The Sudden View Kindle â The Sudden Epub /

The Sudden View ➹ [Reading] ➻ The Sudden View By Sybille Bedford ➮ – 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 In the mid s 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 The Sudden Epub / paper Her resulting travelogue captures the rich and violent beauty of the country as it was then   Bedford doesn’t so much describe Mexico as take the reader there by hand like a small child 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 a man of lived rather than recorded history His hacienda at Lake Chapala is the still Edenic center of the book and his garrulous family and friends what Mexico meant in terms of human experience for S and E Published in 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.

10 thoughts on “The Sudden View

  1. Paul Paul says:

    45 starsOne of the great travelogues and in Bruce Chatwin’s opinion “the greatest travel book of the twentieth century” It helps a great deal that Bedford can write well and has a gift for observation and description Living from 1911 to 2006 Bedford had a long and colourful life and is not appreciated as a writer as she should be Bedford had escaped from France in 1940 and spent the war in the US After the war she decided that before returning to Europe she would travel for a while in Mexico She went with a travelling companion referred to as E throughout E was in fact Esther Mary Arthur at that point married to the grandson of the US president Chester Arthur Bedford and Arthur were having a love affair at the time As Chatwin says in his introduction they approached their adventure “without an itinerary without preconceptions and with their senses wide open” That propensity to go with the flow makes for an entertaining read As I mentioned Bedford has great descriptive powers this is about a bus journey;“A well grown sow lies heaving in the aisle My neighbor has a live turkey hen on her lap and the bird simply cannot help it she must partly sit on my lap too This is very hot Also she keeps fluffing out her surprisingly harsh feathers From time to time probably to ease her own discomfort the bird stands up Supported on six pointed claws one set of them on my knee she digs her weight into us and shakes herself Dust and lice emerge On my other side in the aisle stands a little boy with a rod on which dangles a dead though no doubt freshly caught fish With every lurch of the conveyance and it is all lurches the fish moist but not cool touches my arm and sometimes my averted cheek”The book moves between pure travelogue descriptions of Mexico’s bloody history from Cortes to the nineteenth and twentieth century dictators detailed descriptions of food and meals always a plus the vicissitudes of travel he varying uality of hotels and of course Don Otavio and his extended family and servants Bedford in an interview late in her life described it thus; “It is a travel book written by a novelist I wanted to get across the extraordinary beauty of Mexico the allegro uality of its climate with the underlying panic and violence inherited from a long and bloody history”Don Otavio is a slightly down at heel aristocratic type with a colourful family and some interesting neighbours who are similarly middle class with a smattering of those escaping Europe Bedford has a sharp wit and excellent sense of humour It does have to be noted that the travellers were middle class as were most of the people they stayed with and the lives of ordinary people are at a distance That may have been inevitable but there are many good vignettes and descriptions of customs and tradition especially relating to the Catholic Church All in all and excellent read by a very good writer

  2. Buck Buck says:

    After açaí berries and recycling travel’s one of the most overrated things around It’s just one long pain in the ass There’s the expense the indignities of airport security the further indignities of economy class crowds sand in your crotch very large people with very small fanny packs and Two and a Half Men dubbed into Portuguese And what do you get out of all this? A gnawing sense of disappointment and the realization that there’s just no escaping yourself that your sagging spirit is tied to your weary flesh like a deflated tetherball to a rusty pole forever Oh and maybe some knickknacks Caelum non animum mutant ui trans mare curruntAs with so many things in life then travel is best enjoyed vicariously through books A book won’t steal your passport or kidnap you or give you a drug resistant strain of gonorrhea unless it’s a library book and you rub it against your privates but why would you do that?Actually A Visit to Don Otavio is almost worth risking gonorrhea for It’s not only the best book I’ve ever read about Mexico; it may be the best travel book I’ve ever read period An odd clever woman collides with a big baroue country and the result is a minor classic that’s better than a lot of major classics In it teuila is described as ‘raw alcohol with an underwhiff of festering sweetness as though chrysanthemums had rotted in gin’ Unfair I think but possibly true of the 1940s vintage A man has ‘one of those inherited handsome faces of Goya’s minor courtiers where the acumen pride and will of an earlier mould have run to fatuity and craft’ She adds ‘He turned out one of the kindest men I ever met’ A derelict hotel has ‘a thick smell of dead town faded splendours and present bankruptcy’ Sybille Bedford is the author’s name She died a few years back in her 90s The wiki version of her biography hints at the sheer fabulousness of her life She loved Mexico by the way the land that has swallowed so many foreign writers She saw it whole the beauty and brutality of it and came away composed and wrote this uirky gorgeous thing about it I don’t encourage you to travel—that’s your business—but you should probably read the book

