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Welcome to the website of Lesley Blanch, MBE, FRSL (1904 – 2007), author of The Wilder Shores of Love; historian, journalist and travel writer.

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 sought in the East the adventures and emotions which were rapidly disappearing from the industrialised West — 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.

Her memoirs, On the Wilder Shores of Love: A Bohemian Life are published by Virago and under the title Croquis d’une vie de bohème by La Table Ronde in France. This book is the culmination of the work started by Lesley Blanch and her god-daughter and literary executor, editor Georgia de Chamberet.

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’.”

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.

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.

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.”

Lesley Blanch stayed open to all that life had to offer, and new ideas, to the day she died. The core content of this website was created with her cooperation, and is as it was when it first went live in 2006.