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Episode 34: Sybille Bedford’s Appetite for Life

‘I wondered for a time who this brilliant “Mrs Bedford” could be,’ wrote Evelyn Waugh to Nancy Mitford on reading Sybille Bedford’s first novel, A Legacy.

The twentieth-century European writer Sybille Bedford could be many things: traveller, gourmand, oenophile, court reporter, Booker Prize-shortlisted novelist. In this month’s literary podcast the Slightly Foxed team discover the pleasures and landscapes of Bedford’s life, loves and writing with her biographer, Selina Hastings. The daughter of a German Baron, from childhood Bedford travelled endlessly, living in Germany, Italy, France, Portugal and Britain. Claiming to suffer from sloth and love of life, she deified her friend Aldous Huxley, had assets frozen by the Nazi regime, was funded by Martha Gellhorn and was known for her many lovers, all while experiencing the ‘tearing, crushing, defeating agony’ of writing. From a delicious account of a visit to Don Otavio in Mexico and vivid reportage of the Lady Chatterley’s Lover obscenity trial to the autobiographical novel Jigsaw, we see the world through Bedford’s observant eye and voracious appetite.

And we continue our travels with a trip to the Heath Robinson Museum in London, exploring the cartoonist’s imagination through electric egg poachers, Christmas cracker-pulling machines and other curious contraptions, before sharing reading recommendations for Italo Calvino’s short stories that follow the cycle of the seasons, and an enlightening experiment with fiction from Francis Spufford.

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Show Notes

Please find links to books, articles, and further reading listed below. The digits in brackets following each listing refer to the minute and second they are mentioned. (Episode duration: 43 minutes; 56 seconds)

Books Mentioned

We may be able to get hold of second-hand copies of the out-of-print titles listed below. Please get in touch with Jess in the Slightly Foxed office for more information.

Sybille Bedford: An Appetite for Life, Selina Hastings

A Visit to Don Otavio, Sybille Bedford (12:00)

A Legacy, Sybille Bedford (17:41)

The Best We Can Do, Sybille Bedford is out of print (21:23)

The Trial of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Sybille Bedford (21:33)

Jigsaw, Sybille Bedford (28:51)

Aldous Huxley: A Biography, Sybille Bedford is out of print (29:40)

Other available books by Sybille Bedford

A Favourite of the Gods

A Compass Error

Pleasures and Landscapes

Very Heath Robinson, Adam Hart-Davis (38:34)

Marcovaldo, Italo Calvino (39:10)

Light Perpetual, Francis Spufford (41:02)

Related Slightly Foxed Articles

Bruised, Shocked, but Elated, Selina Hastings on Sybille Bedford, A Visit to Don Otavio, Issue 69 (12:00)

A Bath with a View, Caroline Chapman on Sybille Bedford, A Legacy, Issue 38 (17:41)

Other Links

– Listen to Selina Hastings on Episode 18 of the Slightly Foxed Podcast: The Ordeal of Evelyn Waugh (0:54)

Sybille Bedford on Desert Island Discs, recorded in 1998 (9.09)

Heath Robinson Museum (36:20)

Opening music: Preludio from Violin Partita No.3 in E Major by Bach

The Slightly Foxed Podcast is hosted by Philippa Lamb and produced by Podcastable

Comments & Reviews

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  1. Helen Nicholl Dufton says:

    What a wonderful podcast! Sybille Bedford has always been one of my favourite writers so I knew some of this, but certainly not all. Thank you, Slightly Foxed!

  2. Debra Matheney says:

    At the end of this podcast, my husband asked, ‘Any new books to read?’ He has the routine down. Only 3 new ones this podcast; 5 new mysteries after the last. I enjoyed ‘Golden Hill’ by Francis Spufford a great deal so bought the new one, the biography and ‘Jigsaw’. There are not enough hours in the day.

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