  3. Tony Tony says:

    When Sybille Bedford disembarks in Mexico the first thing she does is to load her bag with a uart of Bacardi rum The best darkest kind Five pesos and a bottle of Mexican brandy And then when a child insists on carrying her purchases she is free to add a bottle of teuila and some CampariThis is someone I could travel withI already knew that Bedford could write; fairly gushing was I over her novel Legacy And this again was superbI posted in my update progress a few of the representative passages that moved me I could have added many I liked for example this piece of dialogue showing the disconnect of language culture and expectation 'Where do you come from?' I am asked'America''This is America''From North America''This is North America''From the United States''These are the United States Estado Unidos Mexicanos ''I see Oh dear Then the Señora here' I point to E 'is what? Not an American? Not a North American? What is she?''Yanui La Señora es Yanui' 'But only North Americans from the States North Americans from the North I mean only Yankees from the Northern States are called Yankees''¿Por favor?''E' is Bedford's companion and is a wonderful character subtly drawn Mostly by her sparse replies It worksThe book is told in the present tense of Bedford's travels throughout Mexico Yet she does look backward from time to time none better than when she tells the story of Maximilian and his unfortunate end She tells everything and warmly except the moment of that endMy only complaint and it's a minor one is that there are many characters superficially rendered because of the clutter of personalities This is especially so toward the book's end when others Germans English intrude with their superiority and their prejudicesIt was better when the story focused on Don Octavio or the author herselfThere was one loose thread one missing piece When Bedford arrived or was transferring to another city some rascals took her luggage misappropriating some bags Mostly she lost shoes a blouse nothing irreplaceable But there was also an unfinished manuscript This was the early 1950s before you could save things to a thumb drive or a disk She made inuiries followed leads but as far as I can tell the manuscript was swallowed by the Mexican jungleOne can only wonder what the piece was whether she ever retrieved it from her memory Bedford doesn't dwell on it But I might

  4. T.D. Whittle T.D. Whittle says:

    This is a marvelous book I only wish I had heard of Sybille Bedford sooner Well not only I wish too that I could have known her as a friend and travel companion and been a part of the old world graciousness that was life at gentle Don Otavio's hacienda An old friend of mine recommended Sybille Bedford's writing to me and cited this book in particular telling me that he thought I would love it Right he was Sybille Bedford is erudite witty subtle kind hearted and dedicated to her task of exploring Mexico with her companion E It would have been enough simply to bask in the elegance of her prose and her sometimes hilarious sometimes poignant observations; but A Visit to Don Otavio provides than that Bedford gives a concise overview of the history of the country in a way that connects its main events intimately to the key figures involved some of whom are tragic figures such as Emperor Maximilian I who was shot by Juarez at the age of 34 and others who seem to leap from the pages of a picaresue novel such as Benito Juárez who had lives and bigger balls than a streetwise tomcat Bedford while understated is never dry She is always considerate of her readers' time and attention so that one can dive into this book with no knowledge of Mexico at all or with a reasonable background in its formation such is my own situation due to growing up in nearby Texas and enjoy it thoroughly either way in Bedford's dependable hands

  5. Elaine Elaine says:

    First of all a travel writer of yesteryear who is entirely obsessed with food A woman after my own heartSecond of all a freuently laugh out loud book even as you were learning uite a bit about Mexican historyThird a wonderfully idiosyncratic and erudite look at a pre mass tourism Mexico A bit reminiscent of that English chap who tromped around Europe on the eve of World War II Patrick Leigh Fermor it took me a minute but where Fermor felt show offy Bedford just seems smart wry and like the kind of person I at least would have loved to take a long ago trip with To be clear I think you have to like this genre the highly idiosyncratic travelogue that gives a glimpse into a world we can never see because it is further away in time than it is in distance But if this kind of thing fascinates you as it does me Bedford's cast of eccentrics catalog of travel mishaps awe at the hearty cheap Mexican meals described lovingly course by course and occasional pointed historical lecture will not fail to charm

