Poetry Madness

Special Offers see all

Enter to WIN a $100 Credit

Subscribe to PowellsBooks.news
for a chance to win.
Privacy Policy

Visit our stores

    Recently Viewed clear list

    Original Essays | April 6, 2015

    Mary Norris: IMG Voracious

    In the summer of 2012, I got a contract for a book about language, based on my experiences of more than 30 years as a copy editor at The New Yorker.... Continue »
    1. $17.47 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

Qualifying orders ship free.
Used Hardcover
Ships in 1 to 3 days
Add to Wishlist
Qty Store Section
1 Local Warehouse France- Post World War II

French Lessons: A Memoir


French Lessons: A Memoir Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Brilliantly uniting the personal and the critical, French Lessons is a powerful autobiographical experiment. It tells the story of an American woman escaping into the French language and of a scholar and teacher coming to grips with her history of learning. Kaplan begins with a distinctly American quest for an imaginary France of the intelligence. But soon her infatuation with all things French comes up against the dark, unimagined recesses of French political and cultural life.

The daughter of a Jewish lawyer who prosecuted Nazi war criminals at Nuremburg, Kaplan grew up in the 1960s in the Midwest. After her father's death when she was seven, French became her way of "leaving home" and finding herself in another language and culture. In spare, midwestern prose, by turns intimate and wry, Kaplan describes how, as a student in a Swiss boarding school and later in a junior year abroad in Bordeaux, she passionately sought the French "r," attentively honed her accent, and learned the idioms of her French lover.

When, as a graduate student, her passion for French culture turned to the elegance and sophistication of its intellectual life, she found herself drawn to the language and style of the novelist Louis-Ferdinand Celine. At the same time she was repulsed by his anti-Semitism. At Yale in the late 70s, during the heyday of deconstruction she chose to transgress its apolitical purity and work on a subject "that made history impossible to ignore:" French fascist intellectuals. Kaplan's discussion of the "de Man affair" — the discovery that her brilliant and charismatic Yale professor had written compromising articles for the pro-Nazi Belgian press—and her personal account of the paradoxes of deconstruction are among the most compelling available on this subject.

French Lessons belongs in the company of Sartre's Words and the memoirs of Nathalie Sarraute, Annie Ernaux, and Eva Hoffman. No book so engrossingly conveys both the excitement of learning and the moral dilemmas of the intellectual life.

Book News Annotation:

Kaplan teaches French literature at Duke University. She traces her emotional and intellectual entanglement with French and France, teasing out the sources of her fascination in her personal history and that of her parents, and interweaving personal and critical experiences in her academic career and intellectual development.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

About the Author

Alice Kaplan is the author of French Lessons: A Memoir, The Collaborator, The Interpreter, and Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis, and the translator of OK, Joe, The Difficulty of Being a Dog, A Box of Photographs, and Palace of Books. Her books have been twice nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Awards, once for the National Book Award, and she is a winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She holds the John M. Musser chair in French literature at Yale. She lives in Guilford, Connecticut.

Table of Contents

Part One. Before I Knew FrenchFirst WordsThe Last Summer at Wildhurst RoadLossLeavingPart Two. Getting ItBoarding School in SwitzerlandSpring Break in FranceComing HomePart Three. Getting It RightAndréMichelineCélinePart Four. RevisionsIn Search of the French "R"TensesGuy, de Man, and MeThe Trouble with EdnaThe InterviewReturning HomeAfterwardsNote on the TextAcknowledgment

Product Details

A Memoir
Kaplan, Alice
University Of Chicago Press
Chicago :
Kaplan, Alice Yaeger
French philology.
French philology -- Study and teaching -- United States.
French teachers
General Literary Criticism & Collections
Edition Description:
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
8 x 5.25 in

Other books you might like

  1. Vichy France: Old Guard and New Order New Trade Paper $42.95
  2. A French Affair: The Paris Beat... Used Trade Paper $4.95
  3. France in Modern Times Used Trade Paper $23.00
  4. The Life of a Simple Man Used Trade Paper $12.50
  5. Paris to the Moon
    Used Trade Paper $2.50
  6. France Restored: Cold War Diplomacy... New Trade Paper $37.75

Related Subjects

» Biography » Literary
» History and Social Science » Europe » France » Post World War II

French Lessons: A Memoir Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$6.95 In Stock
Product details 232 pages University of Chicago Press - English 9780226424187 Reviews:
  • back to top


Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.