Travel and Biography
Ghosts of the Belle Époque: The History of the Grand Hôtel et des Palmes, Palermo
Released: April 2020, published by Bloomsbury (I B Tauris Imprint)
The Grand Hôtel et des Palmes is an icon of Palermo life. Its rooms and public spaces have witnessed the events that have shaped twentieth century Sicily, everything from the suicide of a poet to political intrigues and a clandestine mafia meeting.
The hotel has a long and venerable history. It started out as a private residence for the Ingham-Whitakers, the Anglo-Sicilian family of marsala wine fame, before being sold to the hotelier Enrico Ragusa in 1874. Wagner was one of the most eminent early guests, looking for inspiration to finish his last opera, Parsifal. A few days after its completion, a nervous Renoir arrived to paint his portrait. Months later came Guy de Maupassant, who asked to see Wagner's former suite so that he might detect 'a little of his personality'. The novelist and poet, Raymond Roussel, arrived in the 1930s, but was destined to leave in a coffin.
Arthur Miller, Sophia Loren and Maria Callas were all guests and when Visconti was filming The Leopard in Sicily, the entire cast – notably Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale and Alain Delon – visited the hotel. Lancaster even dined with a Baron who had made the hotel his home for reasons shrouded in mystery. Less illustrious guests have included the occultist Aleister Crowley, Lucky Luciano and other mafiosi. Even Giulio Andreotti, the former Italian Prime Minister, who stood trial for complicity in the murder of a journalist and mafia association in the '90s opted for the hotel's Belle Époque opulence.
A richly researched history of this historic hotel, with a cast of characters ranging from the good to the bad and the decidedly ugly.
His Master's Reflection: Travels with John Polidori
Released: October 2018, published by SAP
Reviews: Fiona Richards, Timeless Travels Magazine: 'This is a different sort of travel book as it tells the story of a young doctor who became the travelling physician to the poet Lord Byron… A fascinating story as the authors delve into his final years.'
Qualifying as a doctor in 1815 at the tender age of nineteen, John Polidori was employed less than a year later by the poet, Lord Byron, as his travelling physician. The precocious medic was seemingly destined for a bright future that would enable him to combine his profession with a love of literature. In His Masters Reflection, the authors follow Polidori's footsteps as he accompanies Byron through Europe to Switzerland where they eventually meet the Shelleys and Claire Clairmont. Fulfilling his fathers prophecy, the fateful summer will prove to have a devastating impact on Polidori's life and legacy.
Byron's keen wit and elevated status would leave the sensitive doctor feeling isolated and undervalued. Fuelled by acerbic comments from the poet's friends, Byron finally releases Polidori from his contract, leaving the penniless medic to wander over the Alps on foot to Italy, his father's homeland. Despite attempts at establishing himself as a doctor to the expatriate community, he has to admit defeat and return to England. Still harbouring literary ambitions, his one chance at fame is cruelly denied when The Vampyre, the story he had written in Geneva, is attributed to Byron. Gossip and retelling of events have cast Polidori in the role of a petulant plagiarist. Concussion from a riding accident deeply affected Polidoris temperament and behaviour, leaving questions surrounding his death, which history has recorded as suicide by prussic acid, despite the coroners verdict of visitation by God. The authors delve into his final years in an attempt to redress the balance. The handsome Polidori was more than just his masters reflection.
Borges in Sicily (original title Viaje a la Sicilia con un guía ciego)
Translated by Andrew from Alejandro Luque's original Spanish work - published by Haus
When Alejandro Luque receives a book of photographs of the Argentinian writer, essayist and poet, Jorge Luis Borges, in Sicily he decides to trace the writer's journey, setting off with a group of friends on his own Sicilian odyssey. Meticulously identifying the location of each photograph, Luque uses the pictures of Borges to imagine how the elderly writer felt when faced with the same view, the same stresses or delights. These reveries form a pause for thought where the words come to illustrate the images. As his hunt for the locations of the original photographs continues, he begins to fall in love both with the island and his friend, Ro. The literati of the past and present, both indigenous and foreign, are placed alongside Luque's own comments and observations in a narrative rich in historical detail. Borges himself becomes a character as the narrative is infused with extracts and reflections from his essays and poetry. Having travelled from Trapani in the west to Siracusa in the east, Luque and his companions must eventually return to Spain. Despite Borges' central role, Alejandro realises his real blind guide has been love.