  6. Chrisl Chrisl says:

    the book's beginning Sybille and her friend are on a train traveling from New York to St Louis In the plains of Indiana nature certainly has it We have been going through the wheat fields for hours; miles upon miles of fat yellow alien corn visibly ripening under a wide awake sky A spread of cruel wealth Of human life and habitation there are few signs no farm houses no animals by the roadside What part does man play in the farming of these fields? Does he work the earth or does he operate it? Is he peasant mechanic or businessman? Perhaps here is the scene of his last defeat eating tinned vegetables in a frame house setting out in a tractor to cultivate his one crop harvest mortgaged to the banks he has been undone by a monstrous mating of nature with the machineCorrective if the fields of Canada the Middle West the Argentine and the Ukraine were run like so many farms in the Home Counties we'd all starve Oh double faced truth oh Malthus oh compromise there are too many sheep in the penIn Mexico City a source of museum memories One of the happiest places in this town is a room of early nineteenth century Creole genre paintings in the Chapultepec Museum These graceful pictures are uite unlike anything one has ever seen luxuriant but domestic naïve and worldly fresh faintly absurd wholly delicious But here too the other note is sounded There is a picture of a small boy led by a governess through a most peculiar garden of sugar cane and coffee bush followed by a curly lap dog and an Indian boy carrying his doll a neatly dressed and bonneted baby skeletonOne of Mexico's places I most remember is Monte Alban S as she calls herself writeshttpsenwikipediaorgwikiMonteAThey are misnamed ruins no decay has softened no restorer's hand has touched no wars have chipped a splinter off those monoliths those walls those flights of stairs They were not meant to please The medium is stone and space Everything is repeated hard grey they imply crushing size It appears colossal entirely successful entirely frightening If the Nazis had not been so cheap had their taste been better and their instinct for self dramatization less Wagnerian this is the way they would have built They would have found in the Zapotec architecture the expression and the setting of all they stood for They would have constructed Monte Alban at Nuremberg I've been to and through Mexico multiple times have read many books about it Glad I got to go with 'S' perspective from another era recommend for explorers of that country's convoluted complexities The writing is classical fine

  7. Diana Diana says:

    A Visit to Don Otavio A Mexican Odyssey 1953 – ★★★★12“The first impact of Mexico City is physical immensely physical Sun Altitude Movement Smells Noise And it is inescapable There is no taking refuge in one insulating shell no use sitting in the hotel bedroom fumbling with guide books it is here one is in it” Bedford 1953 39Sybille Bedford wrote about her year long adventure in Mexico in 1953 and her book initially titled The Sudden View A Mexican Journey became a classic in travel writing In it Bedford portrays colourfully her stay with her friend E all over Mexico taking journeys from Mexico City to Morelia and Guadalajara and then to Oaxaca At one point Bedford visits a hacienda of one Don Otavio situated near Lake Chapala a place of both natural beauty and local intrigue This is no ordinary travel writing however – the book is written with humour and certain pathos and Bedford ensures that there are many insightful observations on the history geography and social conditions of the area Even though now dated A Visit to Don Otavio is still a very pleasurable read not least because it often reads like an exciting adventure novel set in Mexico rather than one’s usual travel log Upon stepping onto Mexican soil for the first time the author immediately starts “to soak up” the natural beauty splendour and the hectic social life of the place comparing Mexico to places in Europe she knows well including Italy Travelling around Mexico Bedford tries to retrace the steps of conuistadors and early travel writers making observations on the history religion architecture and economics Some of the challenges for Bedford and her companion in Mexico are to endure long and uncomfortable train journeys and to find suitable hotels to stay in When Anthony E’s dashing young cousin joins them in their journeys his recent contacts take the trio to the colonial villa of Don Otavio where they glimpse past colonial life and marvel at stunning natural environs including Lake Chapala At his hacienda Don Otavio employs seventeen servants and has some rich and eccentric personalities as his neighbours meaning that Bedford and her companion soon find themselves in the midst of some high society satireBedford makes rich sumptuous descriptions of her surroundings and the beginning of each chapter is especially well written “We wake to a fawn coloured desert of sun baked clay and stone This is indeed a clean slate a bare new world constructed of sparse ingredients – here and there a tall cactus like a candle adobe huts homogeneous like mole hills and always one man walking alone along a ridge with a donkey” Bedford 1953 31 or “As the train moves through the evening the country grows and lovely open and enriched There are oxen in the fields mulberry trees make garlands on the slopes villages and churches stand out pink and gold in an extraordinarily limpid light as though the windows of our carriage were cut in crystal” Bedford 1953 36As the author details her interactions with local people much humour and comic situations emerge Bedford and her companion E become “lost in translation” even though Mexican people they encounter speak English At one point Bedford starts a conversation “with the officer from Monterrey” Bedford 1953 36 and it takes this form “ Where do you come from? the officer asks; – America she answers; – This is America; – From North America; – This is North America; – From the United States; – These are the United States the officer says adding – Estados Unidos Mexicanos Our trio of travellers also get the full meaning of such phrases in Mexico as “it’s regular” and “it lends itself” Not all of the author’s observations are kind however There are expected references in the book to tortillas teuila tobacco and maize but when the country is described as the one where “the sky is always clear” 1953 47 the author also adds that “a vertical sun aims at one’s head like a dagger” 1953 40 Bedford also states that “in Mexico everything is cheap and everybody is underpaid 1953 65 and her description of Mexican wine is in these terms “cheap ink dosed with prude juice and industrial alcohol as harsh on the tongue as a carrot grater” 1953 51Needless to say A Visit to Don Otavio is still a product of its time This means that the book does present the usual Mexican stereotypes and there is even a well camouflaged condescending behaviour shown towards those who are apparently “beneath” the author’s standing after all she did write her book from one “privileged” point of view However the book’s charm and light heartedness mean that much banter with the locals does not come across as irritating Bedford is forced to make surprising detours on her journey veering off from her planned route thereby making the reading of her journey even excitingIt is easy to see why A Visit to Don Otavio became a classic of travel writing Bedford’s book balances well its informative insightful aspects with comedy and a sense of adventure The result is a charming book that captures the liveliness colour and contradictions of Mexico in the 1950s

