Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Tale of Double Lives
Robert Dessaix – Picador Hardcover - $58

I am only halfway through this gorgeous tome and I can see I’m going to have to put it aside until the holidays so here is the cover blurb which sums the book up very well I think.

One Sunday afternoon in a secluded valley in Normandy, Robert Dessaix chanced upon the castle where the famous French writer André Gide spent his childhood. Recalling the excitement Robert felt when he first read Gide as a teenager, he set off to recapture what it was that once drew him so strongly to this enigmatic figure.
On a magic carpet ride from Lisbon to the edge of the Sahara, from Paris to the south of France and Algiers, Robert takes us to the places where the Nobel Prize-winning author, in ways still scandalous to modern sensibilities, lived out his unconventional ideas about love, marriage, sexuality and religion.

Featuring meditations and conversations with fellow travellers on such diverse subjects as why we travel, growing old, illicit passions, and the essence of Protestantism – and illustrated with over 100 stunning illustrations and photos - Arabesques is Robert Dessaix and travel memoir at their absolute finest.
(They might also have added biography to that last sentence.)

Robert Dessaix is a writer, interviewer, translator and broadcaster. From 1985 to 1995, after teaching Russian language and literature at ANU and UNSW, he presented the weekly Books and Writing program on ABC's Radio National. In more recent years he has presented radio series on language, public intellectuals and great travellers in history. His best-known books, published around the world, are the autobiography A Mother's Disgrace, the novels Night Letters and Corfu, a collection of essays and short stories (and so forth) and the travel memoir Twilight of Love. He has also published translations of works by Chekhov, Dostoyevsky and Turgenev. Robert lives in Hobart, Tasmania.

A simply stunning book with gorgeous photos, print and finish. Lush and visually arresting. as one reviewer described it. He was spot on. A superb gift book.


Anonymous said...

Oh thank you Graham for this review. 'Twilight of Love' is one of my most treasured books after I listened to Robert Dessaix (I think he was a guest of the IML at the City Gallery a few years back) - having hitherto not heard of him. I will be rushing out to buy this latest memoir for myself for Xmas.

Beattie's Book Blog said...

Thanks Maggie. Robert Dessaix was a guest at the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival a few years back, the first or second time it was held if my memory serves me right.
I remember chairing a panel of whch he was a member. Brilliant, modest, articulate man with burning eyes is my memory of him.
You'll enjoy Arabesques.