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.
"This is an enduring group profile of three influential yet completely different American women, for each of whom Paris played a short but transformative role, over three tumultuous decades. Jacqueline Bouvier who would become Vogue's It Girl and then, in Kaplan's words, 'the eternal First Lady' found in 1949 Paris the aesthetics, pleasures, and discipline that would serve her all her life. In 1957, Susan Sontag hit the Parisian ground running from her husband and five-year-old son in America to imbibe the freedoms of Europe. On hand during the breakdown of the old colonial dispensation, Sontag would even be buried in Paris. Angela Davis, like Miss Bouvier, traveled with a student group. In a French resort shortly before reaching Paris, on a late-summer day in 1963, she learned of the Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Ala., her hometown. Her ever-increasing radicalization back in the U.S. was applauded by myriad French intellectuals. The much-admired Kaplan (French Lessons: A Memoir) focuses sharply on three women of successive generations, providing a keen feminist-cultural picture of Paris's enduring, if varied, impact. 27 b&w photos. Agent: Marly Rusoff Agency." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Most attempts to generalize about photography as a medium run up against our experience of the photographs themselves. We live with photos and cameras every day, and philosophies of the photographic image do little to shake our intimate sense of how we produce photographs and what they mean to us. In this book that is equal parts memoir and intellectual and cultural history, French writer Roger Grenier contemplates the ways that photography can change the course of a life, reflecting along the way on the history of photography and its practitioners.and#160;Unfolding in brief, charming vignettes, A Box of Photographs evokes Grenierandrsquo;s childhood in Pau, his war years, and his working life at the Gallimard publishing house in Paris. Throughout these personal stories, Grenier subtly weaves the story of a lifetime of practicing and thinking about photography and its heroesandmdash;Henri Cartier-Bresson, Weegee, Alfred Eisenstaedt, George Brassaandiuml;, Inge Morath, and others. Adding their own insights about photography to the narrative are a striking range of writers, thinkers, and artists, from Lewis Carroll, Albert Camus, and Arthur Schopenhauer to Susan Sontag, Edgar Degas, and Eugandegrave;ne Delacroix. Even cameras themselves come to life and take on personalities: an Agfa accompanies Grenier on grueling military duty in Algeria, a Voigtlander almost gets him killed by German soldiers during the liberation of Paris, and an ill-fated Olympus drowns in a boating accident. Throughout, Grenier draws us into the private life of photographs, seeking the secrets they hold for him and for us.and#160;A valedictory salute to a lost world of darkrooms, proofs, and the gummed paper corners of old photo albums, A Box of Photographs is a warm look at the most honest of lifeandrsquo;s mirrors.
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.
On February 6, 1945, Robert Brasillach was executed for treason by a French firing squad. He was a writer of some distinction—a prolific novelist and a keen literary critic. He was also a dedicated anti-Semite, an acerbic opponent of French democracy, and editor in chief of the fascist weekly Je Suis Partout
, in whose pages he regularly printed wartime denunciations of Jews and resistance activists.
Was Brasillach in fact guilty of treason? Was he condemned for his denunciations of the resistance, or singled out as a suspected homosexual? Was it right that he was executed when others, who were directly responsible for the murder of thousands, were set free? Kaplan's meticulous reconstruction of Brasillach's life and trial skirts none of these ethical subtleties: a detective story, a cautionary tale, and a meditation on the disturbing workings of justice and memory, The Collaborator will stand as the definitive account of Brasillach's crime and punishment.
A National Book Award Finalist
A National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
"A well-researched and vivid account."—John Weightman, New York Review of Books
"A gripping reconstruction of [Brasillach's] trial."—The New Yorker
"Readers of this disturbing book will want to find moral touchstones of their own. They're going to need them. This is one of the few works on Nazism that forces us to experience how complex the situation really was, and answers won't come easily."—Daniel Blue, San Francisco Chronicle Book Review
"The Collaborator is one of the best-written, most absorbing pieces of literary history in years."—David A. Bell, New York Times Book Review
"Alice Kaplan's clear-headed study of the case of Robert Brasillach in France has a good deal of current-day relevance. . . . Kaplan's fine book . . . shows that the passage of time illuminates different understandings, and she leaves it to us to reflect on which understanding is better."—Richard Bernstein, The New York Times
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.
