Shusha Guppy interviews Lesley Blanch (1991) | part 5

Christmas card sent to friends by Lesley Blanch. Hollywood & Paris, 1961

Shusha Guppy interviewed Lesley Blanch at her home in Garavan, before and after a delicious home-cooked lunch consumed in the shade of a fig tree in the garden. September 1988.

Shusha Guppy : It is interesting that your husband was the opposite: he only wrote fiction, and won the Goncourt twice, the second time under a pseudonym. What do you think of his work now?

Lesley Blanch : I don’t read novels. Few last. Romain was not a disciplined writer, but he had wonderful ideas, and sometimes wrote wonderful stories. The one about the strolling players, for example. I thought The Roots of Heaven was fine. It had a momentous theme, like his autobiography, Promise at Dawn, which he wrote in Hollywood and gave me to read in instalments as he went along. Of course he invented a certain amount of that, but basically it was true.

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Shusha Guppy interviews Lesley Blanch (1991) | part 1

lesley blanch terrace view roquebrune gael elton mayo

We are delighted to celebrate the release of the new Lesley Blanch website with Shusha Guppy’s interview of Lesley Blanch as a series of five blog posts. The interview was first published in Looking Back: A Panoramic View of a Literary Age by the Grande Dames of European Letters (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, 1991). 

Shusha Guppy, Persian شوشا (شمسی) گوپی‎; née Shamsi Assār, (1935 – 2008) was a writer, editor and, under the name of “Shusha”, a singer of Persian and Western folk songs. She lived in London from the early 1960s.

Lesley Blanch was already a distinguished traveller and journalist when her first book, The Wilder Shores of Love, was published in 1954. It was immediately acclaimed as a classic, and became a worldwide bestseller. It told of four nineteenth-century women of contrasting backgrounds and temperaments who sought in the East the adventures and emotions which were rapidly disappearing from the industrialized West. Her following book, The Sabres of Paradise, which took six years to complete, with research in Russia and Turkey, was the biography of Imam Shamyl, the religious leader of the Caucasian tribes who fought the invading Russian armies in 1834 to 1859. It combines biography and history with beautiful descriptions of the Caucasus and the campaigns in which both the young Tolstoy and Lermontov participated.

This interview took place in September 1988 at Lesley Blanch’s home in Garavan, before and after a delicious lunch that she had cooked and which was consumed in the shade of a fig tree in her garden.

SHUSHA GUPPY : You were born into an upper middle-class family. Were your parents wealthy?

LESLEY BLANCH : No. They were always broke. My father was a very clever and cultivated man, but he didn’t do anything. He spent his time in museums and galleries, discussing things like Chinese porcelain and early oak furniture, about which he knew a great deal. They had been quite well-off, especially my mother, but the money trickled away gradually. My mother was not strictly beautiful, but seemed so. She was extremely elegant and artistic, and extremely frustrated too. Having married she had decided to become a devoted wife, and everything she touched she made lovely – houses, plants, food; she had magical hands.

Continue reading “Shusha Guppy interviews Lesley Blanch (1991) | part 1”