Sheer Bliss. A Creole Journey

Just out of the Press!
University of West Indies Press. November 2020


Before telling you about Eliot Bliss let me dedicate this book to my loved and very much missed husband, we were supposed to celebrate the publication together.
Thank you Chanan Zass for your support and your love. A lifetime together.


Eliot Bliss was a white, Creole and lesbian writer who defied the strict cultural norms of British society, both when living in the Jamaican colony and in England, where she sought freedom to be herself.

This book follows the story of a continent-hopping search for lost literary manuscripts. The writer of these manuscripts was Eliot Bliss, a white Creole woman who published two successful books in the 1930s in London (Saraband and Luminous Isle), and was hailed as a “new literary voice.” Most of Bliss’s unpublished writings were ultimately found under a bed in Bishop Stortford, Hertfordshire, England – 14 years after her death.

I wish to thank Shara McCallum for her beautiful blurb…
“We all know Jean Rhys. But now, out from under the shadow of her more famous contemporary, comes Eliot Bliss. Bliss: an early twentieth century, white creole, Jamaican, lesbian writer. Bliss: whose out-of-print 1931 novel Saraband Calderaro first stumbles across in a bookshop in New York in 1998. Bliss: the absent figure Calderaro pursues throughout this book. The scholar Michela Calderaro reads into the past to recover Bliss, a writer she reveals as ahead of her time and not fit for her time or place in the world. Calderaro delivers Bliss back to the present, through interviews conducted across many years with Bliss’s lifelong partner Patricia Allan-Burns, through the recollections of editors and friends painstakingly tracked down, through letters and diaries discovered and meticulously pored over and pieced together. Calderaro’s book is, like Bliss’s own novels as we come to learn, genre-defying. One part biography, one part criticism, one part memoir, one part detective story, Sheer Bliss carries us on the ‘treasure hunt’ Calderaro enacted over twenty years of research and personal devotion to solving a literary puzzle: Who exactly was Eliot Bliss and why were she and her work forgotten? Calderaro answers in luminous prose and what amounts to the most suspenseful excavation of a writer’s life and lost-then-recovered legacies I’ve yet encountered.”

—Shara McCallum, Professor of English, College of Liberal Arts, Penn State University