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Sybille Bedford, OBE (16 March 1911 - 17 February 2006) was a German-born English writer: a novelist, journalist and biographer. She was born Sybille von Schoenebeck in Berlin. Her parents were Baron Maximilian Josef von Schoenebeck (1853-1925 and his wife, Elizabeth Bernard (1888-1937). Sybille was raised in the Roman Catholic faith of her father at Schloss Feldkirch in Baden, and had a half-sister, from her father's first marriage ( Maximiliane Henriette von Schoenebeck). Her parents divorced in 1918, and she remained with her father, until his death in 1925. Sybille then went to live in Italy with her mother and stepfather. With the rise of fascism in Italy, her mother and stepfather settled in Sanary-sur-Mer, a small fishing village in the south of France. Sybille settled there as a teenager, living near Maria and Aldous Huxley, with whom she became friends. Sybille Bedford also met some of the other writers and intellectuals (including Alma Mahler, Wilhelm Herzog, Lion Feuchtwanger, Thomas Mann and Bertolt Brecht) who also settled in this area during that period.

During this period, Sybille's mother became addicted to morphine and, in what was for me, some of the most moving writing in this memoir, Sybille describes how this occurred and how she became responsible for procuring and administering the drug to her mother. There is no self-pity in Ms Bedford's account, simply a description of causation, events and consequences.

`My next account - not joyful - will have to be about a destructive blow of fate brought about through a blend of antecedents, chance, ill luck.'

In 1935, Sybille entered a marriage of convenience with Walter `Terry' Bedford. The marriage did not last, her use of his family name did. With the assistance of Maria and Aldous Huxley, Sybille Bedford left France for America before the German invasion of France. Her memoir ends once she is in America.

`Wish I could tell the half of it ... But, I repeat, there seems to be no time.'
`Had I but world enough and time ... I have not. And shall not now write about the life that followed.'

This memoir covers Sybille Bedford's life from World War I in Berlin, to World War II when she leaves Europe for the USA. I do not recognise much of the world in which she lived and of which she writes, but her writing gave me some sense of that world and of her experiences within it. At one stage, when she has a guest for a period, she writes:

`What I minded was the loss of solitude - essential to the cashing in of writing-thoughts.'

This is the first of her books I have read: I hope to read some of her novels later this year. I enjoyed both the content and the presentation of this memoir. I found it inspiring: there is no room for self-pity, nor is there any sign of resentment. Things just happen, and they are written about. Perspectives may change.

`To get into one language deeply, I found, one has to forsake all others.'

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
3.0 out of 5 stars An unusual book 9 Jun 2013
By Deanne Churchill Cricket fan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The book is named Quicksands which is very apt for while it is autobiographical in nature the author simply dips in and out of incidents in her life apparently at random, almost a quicksilver approach. Easy to read, its interest value is patchy and while Bedford speaks of some famous friends eg Aldous Huxley there is very little substantial material included. Often she hints at incidents which may be of interest but doesn't include them as they have been included in previous books.This adds a hint of frustration for those who've not read those aforementioned publications and does not increase the readers' interest. Suitable for a quick read on a lazy afternoon.
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