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
…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
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