OBITUARY – BREWSTER CHAMBERLIN 1939-2020

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The death in November 2020 of Brewster Chamberlin, a member of the editorial advisory team of C.20 and a long-serving board member of the Durrell School/Library of Corfu, leaves an enormous gap in both scholarship of Lawrence Durrell (on whom he was an acknowledged authority) and in personal friendships, since he was such an affectionate, generous and gregarious man. We publish this obituary tribute as a measure of both respect and profound sadness.

Brewster Chamberlin (born Jersey City, NJ, 27 March 1939; died 12 November 2020) was a writer and historian with a special expertise in Germany and the effects of the Holocaust.

The eldest of the five children of Brewster Sr., a defence industry broker, and his wife Margaret (née Morschauser), he graduated from Hofstra University 1959. He worked briefly at New York University before pursuing a master’s degree and a PhD in modern German history at Heidelberg.

He worked in administration 1961-72 at the University of Maryland campus at Heidelberg, and taught there and in Italy 1972-75, when he returned to the USA. He was adjunct professor at John Hopkins University (School of Advanced International Studies) and director of a German-American archival project at the US National Archives, resulting in the publication of three co-edited volumes, Kultur auf Trümmern: Berliner Berichte der amerikanische Information Control Section, Juli bis Dezember 1945 (1980), The Liberation of the Nazi Concentration Camps 1945. Eyewitness Accounts of the Liberators (1987) and The Holocaust in Hungary after 60 Years (2006).

He lived with his second wife, Lynn-Marie Smith, in the South of France 1982-83, resulting in his memoir The Time in Tavel. An Informal Illustrated Memoir of a Sojourn in Provence (2010).

From 1983 to his retirement in 2001 Chamberlin was founding director of the Archives and Library at the US Holocaust Museum in Washington DC and director of the International Programs division.

Brewster Chamberlin’s most ambitious work was a four-volume novel with its origins in Berlin in the second world war, but extending as far as Key West in the present day. To his chagrin, the fourth volume, on which he had been working in the face of crippling cancer, was unfinished at his death. The first three volumes were published as Schade’s Passage (2017), Schadow’s Meditations (2017) and Peregrine’s Island (2018). Parts of the final volume had appeared in C.20 as “Work-in-Progress”. He had previously published a much-acclaimed thriller, Radovic’s Dilemma (2009).

Other publications

As an authority on the life and work of Lawrence Durrell, Chamberlin became a director of the Durrell School of Corfu at the invitation of its founder, Richard Pine; the DSC published his Chronology of the Life and Times of Lawrence Durrell (2007; 3rd edition by Colenso Books, 2019), widely regarded as the definitive short account of Durrell’s life, locating him in the international literary context. He also celebrated his involvement in the DSC in his Travels in Greece and France and the Durrell School of Corfu Seminars (2013). His essay “European Culture in the Inter-Bellum Period”, delivered as a lecture at the inaugural DSC seminar in 2002, will be recalled for the fact that when he delivered the line “No such thing as a free fuck” (in relation to Henry Miller’s visit to the Sphinx night-club in Paris) two respectable ladies in the audience left the room in indignation.

His interest in Ernest Hemingway led to the publication of The Hemingway Log: A Chronology of His Life and Times (2015, revised 2020), described by one critic as a “work of art” in its own right.1 His pioneering work on the artist Mario Sanchez (2006) was seminal in identifying the work of this hitherto unappreciated painter. He also wrote extensively about Paris, of which A Piece of Paris (1996) and Paris Now and Then (2002), with its cleverly ambiguous title, were the most entertaining. He also authored many volumes of stories, poems and travelogues; the volumes of poetry, one of which was idiosyncratically titled Situation Reports on the Emotional Equipoise (2007) were stylish and owed both little and much to modern fashion.

Personal life

In 1961 he married Angela Maria Schüssler, from whom he divorced in 1978. He married secondly (1999) Lynn-Marie Smith who had been his partner since 1980. They lived in Key West, Florida (aka the Conch Republic) where Chamberlin was a research associate at the Key West Art and Historical Museum.

As a narrator, Brewster Chamberlin was quirky – always alert to the foibles of his readers (very often his friends) and of his characters. For the past decade he and Richard Pine had been collaborating (as they liked to think, in the style of Conrad and Ford Madox Ford) on a thriller, The Colonel, set in Corfu and Albania; like Brewster’s Berlin Book, it was also incomplete, in this case because the authors each strove to make his chapters more difficult for the other to follow as they commuted between Corfu and the Conch Republic. Brewster will also be fondly remembered for his regular question in late morning at Durrell School seminars: “Where are we going for lunch?” – the choice depending very much on the availability of grilled fish and dry white wine.

