Anne Sebba

We should never take our daily bread for granted

In the seventh and final chapter of this small but lingeringly powerful book, the author reveals his motivation for writing it. His father, he explains, a Russian-born Yugoslav soldier, had been a prisoner of war of the Germans, part of a group consigned to do forced labour felling trees during the bitterly cold winter of

Hiding from the Gestapo in plain sight in Berlin

Of the many bleak moments that have lodged in my mind since reading this extraordinary book the most unshakeable is the image of the once dignified Otto Neumann, walking to his death in torrential rain, with black shoe polish running down his face and into his eyes. Thus was his fate sealed as the silver

A life in pieces

When the poet George Szirtes returned as an adult to Budapest, the city of his birth which he had left as a child with his family in 1956, he experienced what became an abiding fantasy. He imagined his mother going back to the family flat but, instead of sitting down in a chair, she carried

The man who kept re-inventing himself

When Romain Gary, a courageous and much decorated pilot in the RAF’s Free French squadron, was presented to the Queen Mother shortly after the second world war and asked about his background he apparently chose to remain silent. ‘Pour ne pas compliquer les choses,’ was his own version of the one-sided exchange. Gary, born Roman

Appointment in Sarajevo

In July 2001, a few days after Slobodan Milosevic was flown to the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, Janine di Giovanni went to Sarajevo to see how it felt for those who had suffered so brutally from his rule. But she found no one celebrating. Some of the ‘big fish’ were getting caught, but

Go straight to Heaven

Tourists in downtown Calcutta (or Kolkata, as we all must now learn to say) cannot fail to be struck by a 50-foot mosaic of the city’s most famous immigrant, Mother Teresa. The Skopje-born nun is smiling benignly on the snarled-up traffic chaos that belches and honks beneath her. To one side of this giant piece

Kissing and telling with gusto

Harriette Wilson’s Memoirsintroduced by Lesley BlanchPhoenix, £9.99, pp. 471, ISBN 1842126326 What do a modern New York psychoanalyst and a Regency London courtesan have in common? Both offer escape, relaxation and individual attention; both are expensive. ‘In place of the alcove there is the analyst’s office. But basically the functions of both analyst and courtesan