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Lesley Blanch: My Life on the Wilder Shores

She has long lived in France, but Turkey has inspired ‘pangs of longing’ since her first visit in 1946. The celebrated author of The Wilder Shores of Love and The Sabres of Paradise, talks to Philip Mansel about a life of adventure and the landscape of the heart

  • Lesley Blanch photographed by Norman Parkinson in the 1940s

…She has the courage to write from the heart, without irony: “If we seek, and are aware we have missed the moment we seek, our own absolute moment in time, then we live out our lives unfulfilled.”…

If Russia was the first country to capture her heart, Turkey has also inspired “pangs of longing” since her first visit in 1946. Turkey helped her to write about figures then forgotten in the West. Her love of Turkey and the Muslim world were spurred by her instinctive rebelliousness, her feeling, when in London, Paris or New York, of not belonging to any particular country, group or class. Her first success as a writer, The Wilder Shores of Love (1954), describes four women – Jane Digby, Isabel Burton, Aimée Dubucq and Isabelle Eberhardt – who found in the Muslim East “glowing horizons of emotion and daring which were for them now vanishing from the West”. It has never been out of print and has been translated into twelve languages. Throughout the book, the principal decorative motif, drawn by Blanch herself, is a single Ottoman minaret.

This article is based on Philip Mansel’s conversations and correspondence with Lesley Blanch since their first meeting in 1992. Lesley Blanch died in May 2007 aged 102

To read the full article, purchase Issue 37

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Issue 37, 2007 A Riot of Textiles
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Other Highlights from Cornucopia 37
  • Edirne: The Forgotten City

    Once the Jewel in the Ottoman crown, Edirne is now a somnolent backwater on the Turkish borders of Greece and Bulgaria. Caroline and Andrew Finkel catch glimpses of its glorious past.

  • Hot Pots

    The Turkish yahni has evolved little since the days of Genghis Khan. Since Ottoman times it has been the same rich, satisfying dish. It fed the Janissaries, it fed the poor, it nourished students and it sustained sultans.
    More cookery features

  • Silks for the Sultans

    Imperial kaftans were presented in kaleidoscopic patchworks of silk that were works of art in their own right

  • The Glories of Genghis

    The exhibition at the Sabancı Museum is not only about Genghis Khan and his heirs. It starts several centuries BC with beautiful pieces created by the peoples of the Steppes that tell us about the animals on which they depended in daily life and the mythical creatutes that saw them through to the afterlife.

Buy the issue
Issue 37, 2007 A Riot of Textiles
£300.00 / $373.71 / 12,094.22 TL
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