This is the fifth installment of Valerie Stivers’s Eat Your Words column.
The decline of the continental European aristocracy just before World War I doesn’t sound like a promising period for food … until you read Sybille Bedford (1911–2006). Bedford was the daughter of a German baron (part of the anti-Prussian aristocracy) and a wealthy Jewish German woman from Hamburg. She had Jewish blood and glamorous friends, and she escaped the Nazis with the help of Aldous Huxley. Her greatest novel, A Legacy, first published in 1956 and reprinted by New York Review Books Classics in 2015, is the story of two German families, one based on her father’s family, the other on Berlin’s rich Jews. These beautiful and inflexible characters collect objets d’art, gamble, eat sumptuous feasts, and unwittingly play their parts in the rise of fascism in Germany. It’s one of the book’s many pleasurable sophistications that the narrator is barely a character; once you’ve seen her parents—seen her legacy—you’ve seen it all. Read More