PERSONAL RECORD (1920-1972) by Gerald Brenan


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Gerald Brenan, for those who do not remember, spent part of his life on the outskirts of the Bloomsbury group -- primarily through Iris relationship with Lytton Strachey and Dora Carrington -- she's the most important part of this memoir. He also rived in Spain during the later years, wrote two seductive touchstone books on that country (The Spanish Labyrinth and South From Granada) as well as the preliminary to this autobiography, A Life of One's Own (1963). One reads its continuation, a record of chronic romantic instability, with a mixture of interest and impatience. To sum it up briefly, Brenan loved Carrington who was first in love with his good friend Ralph Partridge and later with Strachey while sustaining affairs with all three. (Carrington's charms -- she's described as ""clumsy, uneducated"" with only her intense blue eyes going for her -- remain as elusive as she often was.) Although of course it was Strachey to whom she devoted herself exclusively at the end. Brenan later married Gamel who was ill (tubercular) and really loved Llewellyn Powys (also tubercular) but the marriage endured until her death (cancer) with considerable equanimity, however hard to explain. So sometimes is Brenan when he describes her aa ""totally devoid of both selfishness and egoism"" although she kept a silver mirror by her side in which she looked every ten minutes. Brenan also had a great many lesser mistresses (a child by one), an infatuation with Carrington's niece, and we now leave him happily settled with another young woman in jeans. The book of course is more than this: the family portraits are delightful -- so are the comments on his ever-widening circle, Connolly and Roger Fry and Bertrand Russell and many, many others. Brenan tells you that none of his books were very successful: this too is rather special even if the Bloomsbury revival will have anticipated an audience. Yet for all its discreet candor, there's a certain diffident inconclusiveness -- more than the distance justifies?

Pub Date: March 25th, 1975
Publisher: Knopf