'Arianna Stassinopoulos was born in Athens on 15 July 1950. Her mother, Elli, who Arianna says has been the 'greatest influence' on her life, left her unfaithful father partly at the young Arianna's instigation. 'When she left my dad because of his massive philandering, she had no money, no job, no formal education. She was fearless. That was the kind of woman she was,' Arianna tells me.
Her mother's inspiration gave Arianna the courage to apply to Cambridge University after seeing a picture of it in a magazine. It paid off. Arianna arrived in the UK burdened with an accent people still mistake for Hungarian. She left as head of the Cambridge Union, and a society beauty. She had also become something of a media star, writing The Female Woman, a best-selling response to Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch.
But there was one thing missing: the great love of her life, English journalist and writer Bernard Levin, would not marry her. She had had enough of Britain, though she remembers her years here as formative: 'They were incredibly important times. I got my education in speaking out at Cambridge, at the Union. It is where I discovered both my heart and my mind. I learned how to argue. I apply that now in my blog,' she says.'
Bernard Levin (right) was a Times columnist, music critic, travel writer, social commentator and Wagner enthusiast par excellence, and he has featured on these pages on several occasions. His erudition and meticulous prose style put today's music journalists and bloggers to shame. It is touching that when Bernard Levin died of Alzheimer's two years ago the best tribute to him was written by the usually hard-nosed Arianna Huffington.
Bernard Levin also featured On An Overgrown Path in And so to Wagner ...
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