Honouring his wishes to return to France, where they spent a glorious year in Tavel in the 1980s, Lynn-Marie will scatter his ashes in the waters of the Sorgue River at the Fontaine de la Vaucluse. He has also requested that she enjoy a glass of wine and a lunch of local grilled fish in memory of the many such lunches over the decades of their marriage. She will also place a stone with his name and dates in the Tavel cemetery, 17 kilometres northwest of Avignon in the South of France.

Brewster Chamberlin is survived by Lynn-Marie, their cat Nicolina, his brother, Dean Chamberlin, and his sisters Ellen Chandler and Bonnie Goebel.

Publications

Hiatus: Poems 1959. New York: Privately printed, 1960.

The Enemy on the Right. The Alldeutsche Verband in the Weimar Republic 1918-1926. Ann Arbor MI: University Microfilms, Inc., 1973.

(Co-editor & co-translator). F.A. Sorge, The Labor Movement in the United States from Colonial Times to 1890. Greenwood Press, 1977.

(Editor). Kultur auf Trümmern. Berliner Berichte der amerikanische Information Control Section, Juli bis Dezember 1945. Stuttgart: Deutsche-Verlags-Anstalt, 1980.

(Co-editor). The Liberation of the Nazi Concentration Camps 1945. Eyewitness Accounts of the Liberators. Washington DC: United States Holocaust Memorial Council, 1987.

A Piece of Paris: The Grand XIVth. Washington DC: Masurovsky Publishing Company, 1996.

(With Carl Modig) Archival Guide to the Collections of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Washington DC: Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, USHMM, 2002. (Revised & expanded edition, 2003.)

Paris Now and Then. Memoirs, Opinions, and a Companion to the City of Light for the Literate Traveler. Port Jefferson, NY: Vineyard Press, 2002. (Revised second edition, 2004.)

Mediterranean Sketches. Fictions, Memories and Metafictions. Port Jefferson NY: The Vineyard Press, 2005

Love’s Poison and Other Poems, 2000-2005. Key West FL: The Garlic Press, 2005. (Limited hand-illustrated edition.)

(Co-author). Mario Sanchez: Once Upon a Way of Life. Key West FL: The Key West Press, 2006.

(Co-editor). The Holocaust in Hungary after 60 Years. Boulder CO: Eastern European Monographs, 2006.

A Chronology of the Life and Times of Lawrence Durrell. Corfu, Greece: The Durrell School of Corfu, 2007.

Situation Reports on the Emotional Equipoise. Collected Poems 1959 – 2006

Bloomington IN: Xlibris, 2007

Radovic’s Dilemma. A Mediterranean Thriller. Bloomington IN: Xlibris, 2009.

The Time in Tavel. An Informal Illustrated Memoir of a Sojourn in Provence.

Port Jefferson NY: The Vineyard Press, 2010.

Shorts of All Sorts. Selected Prose and Poems. Key West FL: The New Atlantian Library (an imprint of Absolutely Amazing eBooks), 2013

Travels in Greece and France and the Durrell School of Corfu Seminars.

Travelogues and Lectures. Key West FL: The New Atlantian Library (an imprint of Absolutely Amazing eBooks), 2013.

A Paris Chapbook. Key West FL: The New Atlantian Library (an imprint of Absolutely Amazing E-Books), 2013.

The Hemingway Log: A Chronology of His Life and Times. Lawrence KS: The University Press of Kansas, 2015.

Schade’s Passage: a novel of Berlin 1945-1946 (Olive and Garlic Press, 2017; )

Schadow’s Meditations (Volume 2 of The Berlin Book)(Olive and Garlic Press, 2017)

Peregrine’s Island (Volume 3 of The Berlin Book)(Olive and Garlic Press, 2018).

1 “Brewster Chamberlin knows the territory, especially Key West. His wide-ranging and witty The Hemingway Log paints in the artistic background against which Hemingway did his writing, and retouches the portrait by correcting dozens of biographical errors.” — Scott Donaldson, author of The Impossible Craft: Literary Biography and Fitzgerald and Hemingway: Works and Days.

“For scholars and students of Hemingway’s Life amd times qas well as for Hemingway enthusiasts and general readers, this volume is a most welcome and invaluable addition to the Hemingway record. Brewster Chamberlin’s perspicacious scholarship and research, his vivid sense of story and style, and his illuminating annotations of Hemingway’s cultural milieu are here admirably combined to make this book an indispensable resource and a joy to read.” – H R Stoneback, author of Reading Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, and president of the Hemingway Foundation and Society.


“[Chamberlin] keeps his comments dry, acerbic, and often hilarious, which makes his book that rare reference book which can be read straight through for pleasure” — Frank Freeman, “Struggling for Sanity”, Dublin Review of Books:

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