Early Bird Tickets by Donation – £10 would be very much appreciated, but in these difficult times anything is very welcome

While Marina Warner DBE was writing her new book, Inventory of a Life Mislaid (to be published this March) about her childhood in Egypt, she came across an old map of Cairo, which marked the very spot where ’the real balm’ grows. This set her off on a fascinating quest: she uncovered legends about the Flight into Egypt, Mary Magdalene, embalming oils and perfumes. In a new, fully illustrated lecture, she will uncover the long associations of balm with the pleasures and solace of the East, which her parents were seeking when they moved to Cairo after the war.

From gifts and love tokens, objects and mementoes, letters and journals read only after the couple’ s deaths, from negatives found coiled in a film canister, this ‘unreliable memoir’ pieces together the reckonings and discoveries her Italian mother and English father made during the first years of their marriage. Evocative and imaginative, at once historical and speculative, the book powerfully resurrects the fraught union and unrequited hopes of Warner’s parents. Memory intertwines richly with myth, the river Lethe feeling as real as the Nile. Vivid recollections of Cairo swirl with ever-present dreams of a city where, for the author, her parents, friends and associates are still restlessly wandering.

Marina Warner is a writer of fiction, criticism and history; her works include novels and short stories as well as studies of art, myths, symbols and fairytales.