A Visit to Don Otavio: A Mexican Journey

A Visit to Don Otavio: A Mexican Journey


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In the mid-1940s, Sybille Bedford set off from Grand Central Station for Mexico, accompanied by her friend E., a hamper of food and drink (Virginia ham, cherries, watercress, a flute of bread, Portuguese rosé), books, a writing board, and paper. Her resulting travelogue captures the violent beauty of the country she visited. 

Bedford doesn’t so much describe Mexico as take the reader there—in second-class motor buses over thousands of miles, through arid noons and frigid nights, successions of comida corrida, botched excursions to the coast, conversations recorded verbatim, hilarious observations, and fascinating digressions into murky histories. At the heart of the book is the Don Otavio of the title, the travelers’ gracious host, his garrulous family and friends, and his Edenic hacienda at Lake Chapala. Published in 1953, A Visit to Don Otavio was an immediate success, “a travel book written by a novelist,” as Bedford described it, establishing her reputation as a nonpareil writer.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781590179697
Publisher: New York Review Books
Publication date: 06/21/2016
Series: NYRB Classics Series
Pages: 392
Sales rank: 636,861
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Sybille Bedford (1911–2006) was born Sybille von Schoenebeck in Charlottenburg, Germany, to an aristocratic German father and a partly Jewish, Hamburg-born mother. Raised variously in Germany, Italy, France, and England, she lived with her mother and Italian stepfather after her father’s death when she was seven, and was educated privately. En­cour­aged by Aldous Huxley, Bedford began writing fiction at the age of sixteen and went on to publish four novels, all influenced by her itinerant childhood among the European aristocracy:  A Legacy (an NYRB Classic),  Jigsaw (short-listed for the 1989 Booker Prize), and A Favourite of the Gods and A Compass Error (forthcoming from NYRB in a single volume in 2017). She married Walter Bedford in 1935 and lived briefly in America during World War II, before returning to England. She was a prolific travel writer, the author of a two-volume biography of her friend Huxley, and a legal journalist, covering nearly one hundred trials. In 1981 she was awarded the Order of the British Empire.

Bruce Chatwin (1940–1989) was born in Sheffield, England. He was appointed a director of Sotheby’s at age twenty-five, but left to study archaeology at the University of Edinburgh and soon began a career as a travel writer for The Sunday Times Magazine. His 1977 book In Patagonia is considered a classic in the field of travel writing, and his 1988 novel, Utz, was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize.

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