The Right Coast

February 27, 2006
Faces of Justice
By Maimon Schwarzschild

The author Sybille Bedford died in England last week, aged 94. Here is the (London) Daily Telegraph obit. Bedford had an unusual and very unconventional life. She was also a good writer about law. "The Faces of Justice", published in 1961, was a kind of legal travelogue about the post-war western European legal systems: a humane, revealing, and charming book -- still fresh, I think, nearly half a century later, although the post-war Europe she described has vanished utterly. Says the Telegraph:
After writing The Faces of Justice (1961), which was a series of descriptions of proceedings in English, German, Swiss and French courts, Sybille Bedford described herself as "a private and unlearned aficionado of the law". In fact, her skill at reportage, and her perceptiveness and intelligence, made her one of the most astute observers of legal procedure of her time and won her high praise.
Bedford was impressed by the day-to-day decency of the courts she visited in England, West Germany, France, and Switzerland. Not by the courts in Austria, though: her chapter about them is very funny, and not at all kind to the Austrians. Bedford's father was an "eccentric" German baron; her mother a German Jew. Was Bedford expressing, or even mocking, the old prejudices that her parents probably had against Austria...?