- Used Books
- Staff Picks
- Gifts & Gift Cards
- Sell Books
- Stores & Events
- Let's Talk Books
Special Offers see all
More at Powell's
Recently Viewed clear list
New Trade Paper
Ships in 1 to 3 days
Dreaming in Frenchby Alice Kaplan
Synopses & Reviews
A year in Paris . . . since World War II, countless American students have been lured by that vision—and been transformed by their sojourn in the City of Light. Dreaming in French tells three stories of that experience, and how it changed the lives of three extraordinary American women.
All three women would go on to become icons, key figures in American cultural, intellectual, and political life, but when they embarked for France, they were young, little-known, uncertain about their future, and drawn to the culture, sophistication, and drama that only Paris could offer. Yet their backgrounds and their dreams couldnt have been more different. Jacqueline Bouvier was a twenty-year-old debutante, a Catholic girl from a wealthy East Coast family. Susan Sontag was twenty-four, a precocious Jewish intellectual from a North Hollywood family of modest means, and Paris was a refuge from motherhood, a failing marriage, and graduate work in philosophy at Oxford. Angela Davis, a French major at Brandeis from a prominent African American family in Birmingham, Alabama, found herself the only black student in her year abroad program—in a summer when all the news from Birmingham was of unprecedented racial violence.
Kaplan takes readers into the lives, hopes, and ambitions of these young women, tracing their paths to Paris and tracking the discoveries, intellectual adventures, friendships, and loves that they found there. For all three women, France was far from a passing fancy; rather, Kaplan shows, the year abroad continued to influence them, a significant part of their intellectual and cultural makeup, for the rest of their lives. Jackie Kennedy carried her love of France to the White House and to her later career as a book editor, bringing her cultural and linguistic fluency to everything from art and diplomacy to fashion and historic restoration—to the extent that many, including Jackie herself, worried that she might seem “too French.” Sontag found in France a model for the life of the mind that she was determined to lead; the intellectual world she observed from afar during that first year in Paris inspired her most important work and remained a key influence—to be grappled with, explored, and transcended—the rest of her life. Davis, meanwhile, found that her Parisian vantage strengthened her sense of political exile from racism at home and brought a sense of solidarity with Algerian independence. For her, Paris was a city of political commitment, activism, and militancy, qualities that would deeply inform her own revolutionary agenda and soon make her a hero to the French writers she had once studied.
Kaplan, whose own junior year abroad played a prominent role in her classic memoir, French Lessons, spins these three quite different stories into one evocative biography, brimming with the ferment and yearnings of youth and shot through with the knowledge of how a single year—and a magical city—can change a whole life. No one who has ever dreamed of Paris should miss it.
The largely untold story of Americans on the Right Bankand#151;who outnumbered the Left Bank writers and artists by ten to oneand#151;turns out to be a fascinating one. and#160;These were mostly businessmen, manufacturersand#8217; representatives, and lawyers, but also newly-minted American countesses married to dashing but cash-poor foreigners with impressive titles, though most of the women were spouses of the businessmen. Thanks to Nancy Greenand#8217;s superb archival research, this new cast of characters emerges with singular vitality. and#160;While Gertrude Stein, Hemingway, and other writers all appear here, and do so in a new light, the focus is on the men and women who settled into the gilded ghetto of the Right Bank. and#160;and#160;Greenand#8217;s story of these overseas Americans is a way of internationalizing American history (it is also a way of questioning the meaning of and#147;Americanizationand#8221; in the 20th century).and#160;
While Gertrude Stein hosted the literati of the Left Bank, Mrs. Bates-Batcheller, an American socialite and concert singer in Paris, held sumptuous receptions for the Daughters of the American Revolution in her suburban villa. History may remember the American artists, writers, and musicians of the Left Bank best, but the reality is that there were many more American businessmen, socialites, manufacturersand#8217; representatives, and lawyers living on the other side of the River Seine.and#160; Be they newly minted American countesses married to foreigners with impressive titles or American soldiers who had settled in France after World War I with their French wives, they provide a new view of the notion of expatriates.
Nancy L. Green thus introduces us for the first time to a long-forgotten part of the American overseas populationand#151;predecessors to todayand#8217;s expatsand#151;while exploring the politics of citizenship and the business relationships, love lives, and wealth (and poverty for some) of Americans who staked their claim to the City of Light. The Other Americans in Paris shows that elite migration is a part of migration tout court and that debates over and#147;Americanizationand#8221; have deep roots in the twentieth century.
Marcel Proustand#8217;s In Search of Lost Time opens with one of the most famous scenes in literature, as young Marcel, unable to fall asleep, waits anxiously for his mother to come to his bedroom and kiss him good night. Proust's own mother is central to the meaning of his masterpiece, and she has always held a special role in literary history, both as a character and as a decisive influence on the great writerand#8217;s career. Without knowing much about her, we think of her as the quintessential writer's mother.
Now Evelyne Bloch-Danoand#8217;s touching biography acquaints Proust fans with the real Jeanne Weil Proust. Written with the imaginative force of a novel, but firmly grounded in Jeanne and Marcel Proustand#8217;s writings, Madame Proust skillfully captures the life and times of Proustand#8217;s mother, from her German-Jewish background and her marriage to a Catholic grocerand#8217;s son to her lifelong worries about her sonand#8217;s sexuality, health problems, and talent. As well as offering intimate glimpses of the Proustsand#8217; daily life, Madame Proust also uses the family as a way to explore the larger culture of fin-de-siand#232;cle France, including high society, spa culture, Jewish assimilation, and the Dreyfus affair. Throughout, Bloch-Dano offers sensitive readings of Proustand#8217;s work, drawing out the countless interconnections between his mother, his life, and his magnum opus.
Those coming to In Search of Lost Time for the first time will find in Madame Proust a delightful primer on Marcel Proustand#8217;s life and times. For those already steeped in the pleasures of Proust, this gem of a biography will give them a fresh understanding of the rich, fascinating background of the writer and his art.
About the Author
Evelyne Bloch-Dano is the author of many books, including Madame Proust: A Biography, which is also published by the University of Chicago Press.
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
List of Photographs
1. Jacqueline Bouvier: 1949-1950
2. Jacqueline Bouvier: The Return
3. Susan Sontag: 1957-1958
4. Susan Sontag: The Return
5. Angela Davis: 1963-1964
6. Angela Davis: The Return
A Note on Sources
What Our Readers Are Saying
Other books you might like
Biography » Literary