Robert Temple - Author of The Sphinx Mystery



My friend Mia Fritsch Agee, the widow of the writer James Agee. Mia was so camera-shy that she would never allow herself to be photographed. However, I managed to take these two pictures of her in 1977. I have never seen any others! Mia was Austrian, in fact she was related to the Hapsburgs. She lived at 17 King Street in Greenwich Village in New York, and for years I always stayed with her whenever I was visiting Manhattan. When young, Mia trained as a concert pianist, and when in the mood, she would sit down and play Mozart and Schumann on her old piano.

Mia was a hyper-intellectual, who earned her living by doing high-powered research for the Rockefeller Foundation, and so forth. She got me to be her assistant on several such jobs and gave me useful training on how to research international economic and political issues. We did the research together for the ghost-written book supposed to have been written by J. Paul Getty (but really written by Bela von Blok) entitled 'How To Get Rich'. We also did a lot of work together for Alvin Toffler, author of numerous books such as 'The Third Wave'. I helped her a bit for the Rockefeller Foundation work as well.

Mia was an amazingly warm and generous person, and a wonderful friend to anyone she accepted as a friend. However, Mia suffered from a deep underlying depression, and kept Jim's manuscripts in a damp cellar, where they were rotting. When, at the request of her older daughter Deedee, I took it upon myself one weekend to rescue the manuscript of 'Let Us Now Praise Famous Men' from destruction by the neglect caused by Mia's own depression, things were very ticklish. I had to dry it out page by page, and it was strewn all over every surface of her house because I was alone in the house for a few days. I then took the whole thing to Father Flye, who lived nearby, for safe-keeping while I tried to figure out how to explain to Mia that I had made 'an executive decision' to save the manuscript without her permission. All was sweetness and light however when she sold it to the University of Texas and boosted her income! The fact is that Mia never really recovered from her grief at the death of her husband Jim, but she was heroic in her cheerfulness when she was with her friends. She was also a truly great cook! She had more character and personality in her little finger for one minute than most people have in their whole lives. What a person!


© Robert Temple 2009
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