Lesley Blanch was Features Editor of British Vogue 1937-45. During the Second World War, she was on the front line of women journalists covering a wide range of topics. She covered various aspects of Britain at war for the Ministry of Information, and documented the lives of women in the forces with her friend the photographer Lee Miller.
It is an indisputable fact that occupations and professions breed their own particular type. There are occupational faces, as there are occupational diseases, except in the case of the bored, spoiled, overfed idler, now fortunately rarely seen, save at luxurious hotels in ‘safe’ areas, where the face, and its accompanying malaise, might be described as non-occupational.
The ostler cannot be mistaken for the chauffeur, though doctors and lawyers, like poets and scientists, often pair indistinguishably. But the soldier, the sailor, and the airman are each distinct and apart front each other.
Duncan Fallowell is an English novelist, travel writer and critic. He has also worked with the German group, Can, on musical projects. How to Disappear: A Memoir for Misfits − described as ‘brilliant and haunting’ by Alan Hollinghurst in the Guardian − won the 2012 PEN Ackerley Prize. Fallowell is at his characteristically provocative and entertaining best in Three Romes. His most recent publication is the long essay, The Rise and Fall of the Celebrity Interview. He has just been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Your favourite virtue? Honesty, which is a motive. There is a world of difference between someone trying to be honest and someone trying to deceive. I also admire people who refrain from pontificating on matters of which they are ignorant.
The literary blogosphere is pullulating with writing and opinions on every imaginable subject, era, or school of writing; writers promoting books; readers offering an opinion or amateur reviews; and comment by informed book critics. Here are a few favourites . . .
– blogs for Francophiles
Paris Diary by Laure is ‘a very personal and subjective view of Paris life, like a morning phone call to my best friend’.
The Paris Review was founded in Paris by George Plimpton and friends in 1953 to introduce important writers of the day. The blog is great for readers wanting a shot of culture, but are short on time to read in depth.
Gallic Books publish some of the best French writing available in English translation. Publisher, Jane Aitken, was interviewed exclusively for The BookBlast Diary in November 2016.
Thames & Hudson has been an independent, family-owned company since it was founded in 1949 and its World of Art series of books is especially well known.
For that stylish LA look, you couldn’t do better than Mallery Roberts Morgan – a Los Angeles-based writer, curator and interior designer; and the Los Angeles correspondent of Architectural Digest France.
As the highlight of this special event for International Women’s Day, Elisa Segrave examines stories from her mother’s hitherto hidden wartime experiences at Bletchley Park, Bomber Command and post-war Germany. Georgia de Chamberet takes a look at the life and many worlds of Lesley Blanch, a woman whose aura of seductive glamour and erudition inspired the generation that followed her. Chaired by Claudia Fitzherbert, books editor of The Oldie.
During the day there will be numerous author signings by women who write about women, including Dame Professor Hermione Lee and Amy Mason. So come along for a bit of book browsing and then stay on for the talk and a glass of wine afterwards.
Joe Boyd, the record and film producer, whose memoir White Bicycles: Making Music in the Sixties has sold 75,000 copies worldwide, interviewed the late Lesley Blanch for The Guardian in 2005. They shared a love of Bulgarian gypsy music.
He and a panel of guests will discuss The Wilder Shores of Love, Lesley Blanch’s “cult book which pioneered a new approach to history writing,” on BBC Radio 4’s A Good Read, 31 March at 4.30pm.
Here is Joe on YouTube talking about Amoeba Music and some of his favourite albums from the sixties.
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The Sabres of Paradise was first published in 1960, a hundred years after the story it recounts had ended, after the Russian conquest of the Caucasus was at last complete. Nikita Khrushchev was in the Kremlin. President Kennedy was running for the White House. Soviet power was at its height. The republics of the Caucasus were just another comer of the vast Soviet empire cowed into conformity by the brutalities of Stalin. The episode of Imam Shamyl’s thirty-year resistance to Russian expansion − perhaps the most dramatic story ever to emerge from the Caucasus (where dramatic stories are hardly in short supply) − had receded to its rightful place in ancient history. The days of small bands of mountain guerrillas raiding, hostage-taking, hiding up in the thick Chechen forests were long gone; whole divisions being tied down by such tactics was unthinkable in an age overshadowed by nuclear weapons.
Forty years on, the story looks a little different and a lot more relevant; now − post-Vietnam, post-Afghanistan, post-Soviet Union and post-September 11. Who, in 1960, would have dared predict that the heirs of the Red Army − that vast force which had done so much to shape the geo-politics of the late twentieth century, already humiliated by the Afghan mujahideen − should in 1996 be defeated, run out of its own territory by a band of lightly-armed Chechens which rarely exceeded a few thousand in number?
Lesley Blanch: always interesting, always flirtatiously alive, always passionate – Barnaby Rogerson, Country Life
Of Lesley Blanch’s biographies, The Sabres of Paradise: Conquest and Vengeance in the Caucasus was her favourite. Thorough research, a balanced approach and dramatic storytelling skills bring to life Imam Shamyl, the ‘Lion of Daghestan’, leader of the warring mountain tribes of Daghestan and Chechnya. From 1834-59 they fought to remain independent of Russia, strengthened only by the desire for an independent Caucasus and their religious faith. The Tzar took Shamyl’s eldest son as a hostage to St Petersburg. Shamyl captured two Georgian princesses (from the Tzarina’s entourage), a French governess and the children, and kept them in his harem until they could be exchanged for his son.
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