Andalucia: A Literary Guide for Travellers
Our book, Andalucia: A Literary Guide for Travellers, was published by I B Tauris in Sept 2016
Max Long, The Times Literary Supplement: 'a thoughtful, thoroughly researched and remarkably well-balanced scholarly guide to the literary history of one of Spain's most eulogized regions.'
Fiona Flores Watson, Andalucia.com: 'An invaluable companion for anyone who is interested in the literature of Andalucia.'
The Olive Press: 'Andalucia: A Literary Guide for Travellers takes readers on an entralling tour of Spain's largest region.'
Alejandro Luque, author of Palabras mayores: 'the southern imagery of Carmens and Don Juans appears suitably updated in these pages, enriched by a multiplicity of other viewpoints and sensibilities and, most importantly of all, contrasted in the landscape province by province, from Donana to the Cabo de Gata.'
Jason Webster, author of Andalus and Duende: 'Andalusia has a rare and special quality - a magic if you will - like the enchanting force of a fairy queen's spell or the anguished cry of a heart-felt prayer. Many have felt this power - even from afar - yet few have distilled it successfully into words. This superb literary guide to one of the world's most culturally rich and diverse corners sifts through many hundreds of books and texts to present us with a fine selection of the highest quality gems, small, concentrated droplets of the essence of the place, its poetry and people. It is essential reading for anyone who has ever fallen for the charms, mystique and passion of southern Spain.'
Sicily: A Literary Guide for Travellers
Our book, Sicily: A Literary Guide for Travellers, published by I B Tauris, was released in 2014. It can be purchased from bookstores or online retailers such as Barnes and Noble, Waterstones or Amazon Worldwide (see the link below).
Tobias Jones, author of The Dark Heart of Italy, Utopian Dreams and the Castagnetti mysteries: 'It makes such a convincing case for Sicily - as much as London, Paris or New York - to be recognised as central to any history of western literature. I had no idea that the cast of characters who resided on, or were inspired by, the island was so huge, or so intriguing: everything from literary A-listers to washed up wanderers. It was a wonderful read, enlivened by so many anecdotes and snap-shots.'
Duncan Fallowell, The Spectator: 'Andrew and Suzanne Edwards have created a colourful switchback of quotation and commentary which repeatedly astonishes us with Sicily’s differing reservoirs of experience, so that we do find ourselves asking: is there anything Sicily has not seen and does not know?'
Clarissa Hyman, The Times Literary Supplement: 'Andrew and Suzanne Edwards's volume is more than a simple anthology or compilation. They have structured the book in the form of a circular island tour, more absorbing than dead-pan chronology. Sicily is bound to become battered and dog-eared, blotched with caponata and wine stains. One day a jasmine blossom might fall from its pages, carrying the scent of "painful intensity" so evocatively described in the novels of Dacia Maraini.'
Robin Hanbury-Tenison, Country Life: 'This is a Paddy Leigh Fermor sort of book, which relies on a constant stream of anecdotes and literary references to see places and buildings, landscapes and locals through many different eyes... Sicily has everything a traveller could desire. There are innumerable excellent guides to it, but this is the ideal travelling companion, with its unique interweaving of everything that has contributed to Sicily's profound influence on art, literature, history and philosophy.'
Giles Foden, Condé Nast Traveller: 'a wonderful text on the literary diversity of the island.'
Italia Magazine: 'More than just a guide for travellers, this is a very romantic narrative of Sicily's history. It breathes a new life into Sicily with a passion that is rare, and will take you down roads that you will beg to visit.'
Alastair Brent, The Lady: 'This guide explores the enchanting, historic island in depth and with great passion... The Edwards leave no stone unturned as they showcase their love for this pearl of the Mediterranean...'
The video below will give you a flavor of the text and locations.
The Sicilian Defence
Translated by Alejandro Luque's original La defensa siciliana
A talented schoolboy struggles with unseen forces that rip his family apart; a hand-written note hidden in a hotel magazine has dire consequences for a relationship; a private detective hired to track a cheating fiancé is faced with a life and death decision… These short stories provide a window on contemporary Sicilian life seen through the lens of the island’s literary history. They reflect Sicily’s power to encompass perfectly the ideas of Good and Bad, Heaven and Hell, to enmesh them so tightly that, at times, it remains impossible to distinguish the two concepts. This is the English translation of The ‘Alfonso Cossio Short Story Prize’ winning Spanish title ‘La Defensa Siciliana’.