Virginia Woolf an introduction

a sketch of her life – an appreciation of the novels Virginia Woolf An Introduction is yet another study that combines a biography with comments on her major writing. There have been several biographies of Virginia Woolf in the last few decades. John Lehmann’s illustrated memoir is still very popular. Quentin Bell’s official biography is […]

Vera Mrs Vladimir Nabokov

a biography of the ultimate amanuensis Russian literature is rich in examples of famous writers whose wives have acted as unpaid secretaries and copyists. Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevski, and (I suspect) Alexander Solzhenistyn. But Vera Slonim, who married Vladimir Nabokov, took the tradition to unprecedented extremes. They met as Russian exiles in Berlin in 1923 […]

Varian Fry

secret refugee escape co-ordinator Marseilles 1940-1941 Varian Fry saved the lives of hundreds of refugees during the second world war in what was virtually a one-man rescue operation. He’s been called the ‘American Schindler’, and the list of people he helped to escape from the Nazis (and from the French Vichy government) ranges from Hannah […]

The Torch in My Ear

Frankfurt – Vienna – Berlin The first volume of Elias Canetti’s remarkable memoirs ended in early 1920 when his mother plucked him out of what she regarded as his self-indulgent intellectual reveries in Zurich, and dragged him into inflation-torn Germany to face ‘real life’. That’s where the story is taken up here – in a […]

The Tongue Set Free

Ruschuk – Manchester – Vienna – Zurich The Tongue Set Free is the first volume of Elias Canetti’s memoirs. Although he is best known (though not widely) for his novel Auto-da-Fe (1935) he was a prolific writer in a number of literary genres. Crowds and Power (1960) is a sociological study of human behaviour in […]

The Play of the Eyes

Vienna – Strasbourg – Paris – Prague The Play of the Eyes is the third volume of the memoirs of Elias Canetti, a trilogy which I have read with a growing sense of frustration. He was an amazingly clever, talented, and well-connected writer who at only twenty-six produced what has become a European modernist classic […]

The Bride of the Wind: The Life of Alma Mahler

Alma Mahler was one of the most famous (some would say infamous) grandes dames of the first part of the twentieth century. She was rich, famous, gifted, and very glamorous in her younger years. And she had a penchant for artists, writers, and men of power that led to a succession of husbands and lovers. […]

Sylvia Beach

Sylvia Beach (1887-1962) was an American-born bookshop owner and publisher who emigrated to Paris and became a central figure in the expatriate community between the first and second world wars. She is best known as the owner of the bookstore Shakespeare and Company and as the publisher of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses (1922). She was […]

Samuel Beckett: An Illustrated Life

short biographical study – with rare archive photos This short biographical study offers an introduction to Samuel Beckett and his amazingly difficult and rather bohemian life, which was unrelenting devoted to creativity no matter what his circumstances. It’s written by an expert, and presented in a very attractive manner with archive photographs on almost every […]

Princess Bibesco

Princess Bibesco (1897-1945) was a marginal but interesting figure of the modernist period – a rich socialite and writer. She was born in 1897 as Elizabeth Charlotte Lucy Asquith, the daughter of Herbert Asquith by his second wife. The family lived in Cavendish Square, but when Asquith became liberal Prime Minister in 1908, Elizabeth was […]