A Visit to Don Otavio, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (1 rating)


Mexico, through the eyes of Sybille Bedford is a country of passion and paradox: arid desert and shrieking jungle, harsh sun and deep shadow, violence and sentimentality.

In her frank descriptions of the horrors of travel - through bug-infested jungle, trapped in a broiling stationary train, or in a bus with a dead fish slapping against her face - she gains our trust.

But it is the charmed world of Don Otavio which steals our imagination.

He is, she says, "one of the kindest men I ever met".

She stays in his crumbling ancestral mansion, living a life of provincial ease and observing with glee the intense life of a Mexican neighbourhood.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Eland Publishing Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Travel writing
  • ISBN: 9780907871873

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This entertaining book is an account of a journey that [[Sybille Bedford]] made to Mexico shortly after WWII. A few chapters deal with the major sights they saw, but more time is spent describing tortuous journeys to places which turn out to be not quite worth it. Bedford portrays herself as someone who puts up pretty stoically with the discomforts ("There <i>was</i> a road bed, in a fairly advanced stage of construction, much of it really passable"), and her friend E as highly unimpressed by her surroundings and by Bedford's hare-brained travelling schemes ("E stalked past it all, the way Doctor Johnson must have stalked about the Hebrides").There are happier elements to the visit too, from the beauties of some of the countryside to the titular visit to Don Otavio, a young and otherworldly Mexican from an aristocratic family who lives in a mansion by a lake. Although I don't think this book told me much about Mexico, I still found Bedford an engaging companion. She gets as much humour from the foibles of the expats that she meets from the vagaries of transport and accommodation difficulties, and she appreciates the good sides of what she sees.Sample: <i>The <u>posadas</u> are most jolly. The ground floor is always a large, unkempt parlour opening into the patio without much transition, full of overgrown plants, wicker-chairs, objects without visible use, birds free and caged, and a number of sleeping dogs. Here the innkeepers jot their accounts, sort the linen, drive bargains with the poultry woman and the egg child, arraign the servants, play the gramophone, drink chocolate, chat and doze; and here the guests sit, smoke cigars, have their hair cut, shout for servants, play the gramophone, drink rum and chocolate, chat and doze. Everybody has their own bottle, sent out for by the <u>mozo</u>. The innkeeper would think you mad to pay him bar prices; every time you draw cork he will supply you - compliments of the house - with glasses, lime, salt (without which spirits are considered to be unswallowable), pistachio nuts, fried anchovies, toasted <u>tortillas</u> strewn with crumbs of cheese and lettuce, stuffed cold maize dumplings and pickled chilli peppers. </i>

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