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This report is taken from PN Review 59, Volume 14 Number 3, January - February 1988.

Maurice Sachs: The London Connection David Arkell

Excellent writer and self-confessed brigand, Maurice Sachs (1906-45) is famous for his posthumous best-seller Le Sabbat (Witches' Sabbath), subtitled 'the Memoirs of a Misspent Youth'.

Sachs had many connections with England, beginning with his nurse Susan, who taught him the language and whom he used to disconcert greatly by his nightly prayer: that he might wake up next morning as a little girl. It had apparently been the wish also of his mother Andrée, who was related to that Proustian character par excellence Mme Straus, one of the originals of the Duchesse de Guermantes. Maurice's first crisis came with the war of 1914 when he was evacuated to England with the mother he hardly knew. He fell in love, however, with London, which provided his first aesthetic memory: a street scene as vivid as a Peter de Hooch.

It was to London that he returned in 1923, again with his mother who, pursued by creditors, had to find refuge anywhere outside France. Throughout that summer the 16-year-old boy worked in the foreign book department of John and Edward Bumpus Ltd, then at 350 Oxford Street, on the corner of Marylebone Lane. He describes spending most of the time comforting Andrée in their little flat in Campden Hill Gardens - but this did not prevent him going back to France in October and never seeing her again.

According to Sachs, the firm of Bumpus had offered him a five-year contract as head of the ...


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