Jigsaw, an Unsentimental Education: A Biographical Novel. by Sybille Bedford

Jigsaw, an Unsentimental Education: A Biographical Novel. by Sybille Bedford lands on the shelves of my shop, where it will be found in my Fiction Author: B section.

London: Hamish Hamilton, 1989, (First Edition) Hardback in dust wrapper.

From the cover: Sybille Bedfords novels, A Legacy, A Compass Error, A Favourite of the Gods, have established her in the front rank of living writers. Her two-volume biography of Aldous Huxley was not only a triumph of portraiture but an illumination of the intellectual and literary life of Europe between the wars.

How much of the novels sprang from personal experience? How much was the( biography inspired by an apprenticeship to novel writing served in the wide circle that centred on the Huxleys? Such questions can never be answered in so many words. But the present work, described by the author as a biographical novel, goes as far towards bridging the gap between the two modes of composition and towards answering the implicit questions as any writer can. In so doing the book brings in a third side of Sybille Bedfords literary achievement: her position as a critic of received ideas about law and morals. Right and wrong, evil and goodness, are, to her, the stuff of personality, the colour and the smell of human life.

This novel is strong in character, in atmosphere, in comedy and in tragedy. The solitary German childhood poised between pathos and absurdity, the Italian interlude, the self-sufficient life of a small Provencal port on a coast now submerged by the tides of tourism and time-sharing, are evoked with the unflinching clarity of Mediterranean light. The expeditions exiles rather to England and a strange variety of milieux are seen through the eyes of an adolescent, alert to every new idea, yet still ignorant of the realities of experience. The sharp outlines of youthful perception are brilliantly rendered and wisely understood, but they are not blunted by sentimental optimism. Sybille Bedford is an artist of rare quality and Jigsaw is a novel of great distinction. Her frankness is never embarrassing. Her description of what most people would evade or disguise is never repellent. Her bores, even, are entertaining.

Very Good in Very Good Dust Wrapper. A little rubbing to the edges of the dust wrapper with a nick to the bottom corner of the upper panel. Leans very slightly. Text complete, clean and tight.

Blue boards with Gilt titling to the Spine. [VIII] 328 pages. 9½” x 6¼”.


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