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Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 29, 2008

    Spotlight on Stein

    In 'Two Lives' by Janet Malcolm, Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas live out, once again, their forty year relationship, ending in a village in Vichy France. Part biography and part literary criticism, 'Two Lives' shines a spotlight on two key issues: How did the pair escape deportation? and What does Stein's most famous work,'The Making of Americans' mean? Malcom uncovers the hitherto unknown fact that Stein had a benefactor in the person of a Nazi collaborator, Bernard Fey, who shipped her delicacies from Paris during World War ll and who protected her and her companion from the fate of all other Jews. In her work, 'Wars I Have Seen',Stein laments the life of one Jewish boy who was sent to his death , ignoring six million others who shared the same end. Stein, in fact, never made her Jewish origin a major part in any of her works. Reading about Stein's charmed life, one cannot help but compare her to the unlucky French writer, Irene Nemirovsky,of the same period whose latest novels were recently discovered. Unlike Stein, she had no friend in high places and was sent to Auschwitz where she perished in 1942. Her major opus, 'Suite Francaise', which critics say would have rivaled 'War and Peace' was left outlined but unfinished. Malcolm wrestles with Stein's opus,'The Making of Americans'. She quotes from some of its pages and concludes that Stein had trouble creating characters and plotting their destinies. She describes her attempts to contact Stein's biographer, Leon Katz, a Columbia doctoral student in 1952, who discovered Stein's notebooks and interviewed Toklas extensively. Katz refused to meet her. The contents of the notebooks and results of his talks with Toklas still remain secret, frustrating Malcolm and the huge audience of Stein's works who would have benefited from her findings. In accounts of others who knew Toklas in her later life after Stein's death, Malcolm determines that unlike what most believed, Toklas was the dominating figure in the relationship and Stein was the 'baby'. More that you might want to know. Any work that examines a famous writer like Stein and can shed light on her life and enigmatic works would be fascinating. Malcolm's book piercing the darkness of Stein's writings in an entertaining and matter-of-fact tone is especially valuable.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2011

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