Legacy

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Overview

"The Kaiser's Germany is the setting in which three families - one from solid, upholstered Jewish Berlin, the others from the somnolent, agrarian Catholic south - become comically, tragically, irrevocably intertwined. "Each family," writes the author, "stood confident of being able to go on with what was theirs, while in fact they were playthings, often victims, of the now united Germany and what was brewing therein." Did the monstrous thing that followed have its foundation in families such as these? "Writing about them made me think so. Hence
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A Legacy

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Overview

"The Kaiser's Germany is the setting in which three families - one from solid, upholstered Jewish Berlin, the others from the somnolent, agrarian Catholic south - become comically, tragically, irrevocably intertwined. "Each family," writes the author, "stood confident of being able to go on with what was theirs, while in fact they were playthings, often victims, of the now united Germany and what was brewing therein." Did the monstrous thing that followed have its foundation in families such as these? "Writing about them made me think so. Hence the title.""--BOOK JACKET.
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Editorial Reviews

San Francisco Chronicle
A stunningly accomplished first novel. Bedford's voice [is] haunting, ironically amusing, and her own.
Daily Telegraph
Brilliantly realized. Bedford is by turns hilarious and ironic in the best sense: compassionate and yet clear-eyed.
London Magazine
Brilliant . . . Seeking further adjectives . . . I can only find the tired reviewer's standbys: original, witty, entertaining, informative, elegant, intelligent.
Nancy Mitford
One of the very best novels I have ever read.
Brenda Wineapple
A wittily-told tale of drawing-room intrigue, political guile, and personal failure in pre-World War I Germany.
David Leavitt
Portrays the evolution of Nazism and Fascism where it really took place--in living rooms and kitchens and on beaches.
San Francisco Chronicle
A stunningly accomplished first novel. Bedford's voice [is] haunting, ironically amusing, and her own.
Time
Delightful, tart . . . [It] captures the breath of Europe past on the glass of fiction present.
Kirkus Reviews
As part of its effort to revive interest in the English journalist, travel writer, and biographer (of Aldous Huxley), Counterpoint plans on reprinting her four novels, beginning with this, her first, from 1956. A new and amusing introduction by Bedford records the agonizingly slow composition of the story, set in pre-WWI Germany, mostly before her own birth in 1911 in Germany. The novel's pitiable reception was redeemed by one glowing review-written by Evelyn Waugh, who no doubt would have agreed with "Kirkus "that Bedford's tale of interfaith marriage was "tantalizing." A few families-one urban and Jewish, two from the agrarian, catholic South-become "tangled" (to use "Kirkus's "words) and "the secret of an earlier, unpleasant tragedy-laden event" is revealed. A personal history seen mostly through a child's eyes, the story "twists" and "twines" and "decorates conflicts within and without a Prussian tempered era for an obliquely viewed gallery of the times." Though Bedford acknowledges the personal history involved, her debut fiction surely stands on its own fine merits.
From the Publisher
“One of the very best novels I have ever read.” —Nancy Mitford
 
“An astonishing and fascinating first novel.” —Janet Flanner
 
“There’s such a wonderful tension between the hedonist and the historian in this author.” —Maria Bustillos, The Awl
 
“A book of entirely delicious quality. Two families, vastly dissimilar, the one Jewish inartistic millionaires, the other slightly decadent Catholic aristocrats, become joined in marriage. Everything is new, cool, witty, elegant, and some scenes are uproariously funny.” —Evelyn Waugh
 
A Legacy lives by its delightful tart and feline wit, and by its author’s remarkable gift for capturing the breath of Europe past on the glass of fiction present.” —Time
 
“At once historical novel and study of character, a collection of brilliantly objective portraits.” —Aldous Huxley
 
“Dry wit, careful attendance to detail, dialogue in which there is ‘more to be said than can come through’—these are the hallmarks of Bedford’s fiction. She shows the ways in which the private lives of individuals reflect the larger political life of their culture, and vice versa; she portrays the evolution of Nazism and Fascism where it really took place—in living rooms and kitchens and on benches.” —David Leavitt
 
“Bedford’s language is vibrant with an awareness of people and their manners and the countries that shape them; she moves in and out of European sensibilities with a natural ease. This reissue of A Legacy will give new readers a chance to swoon over her gracious felicities—and to come to share Bruce Chatwin’s assessment that, ‘when history of modern prose in English comes to be written, Mrs. Bedford will have to appear in any list of its most dazzling practitioners.’” —Sylvia Brownrigg
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780912946269
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/1/1984
  • Series: Neglected Books of the 20th Century Ser.
  • Edition description: REISSUE
  • Pages: 380
  • Product dimensions: 5.39 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 1.07 (d)

Meet the Author

Sybille Bedford (1911–2006) was a German-born English writer, best known for her partly autobiographical works, including A Legacy and its follow-up, Jigsaw: An Unsentimental Education. An outspoken critic of the Nazi regime, Bedford was a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and an appointed Officer of the OBE. She was awarded the Golden PEN Award in 1993 and, after traveling across Europe and the United States for many years, settled in London where she lived until her death.
 
Brenda Wineapple is the author of several books of criticism, including the National Book Critics Circle award finalist White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, and, most recently, Ecstatic Nation: Confidence, Crisis, and Compromise, 1848–1877. She is a frequent contributor to The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, and The Nation, and was the recipient of a Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2014. She teaches in the MFA programs at The New School and Columbia University.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2002

    If you're determined and have the patience of a saint...

    You'll need to read this book at least twice to figure out what's going on. I read 75 pages before I figured out the character's names and how they're related to each other. Even then, I don't think I got it exactly right. Several people die in this story, and the ending should have been emotional. But, I was too confused to be invested in the characters so it was disappointing. I do have a feeling that this book would get better the more times you read through it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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