A Legacy (New York Review Books Classics) by Sybille Bedford

By Sybille Bedford

A Legacy is the story of 2 very diverse households, the Merzes and the Feldens. The Jewish Merzes are longstanding individuals of Berlin’s haute bourgeoisie who count number a chum of Goethe between their unusual ancestors. no longer that this proud legacy potential a lot of whatever to them anymore. safe of their large city condominium, they dedicate themselves to little greater than having fun with their comforts and making sure their wealth. The Feldens are landed aristocracy, well to do yet now not wealthy, from Germany’s Catholic south. After Julius von Felden marries Melanie Merz the fortunes of the 2 households could be unusually, certainly fatally, entwined.

Set through the run-up to global warfare I, a time of weirdly mingled complacency and angst, A Legacy is beautiful, magnificently humorous, and profound, an unforgettable photograph of a doomed lifestyle.

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What has given rise to singing here is not alcohol but spiritual experience, though this is left out of the narrative. It is as if such a tender moment is so alien to the men’s lives that even the narrating voice cannot find words to utter it. In retrospect the characters are so embarrassed to have revealed so much, they could not admit it happened. In the context of A Child of the Jago, neither the hymn (as a genre) nor the voice are in themselves signifiers of spirituality. But at that moment spiritual experience is articulated by means of religious song.

In a Latin sonnet written in honour of the singer Leonora Baroni, Milton tells her: ‘The music of your voice bespeaks the presence of God. 27 For Hegel in 1830, the best and highest way of expressing inner sentiments was by means of singing, wailing and moaning – all sustained vocal sounds that allow the soul to rid itself of feelings that are causing irritation. 29 This small number of examples suggests that symbolically, experiences of vocal meaning which lie beyond speech might be read in profoundly mystical ways over extensive historical periods.

30 The singing voice, then, has been in a unique musical position to merge different worlds of meaning: self-authority, human emotion, and the most slippery of them all, the soul itself. 32 However, they are set apart from other working-class fictional characters by their ability to sing. 33 Unlike middle and upper-class singers, Thyrza and Margaret perform simple songs in public houses and damp rooms. These locations are associated with poverty, and differ significantly from comfortable drawing rooms and concert halls – spaces that function as shrines to High Art.

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