  8. Daniel Villines Daniel Villines says:

    At face value A Visit to Don Otavio has its moments Sometimes this book is funny other times it’s interesting The best parts of the book are the descriptions of the physical setting Sybille Bedford describes her 1950's Mexico with clarity Her observations of Mazatlan were especially interesting given that this is a city that I have visited often some 50 years after her visitOutside of the infreuent passages however the story skims over the top of most of the Mexican people Bedford does not live among the poor or the working classes In fact she runs when faced with such prospects Bedford essentially seeks out her own kind middle class EuropeanAmericans and thinks that finding them is an adventure Once found her expatriate acuaintances confirm the stereotype of the lazy Mexican who is poor due to an inherent lack of initiative and a savage upbringingBedford tells of a country that lost its opportunity to thrive under the European installed emperor Maximilian To this end the most favorably depicted Mexicans are those of Spanish descent eg Don Otavio whose families were established in privilege by colonial acts of favoritism Most of the book is devoted to her stay with Don Otavio who treats her with the somewhat royal respect that she obviously thinks she deserves Missing from this story is any reasoning as to why the depicted stereotypes of the greater Mexican population exist There's virtually no discussion of the exploitation of the native Mexicans by colonial rule The book is devoid of contemplations regarding the effects of the concentration of wealth in the hands of the appointed few There is no consideration that the series of revolutions may have been ploys that were not in the best interests of the greater Mexican populationYes I am way off the mark in my expectations After all this is simple travelogue But it’s important to note especially in present times where those crossing the border are subject to similar impressions that this book should not be considered a resource for an understanding of the Mexican people and their culture The end result is a book that keeps the faith and viewpoint of a ‘superior’ Western European culture If this book is still in print today it is possibly because there are still those among us that like that feeling of superiority

  9. Raquel Martin Raquel Martin says:

    I'm reading this for the second time and it is still a delight This is the best travel book I've ever read Sybille Bedford is incredibly intelligent extremely witty and really GOT Mexico Her insights are as true today as they were in the 40's when she visited Mexico and wrote this book A must read for anyone who loves Mexico

  10. Jim Jim says:

    There are four classical travel books written about Mexico by foreign visitors and this is definitely one of them The others are in order of publication Fanny Calderon de la Barca's Life in Mexico Charles Macomb Flandrau's Viva Mexico and D H Lawrence's Mornings in Mexico Now to my mind they are joined by Sybille Bedford's A Visit to Don Otavio A Mexican Journey which was published in 1953All four books have one thing in common They are about the experience of travel in Mexico rather than descriptions of various destinations I am delighted with the NYRB edition which has an introduction by Bruce Chatwin The only problem is that the author revels in uotations from the French German and Latin none of which are translated

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