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A. Huxley in Sanary 1.3

What I already knew of Aldous Huxley

Table of Contents

Between print and web; the lost biography
Dating back from the 40’s all but two of the printed biographies written on the famous man are in English. The two most notable concerning that period are: Sybille Bedford’s official biography, published in 1978, being the most precise, affectionate and forgiving; Mrs BedfordBedford, Sybille, 1911–2006, English writer, born in Charlottenberg, Germany, as Sybille von Schoenebeck. She worked as a legal reporter for various publications, covering more than 100 trials including the Auschwitz trials in Frankfurt (1963–65) and the trial of Jack Ruby in Dallas (1964). She also wrote books on food and wine and on travel, e.g., her first published book, A Visit to Don Otavio (1953), an account of a trip to Mexico. Written in an elegant prose style, her four novels–A Legacy (1956), A Favorite of the Gods (1963), A Compass Error (1968), and Jigsaw (1989)–are in many ways sociohistorical, and largely concern the interaction between character and events. Bedford, for 35 years a close friend of Aldous Huxley, wrote his official biography (2 vol., 1973–74) life-long friend of the Huxley couple is declared an authority. Nicholas Murray (Nicholas Murray's web site) signed the most recent one; a much documented and pleasant work, which shed new light on the couple, the others are relatively accurate, for they mention more or less Sanary. Most of Huxley’s books were translated in French by Jules Castier20 except during the war. If in France one can still find them at random on the shelves of second-hand bookshops, there is hardly any biographical notice attached to them. Was it deliberate on the part of the author to choose tranquillity to stardom?

So, if there is so much printed material on the author, why was most of the information concerning Sanary so often scaled down, if not totally ignored on the World Wide Web? On the more complete and up-to-date web site somaweb as on most of the main biographical web sites somaweb(Web site), one can read that Aldous Leonard Huxley had studied and lived in England until the 20’s and had moved to California in 1937, no mention whatsoever is made of the Italian or French sojourn. On some other websites, Florence and Forte dei Marni in Tuscany where he wrote Chrome Yellow (1921) are accurately mentioned, but neither Suresnes where he owned a house for a year, nor Sanary where he lived on and off for seven years are ever mentioned. Many large American vending sites, Powells, Harper & CollinsPowells, Harper & Collins - About the Author
The longer fiction of Aldous Huxley has been in the mainstream of the "Novel of Ideas" since the publication in England in 1921 of Crome Yellow, his first novel. Huxley is one of the most skillful and most successful social satirists of the twentieth century. His novels go far in defining the character of modern man, while his later work reflects an interest in mysticism and the effect of the consciousness-expanding drugs.Born in England in 1894, Mr. Huxley took to writing when his eyesight temporarily failed. From 1934 until his death in 1963, Aldous Huxley lived in California...
, even write that Huxley moved to California in 1934!

On the side of the Sanary-sur-Mer Town Hall nothing much is known besides the recent German studies, and chronological mistakes are even still made in the official biography proposed by its administration. This lack of coherence in all the data makes one ask legitimate questions about the historical work not yet conducted on the French part.

The result of these imprecisions and omissions is that when any relatively well-read person is asked where BNW was written, most are clueless:
‘Is he the one who wrote 1984?’
‘No, no, that was Orwell, we are talking about Huxley.’
‘Oh yes! Aldous Huxley! Did he write it in England? California?’
There is incredulity from most people, doubts from some, and for my part irritation when discovering that an important part of Aldous Huxley’s biography is incomplete or missing, thus leading to the sense of a mission to fulfill especially after I met with direct witnesses of this very period.
Looking closely at all this incorrect information it seems that the Sanary period still holds, if not secrets, but shadows on the way Aldous Huxley lived his life of a fashionable writer and expatriate. One can start asking questions: why did he buy a house in Sanary? How did he cope with the international succes of Point Counterpoint? how did he manage to write books in an environment where world affairs were becoming every day more and more preoccupying? How did he cope with success? What about the potential visitors and admirers who came to this part of the coast, what about the real relationship maintained with the German exiles, or the French locals? What about the working conditions? Did they avoid, or enjoy the sun and the summer heat? Let alone the cicadas buzzing!
Université Nancy II © Gilles Iltis 2005


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