16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
An Immensely Interesting and Enjoyable Book,
This review is from: Memoirs of an Aesthete (Memoirs of Harold Acton) (Paperback)
This interesting and immensely enjoyable memoir runs from the boyhood of Harold Acton in the 1910s until 1939 and the outbreak of the Second World War. Acton was born into a privileged family and lived in a wonderful house in Florence. To his credit he was able to turn his advantage and education at Oxford into a full and interesting life during which he was able to meet many of the leading intellectuals, artists and literary figures of his time. Of particular note are the circle that revolved around the Sitwells, Gertrude Stein, Somerset Maugham and many poets of the 1920s. Acton published a number of collections of poetry and works of fiction which are, perhaps, overlooked today. As he matured into his twenties and early thirties Acton travelled extensively and after some time in London and America he travelled to the Far East when such a thing was quite unusual. His experiences in Japan, Korea, Manchuria (or Manchukuo as it was at the time) and then Beijing and Shanghai are particularly fascinating given that this coincided with the increasing occupation of China by the Japanese army. The author was able to comment on the conditions of life under the Japanese in occupied Korea and Manchuria. As in Europe Acton again established himself as an intellectual 'stopping-off' point in Beijing and Shanghai so that the interesting parade of artists, explorers and scholars continues. Acton took the trouble to learn Chinese and was able to lecture on English poetry and literature in Beijing and draw comparisons with Chinese poetry and classics.
Throughout this book Acton provides polite but very revealing anecdotes and character studies of the many, many, interesting and learned individuals of the day that he met and this provides the fascination that the book will hold for readers interested in the artistic life of the 1920s and 30s. Acton has a marvellous writing style and a magnificent command of the English language seldom encountered today. Highly recommended.