Pauline Frederick Reporting is the biography of the life and career of the first woman to become a network news correspondent. After no less an authority than Edward R. Murrow told her there was no place for her in broadcasting, Pauline Frederick (1908and#8211;90) cracked the good old boysand#8217; club through determination and years of hard work, eventually becoming a trusted voice to millions of television viewers.
During Frederickand#8217;s nearly fifty years as a journalist, she interviewed a young Fidel Castro, covered the Nuremberg trials, interpreted diplomatic actions at the United Nations, and was the first woman to moderate a presidential debate. The life of this pivotal figure in American journalism provides an inside perspective on the growth and political maneuverings of television networks as well as Frederickand#8217;s relationships with iconic NBC broadcast figures David Brinkley, Chet Huntley, and others.
Although Frederick repeatedly insisted that she would trade her career, glamorous as it was, to have a family, a series of romances ended in heartache when she did indeed choose her work over love. At the age of sixty-one, however, she married and attained the family life she had always wanted. Her story is one for all modern women striving to balance career and family.
No story of World War II is more triumphant than the liberation of France, made famous in countless photos of Parisians waving American flags and kissing GIs as columns of troops paraded down the Champs and#201;lysand#233;es. But one of the least-known stories from that era is also one of the ugliest chapters in the history of Jim Crow. In The Interpreter, celebrated author Alice Kaplan recovers this story both as eyewitnesses first saw it, and as it still haunts us today.
The American Army executed 70 of its own soldiers between 1943 and 1946and#8212;almost all of them black, in an army that was overwhelmingly white. Through the French interpreter Louis Guillouxand#8217;s eyes, Kaplan narrates two different trials: one of a white officer, one of a black soldier, both accused of murder. Both were court-martialed in the same room, yet the outcomes could not have been more different.
Kaplanand#8217;s insight into character and setting creates an indelible portrait of war, race relations, and the dangers of capital punishment.and#160;
and#8220;A nuanced historical account that resonates with todayand#8217;s controversies over race and capital punishment.and#8221; Publishers Weekly
and#8220;American racism could become deadly for black soldiers on the front. The Interpreter reminds us of this sad component of a heroic chapter in American military history.and#8221; Los Angeles Times
and#8220;With elegance and lucidity, Kaplan revisits these two trials and reveals an appallingly separate and unequal wartime U.S. military justice system.and#8221; Minneapolis Star Tribune
and#8220;Kaplan has produced a compelling look at the racial disparities as they were played outand#8230;She explores both cases in considerable and vivid detail.and#8221; Sacramento Bee
About the Author
Roger Grenier, an editor at Éditions Gallimard, has published over thirty novels, short stories, and literary essays and is the recipient of numerous prizes, including the Grand Prix de Littéature de l'Académie Française.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
and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Part One
1 A Daughter to Marry
2 Monsieur Proust and Mademoiselle Weil
3 Very French Israelites
4 At number 40 bis
5 Mother and Daughter
6 A Change of Regime
7 Mother and Son
8 Summers at Auteuil
9 The Goodnight Kiss
10 A Small World
11 Mistress of the House
12 The Sickly Child
13 Taking the Waters
14 A Model Couple
15 From Treble to Bass
16 A Woman of Forty
17 Vergiss mein nicht
and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Part Three
18 A Woman in Black at the Beach
19 The Broken Glass
20 On Guard!
21 The Soul of Venice
22 Jeanneand#8217;s Address Book
23 A Wedding and a Funeral
24 La Vie and#224; Deux
and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; 1. Questionnaire Sent to the Jewish Elite in 1806
and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; 2. Napoleon and the Central Consistory
and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; The Weil Family
and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; The Berncastel Family
and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; and#160;Karl Marx and Marcel Proust