Welcome to the website of celebrated author and distinguished traveller, Lesley Blanch, MBE (1904-2007).
Her memoirs, On the Wilder Shores of Love: A Bohemian Life were published posthumously in hardback by Virago, Little Brown on 15 January, 2015; and in paperback on 12 January 2017. The sequel, Far To Go and Many To Love: People and Places about her many worlds, is published 1 June, 2017 by Quartet Books.
The French edition of her memoirs, Croquis d'une vie de bohème, translated by Lucien d'Azay, is published by La Table Ronde in Paris on 19 April 2018.
Both books were edited by Blanch's god-daughter, Georgia de Chamberet, whose experiences editing her are recounted in a piece written for BookBrunch, the information site and daily news service for the book industry.
A scholarly romantic, Lesley Blanch influenced and inspired generations of writers, readers and critics. Her first book, The Wilder Shores of Love — the stories of four ninteenth-century women who followed the beckoning Eastern star — pioneered a new kind of group biography focusing on women escaping the boredom of convention. An instant classic, it has remained in print in English since first publication in 1954. Lesley Blanch was ahead of her time and prescient in the way she attempted to bridge West and East.
Savvy, self-possessed and talented, Blanch did what she wanted and earned a good living at a time when women were expected to stay at home and be subservient to the needs of husband and children. She was glamorous and stylish and, in her own unique way, distinctly powerful.
She knew something of the Middle East as it once was, before conflict and turmoil became the essence of relations between the Arab World and the West. The places she travelled to and which obsessed her are still newsworthy today: Russia, The Balkans, The Middle East, Turkey, Afghanistan.
JOE BOYD, THE GUARDIAN: "There is something of a cult around Lesley Blanch. Philip Mansel, author of Constantinople and other works of historical scholarship, calls her 'not a school, a trend, or a fashion, but a true original'."
Arriving at the front gate of Lesley Blanch's home on the French Riviera, steps wound upwards through a green tunnel of leaves, ascending to a dreamlike inner sanctum. The terraced garden was like an extension of the house, with outside rooms for different times of day. She lived amidst a harmonious assembly of esoteric objects from distant corners of the earth, and was admired by her friends for her decorative flair. She juxtaposed a quirky mix of objects found somewhere out of the ordinary. Her rooms vibrated with "bargains and insane extravagances — a traveller's haul" of the rich and the strange.
She stayed open to life and new ideas to the very end of her life. This website was created with her approval and cooperation, its core content remains as it was, when it went live in 2006.
PHILIP MANSEL, LE FIGARO LITTÉRAIRE: "With the death of Lesley Blanch, age 103, England and France have lost one of their last links connecting them to White-Russian Paris, Free-French London, and many other lost worlds. Her friends would leave her Ottoman-style eyrie in Menton invigorated and inspired. The subjects of her conversation were well beyond the conventional boundaries of time, space, nationality and fashion. I often went to see her, attracted by her warm personality and colourful, cosmopolitan past. With a unique turn of phrase, she would talk equally passionately about film stars, racism, Arab culture, or the Mitford sisters."
Twenty Minutes, BBC Radio 3, February 2007. Lesley Blanch talks to Teresa Cherfas about her love of Russia and of the mysterious family friend whom she referred to as The Traveller. Although to some it may seem that Blanch excelled in magnifying her own peculiarities to become larger than life, even mythic, she was always true to herself. Her private life was so inaccessible as to be virtually unimaginable. Blanch gave this interview the day after coming out of hospital. She died four months later.
CLICK PLAY BUTTON below to hear interview
Banner photos: LB on her wedding day, 4 April, 1945 © The Estate of Germaine Kanova | LB and Romain Gary, Bulgaria, 1948 © The Estate of Lesley Blanch | LB photographed by Henry Clarke, 1973 © The Condé Nast Publications Inc | LB with Sheikh Zaid bin Sultan Al Nahyan, 1970s, © The Estate of Lesley Blanch