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A. Huxley in Sanary 2.1

A find and a loss, both unexpected

Some valuable material waiting to be shared
In December 2004 I had just chosen my subject ‘Huxley in Sanary 1930-1937’ when Henri Ribot, a local scholar and historian informed me that a common acquaintance knew very well a lady of 84 years of age, Fosca Gori, who happened to have spent her teenage years at the ‘Villa Huxley’ during the stay of the writer. She still held a vivid memory of this period and she had kept interesting documents and memorabilia opened for sharing.
Within days I managed to see copies of these documents; I felt that they were waiting for me. What I had in hand was far superior to anything I had found on the subject so far; several dozen of original photographs as well as postcards and letters, written in French and Italian by Maria Huxley and her sisters, sent or given to Gulia Gori, Fosca’s mother who at the time was in charge of the Huxley household.

Soon I contacted Fosca, a grandmother now living in Angouleme, and I had with her a long and most inspiring conversation. She explained that between nine and sixteen years old she went almost everyday to the Huxley’s where she sometimes slept. She had the chance to play with English children of her age, and to witness the simple daily, yet somewhat eccentric life, by local standards, of these famous foreigners.
She recalled very well the sophisticated man of letters, the simplicity of his manners, and the constant attention to his wife whom he seemed to adore. More over, Fosca remembered the exquisite personality of Maria Huxley, her sense of understanding, her profound humanity, her genuine interest for people and true love for everyone involved in her life. Fosca explained the special bind which attached her family to the Huxleys till they met again in 1947 and the very end of Maria's life.

At the height of the war, during the harshest time, Maria managed to send packages with clothes, food and some money to her own family, not forgetting Gulia’s family. Their friendship lasted till the end when in 1951 the Huxleys came to France for Maria’s last visit. Fosca naturally had always cherished these photographs and these letters, which personified Maria, who had left an indelible mark upon her. Needless to say that Fosca was more than happy to hear that someone from Sanary had the desire to make her story exist outside the family circle.

[…] je t’ai expédié hier un petit coli contenant un peu de café, du chocolat, et des fruits secs. Ce n’est pas grand chose mais j’espère que dans vôtre petit ménage cela apportera un peu de plaisir et vous rappellera une bien vieille amie qui vous souhaite tout le bonheur mérité par les promesses d’un bel avenir de travail et d’affection et de respect. Ta lettre me donne une si bonne impression que je me réjouis de vous trouver aussi heureux que des héros de légendes lorsque je rentrerai en France[…]. ton amie, Maria.“

The fact that I rapidly laid my hands on this first choice material, and that I had now a rare opportunity to record Fosca’s original testimony had me convinced that doing a monograph on that period of time would make sense. First it was to be done for the sake of correctly commemorating the Huxleys in our town of Sanary-Sur-Mer, then second, to pay respect to the people still living today, people who happened to have once crossed Aldous and Maria Huxley’s paths, and had never forgotten these two exceptional personalities.

Université Nancy II © Gilles Iltis 2005


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