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French Seduction: An American's Encounter with France, Her Father, and the Holocaust
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French Seduction: An American's Encounter with France, Her Father, and the Holocaust

by Eunice Lipton
 

In this passionate blend of autobiography and cultural history, love and sex and art collide with hatred, withering French xenophobia, and death. How does Paris, with all its faults, remain not only the world's most visited tourist destination, but also the locus of endless sexual fantasy and the very image of the good life for Americans, and for writer and art

Overview


In this passionate blend of autobiography and cultural history, love and sex and art collide with hatred, withering French xenophobia, and death. How does Paris, with all its faults, remain not only the world's most visited tourist destination, but also the locus of endless sexual fantasy and the very image of the good life for Americans, and for writer and art historian Eunice Lipton? In sensual and intellectually thrilling prose, Lipton explores how her Eastern European father lured her to France across his fantasies, and then how she surrendered to the food, the textures and smells, the art, and the astonishingly maternal French state. But she is also forced to confront the anti-Semitism of the Dreyfus Affair that lay beneath the dazzling light of Impressionism; the racial disdain of France's Roaring Twenties; and the unspeakable poverty of peasant life that paid for the luxury of eighteenth-century Versailles. And how can a Jewish woman forgive France for its betrayal of its Jews to the Nazis? Lipton, one of our most respected cultural historians, deftly dissects her love-hate relationship with France, transporting the Francophile in all of us back to that first love, and then way beyond to something startlingly new.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Spurred, in part, by her father's unrealized dreams, art historian Lipton (Alias Olympia: A Woman's Search for Manet's Notorious Model and Her Own Desire) left New York for Paris with her husband, a painter, in 2000. In this extended meditation, she gracefully weaves together her eclectic feelings of love and fury toward her father, a Jew who immigrated to the U.S. from Latvia, and toward her seductive adopted country. She considers the widespread French collaboration with the Germans during WWII—and finds echoes in how the French have treated immigrant Algerians and now the substantial ghettoized Muslim minority, as well as the country's persistent anti-Semitism. Drawing on her deep knowledge and love of French art, she includes reproductions of some of her favorite paintings and sculptures through the centuries. She believes that the French mistreated even Picasso, just as they do so many (non-French) "Others," and that they seem to have abandoned once vibrant art, literature and creativity. Passionate, critical and discursive, this account feels very French. (Feb.15)

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An American art historian now living part-time in France loves its cultural sensual pleasures (350 different cheeses! cool cathedrals!) but condemns French xenophobia and anti-Semitism. Lipton has traversed some of this autobiographical and historical terrain before (Alias Olympia, 1993, etc.). Although she still has many sharp things to say about her parents-unkind Dad divorced plump Mom and married someone more svelte-her comments this time are more nuanced and forgiving. She credits her father, in fact, for her early passion for Paris. Although he had never been there, he showed young Eunice picture books and told her stories. Floating just below the sometimes-turbulent surface of her prose are memories of the physical attraction the author felt for her father. She realizes that all her lovers have resembled him-"lean, hard, elegant." And she has plenty of praise left over for the French. They like to touch one another, linger over lunch and coffee, converse. They have a rich heritage in architecture, painting and literature, though she argues that nothing much is going on there today. (Even London is more artistically exciting!) They believe in equality-unless, of course, you're dark or Muslim or Jewish or otherwise Other. Lipton repeatedly condemns her second homeland for its vile history, her theme emerging ever more prominently as the text progresses. She spends some pages on the Dreyfus Affair, blasts the French for their eagerness to accommodate the Nazis during World War II, says searing things about their current treatment of Muslims and their enduring anti-Semitism. In one effective section, she dissects the typically French attitudes of the Impressionists: They painted happy,appealing people picnicking and boating on sunny days, yet many of those painters, whom she so admired in her youth, were anti-Semites of the most appalling sort. An attractive picture postcard with some hard words on the reverse.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780786716265
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
12/28/2006
Pages:
233
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)

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Meet the Author


Eunice Lipton is a distinguished art historian and the author of Alias Olympia. She lives in New York and Paris.

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