Manhattan: Letters from Prehistory / Edition 1

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Overview

Manhattan is the tale of a young French scholar who travels to the United States in 1965 on a Fulbright Fellowship to consult the manuscripts of beloved authors. In Yale University's Beinecke Library, tantalized by the conversational and epistolary brilliance of a fellow researcher, she is lured into a picaresque and tragic adventure. Meanwhile, back in France, her children and no-nonsense mother await her return. A young European intellectual's first contact with America and the city of New York are the background of this story. The experience of Manhattan haunts this labyrinth of a book as, over a period of thirty-five years, its narrator visits and revisits Central Park and a half-buried squirrel, the Statue of Liberty and a never again to be found hotel in the vicinity of Morningside Heights: a journey into memory in which everything is never the same.

Traveling from library to library, France to the United States, Shakespeare to Kafka to Joyce, Manhattan deploys with gusto all the techniques for which Cixous's fiction and essays are known: rapid juxtapositions of time and place, narrative and description, analysis and philosophical reflection. It investigates subjects Cixous has spent her life probing: reading, writing, and the "omnipotence-other" seductions of literature; a family's flight from Nazi Germany and postcolonial Algeria; childhood, motherhood, and, not least, the strange experience of falling in love with, as Jacques Derrida writes, "a counterfeit genius."

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Prolific French novelist and theorist Cixous presents another thought-provoking work, combining literature, philosophy, and biographical elements to present the story of a young Frenchwoman who journeys in 1965 to the United States on a Fulbright scholarship to consult famous writers' manuscripts. She visits different locales and libraries to conduct her research, and in her travels she becomes acquainted with American culture and an alluring intellectual she meets at Yale. In reminiscing years later, she fixates on Manhattan, its landmarks (e.g., Central Park and a vanished hotel), and this brilliant individual. Cixous alludes often to the labyrinth metaphor and structures this work much like a labyrinth: the story meanders, avoids following a certain temporal and narrative order, and follows many paths. Brahic, who has translated other works by Cixous (Dream I Tell You), includes endnotes when necessary to clarify some of the wordplays found in the French edition. Translating an author who enjoys playing with text is challenging, but Brahic excels at the task. Highly recommended for libraries that support women's studies and French literature collections.
—Erica Swenson Danowitz

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780823227761
  • Publisher: Fordham University Press
  • Publication date: 12/15/2007
  • Edition description: 4
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 228
  • Product dimensions: 8.40 (w) x 5.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

HLÔNE CIXOUS's Three Steps on the Ladder to Writing and Laugh of the Medusa are seminaltexts in postmodern cultural theory. Born in 1937 in Algeria, former Chair of the Centre deRecherches en tudes Fminines at Paris VIII University, Cixous lectures in France and abroad. Her writing is remarkable for its crossing of boundaries between the genres and styles of fiction, autobiography, and analysis.

BEVERLEY BIE BRAHIC lives in Paris. She is the translator of Hlne Cixous's Portrait of Jacques Derrida as a Young Jewish Saint, Dream I Tell You, Reveries of the Wild Woman, and The Day I Wasn't There, and the author of a volume of poems, Against Gravity.

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