Barbara amiel

The many lives of George Weidenfeld, legendary publisher and ladies’ man

‘You can go ahead,’ said the voice at the other end of the telephone. ‘The DPP has decided not to prosecute.’ It was the call that allowed the publication of Lolita, one of the greatest gambles of George Weidenfeld’s career. The moment George – it is impossible to think of him as anything other than George – had read this controversial book, available from the Olympia Press in Paris, known for its pornographic list, he had wanted to publish it himself; but as the law then stood, it would have been pulped immediately, owing to its story of a middle-aged professor who becomes obsessed with a 12-year-old girl and kidnaps

The myth of American freedom

Gstaad Imagine a beautiful, sexy woman, an Ava Gardner or a Lily James, with a wart on the end of her nose. It stands out, whereas on an ugly mien it would go almost unnoticed. Noise in stunning and peaceful surroundings disturbs more than it would in grating, jarring cities. Last week, on a gorgeous sunny afternoon, after yet another record snowfall, I was cross-country skiing and stopped for a picnic lunch with Lara and Patricia, two married friends of mine who had left me miles behind. They were using the new skating method of cross-country skiing (I remain traditional, gliding on the double track). A cloudless and very blue

Did Panorama use tabloid methods to lure Diana?

As time passes, there is — blessedly — ever less need to pay attention to ‘untold’ stories about Diana, Princess of Wales; but the Channel 4 documentary Diana: The Truth behind the Interview did make me sit up a bit. It revealed, and the BBC does not deny, that Martin Bashir and Panorama colleagues caused fake invoices to be created purporting to show that a rogue employee of Charles Spencer, the Princess’s brother, had sold stories about her to newspapers. It seems this forgery — and Panorama’s assurances about Bashir’s good character — persuaded Lord Spencer to meet Bashir and to urge his sister to do the same. The result

What Barbara Black’s choice of friends says about her

Gstaad I’m not usually nonplussed, but this is very strange: the memoir of Barbara Black, the wife of my good friend Lord Black, simply doesn’t make sense where certain people she writes about are concerned — persons I happen to know well. The list is not long, and I’ll start with David Graham, her third and extremely rich husband who was the biggest bore I have ever met — and believe you me, I’ve met a few in my long life. Out of kindness, no doubt, she fails to mention what a terrific bore he was (he was also the cheapest man I’ve ever come across; he’d be dead before