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The Faces of Justice: A Traveller's Report

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Novelist Sybille Bedford watched courts closely—and with remarkable insight—in England, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and France, and she found stories of human frailty and impulsive action, among both the defendants facing judgment in court and even the judges and juries deciding their fates. Their tales are fascinating and resonate today.

Not only are the social and political differences apparent in these countries and their machinery of crime and justice, but also their historic perceptions of fairness and order are laid bare. In the process, Bedford recounts the compelling saga of a father on trial in Germany for killing the man who repeatedly exposed himself to the defendant's young daughter, the immigrant in Switzerland who swiped a watch to impress a chambermaid, the Algerians in France who shot up a series of Parisian cafes, and the English woman sentenced for forgetting to pay for her butter while she was distracted by sudden news that her father was dying. Scores of other gripping stories are shared, across several cultures and systems.

Although this book is long recognized as an outstanding account of comparative legal systems and criminal procedure, it does not read at all like a dry legal study (and is very accessible to a general readership and students). Bedford focuses on the real people involved, leading to the wide acclaim this classic book has enjoyed over the years.

SYBILLE BEDFORD (1911-2006) was a German-born writer of Jewish heritage who, as an ex-patriot and later refugee from Germany, lived and wrote in England, France, the United States, and Italy. Her novels include A LEGACY, JIGSAW, and A COMPASS ERROR. She also contributed articles to leading magazines and wrote acclaimed books of nonfiction, often involving courts and famous trials.

316 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1961

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About the author

Sybille Bedford

29 books69 followers
Sybille Bedford, OBE (16 March 1911 – 17 February 2006) was a German-born English writer. Many of her works are partly autobiographical. Julia Neuberger proclaimed her "the finest woman writer of the 20th century" while Bruce Chatwin saw her as "one of the most dazzling practitioners of modern English prose.


The Sudden View: a Mexican Journey - 1953 - (republished as A Visit to Don Otavio: a Traveller's Tale from Mexico, a travelogue)
A Legacy: A Novel - 1956 - her first novel, a work inspired by the early life of the author's father, which focuses on the brutality and anti-Semitism in the cadet schools of the German officer class.
The Best We Can Do: (The Trial of Dr Adams) - 1958 - an account of the murder trial of suspected serial killer John Bodkin Adams
The Faces of Justice: A Traveller's report - 1961 - a description of the legal systems of England, Germany, Switzerland, and France.
A Favourite of the Gods - 1963 - a novel about an American heiress who marries a Roman Prince
A Compass Error - 1968 - a sequel to the above, describing the love affairs of the granddaughter of that work's protagonist
Aldous Huxley: A biography - 1973 - the standard, authorized biography of Huxley
Jigsaw: An Unsentimental Education - 1989 - a sort of followup to A Legacy, this novel was inspired by the author's experiences living in Italy and France with her mother
As It Was: Pleasures, Landscapes and Justice - 1990 - a collection of magazine pieces on various trials, including the censorship of Lady Chatterley's Lover, the trial of Jack Ruby, and the Auschwitz trial, as well as pieces on food and travel.
Pleasures and Landscapes: A Traveller's Tales from Europe - a reissue of the above, removing the legal writings, and including two additional travel essays.
Quicksands: A Memoir - 2005 - A memoir of the author's life, from her childhood in Berlin to her experiences in postwar Europe.

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255 reviews82 followers
December 15, 2009
A great journalist observes ordinary trials in different European countries in 1961 - about the same time that Hannah Arendt was observing Eichmann and judging his captors. A brilliant exercise in amateur but highly intelligent comparative practical law.
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