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The definitive biography of the eccentric bisexual naval officer, traveller, amateur acrobat, and best-selling novelist who was given a state funeral in 1923, the only French writer to have received such an honour other than Victor Hugo.
Pierre Loti (born Julien Viaud in 1850) was himself his own fictional creation and lived his picaresque fantasies instead of just imagining them. Everything he wrote, novels included, is partly autobiographical. He had a powerful influence on Marcel Proust and Henry James.
Bohemian, exotic and fiercely romantic; adored and scorned by French society in equal measure, Loti spent his life escaping the constraints of bourgeois France — and in so doing redefined his age. He travelled the South Seas, Asia and the Middle East (his great obsession) and loved with intense passion and freedom wherever he went. One of the first foreign correspondents, Loti’s published work includes travel books and war reports from Indochina, Turkey, and China during the Boxer rebellion. Today, his house in Rochefort is a museum. One elaborately tiled room is a fantasia of a mosque. Another room evokes a medieval banqueting hall.
NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS ― Part Casanova, part René, and part Baron Müunchhausen [Loti got] out of scrapes and away with behaviour that would normally lead to disaster, disgrace, even death – as in the case of the Turkish lady whom he abducted from her husband’s harem night after night and sometimes for days on end. This adventure forms the subject of his anonymously published novel, Aziyadé (1877
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lesley Blanch was a distinguished writer, artist, drama critic, and features editor of British Vogue during World War Two. In 1946 she sailed from England to travel the world with her diplomat-novelist husband, Romain Gary. By the time they reached Hollywood in the 1950s they were literary celebrities. Their marriage of eighteen years ended when Gary left her for the young actress, Jean Seberg. Blanch headed East to travel across Siberia, Outer Mongolia, Turkey, Iran, Samarkand, Afghanistan, Egypt, the Sahara.
Born in 1904, she died aged 103, having gone from being a household name to a mysterious and neglected living legend. The author of twelve books, including Journey into the Mind's Eye, Pierre Loti, The Sabres of Paradise, and Round the World in Eighty Dishes, her memoirs – On the Wilder Shores of Love: A Bohemian Life – are published by Virago and La Table Ronde in France. A follow up collection of travel pieces, pen portraits and journalism, Far To Go and Many To Love, is published by Quartet Books.