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Naked in the Marketplace: The Lives of George Sand

Naked in the Marketplace: The Lives of George Sand

by Benita Eisler

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Who was George Sand? She was the first famous Frenchwoman celebrated throughout Europe who wasn't either a saint or a king's mistress. She was also the first woman in Europe to become a best-selling novelist. But her fame is inseparable from her notoriety: the scandal of leaving a husband and child, setting up in Paris with an eighteen-year-old lover, liaisons


Who was George Sand? She was the first famous Frenchwoman celebrated throughout Europe who wasn't either a saint or a king's mistress. She was also the first woman in Europe to become a best-selling novelist. But her fame is inseparable from her notoriety: the scandal of leaving a husband and child, setting up in Paris with an eighteen-year-old lover, liaisons and friendships with men of talent and even genius: de Musset, Chopin, Balzac, and Flaubert. Politically engaged, Sand was literally, "there at the revolution," those of 1831 and 1848, reporting, analyzing, denouncing, exhorting. She believed always in Progress as she did in Love, though she was doomed to be betrayed in both. Acclaimed literary biographer Benita Eisler sheds new light on the many roles, triumphs, and losses that together constituted Sand's overwhelming presence. With nearly ninety novels, 20,000 letters, and thousands of pages of autobiographical writings and political commentary, how did Sand also have the time to live? As Eisler reveals, hers seems more like several lives--literary, political, amorous, and domestic. Earlier biographers have either flash-frozen Sand into a feminist icon or blurred her in the dynamic of "child of the century," but Naked in the Marketplace presents Sand at her essence--the outsized persona and the inner woman, along with the unique and irreplaceable role she played in the history of her times.

Editorial Reviews

Thomas Mallon
Eisler can write with wit and brio, as when she calls Pierre Huguenin, one of Sand’s more cardboard fictional protagonists, a “lifeless ... recruiting poster for romantic socialism” who’s “never allowed off the ideological leash.”
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
For all her notorious affairs with men, Sand's passionate and unrequited attachment to her mother is the real love story of her life," writes noted literary biographer Eisler (Chopin's Funeral) in her bustling study of the great French Romantic writer's love life. Capturing the complexity of George Sand's relationship with her adored but largely absent working-class mother, Eisler analyzes the writer's various attitudes to class in light of her childhood, as she rapidly narrates Sand's remarkable transformation from rebellious young wife and mother to cross-dressing, controversial Parisian literary star. Treating Sand's autobiography with skepticism, Eisler emphasizes how Sand (1804-1876) also caused strife for others in her turbulent emotional life. Eisler authoritatively sketches the themes and philosophical preoccupations of Sand's novels in an age of revolutionary ferment, but places Sand's affairs center stage: from Alfred de Musset's "romantic passion run amok" to her political education by radical lawyer Michel de Bourges, and her long relationship with Chopin. Eisler's Sand is doomed to act out the insecurities of her childhood in an ugly, punitive relationship with her own daughter, Solange. As Eisler comments, referring to Sand by her real name, "It was Aurore, the motherless child, who was both the cause and victim of much of George's confusion and suffering." (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
George Sand (1804-76) led an intriguing existence filled with adventure, romance, and scandal; Eisler's (Chopin's Funeral) absorbing biography, which draws mainly from the 25 volumes of Sand's correspondence, documents the avant-garde French writer's life and "lives." She candidly describes Sand's struggles with her indifferent mother, her depression, and her numerous failed relationships with both women and men (including writer Alfred de Musset and composer Frederic Chopin). Sand's difficulties with her children as she tried to balance motherhood with a career are particularly poignant and reveal the complex facets of her life. Each chapter contains excellent literary and historical background of 19th-century France. Notes and sources are included, but there is no index to help readers reference all the interesting aspects of Sand's life. Writing in a straightforward style, Eisler succeeds in creating a psychological study of a woman who often was and still is misunderstood and underrated. Her entertaining and educational book is highly recommended for all libraries supporting French literature, history, and women's studies collections.-Erica Swenson Danowitz, Delaware Cty. Community Coll., Media, PA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Largely expanded from her previous literary study, Chopin's Funeral (2003), Eisler's latest explores the ways in which the early French novelist Sand (1804-76) extracted her literary, intellectual and political sustenance from her numerous lovers. As notorious for her free-loving personal life and cross-dressing fashion as for her atmospheric, revolutionary novels, Sand, n‚e Aurore Dupin, learned early on that freedom for a woman was gained through linking oneself to a powerful man. Eisler goes well into this pleasant-going study on Sand's early sense of abandonment by her mother, Sophie Delaborde, a "pure-blooded daughter of the proletariat" and probable prostitute whose livelihood in Paris ensured that her daughter would be raised by her formidable grandmother at Aurore's dead father Maurice Dupin's Nohant estate. Sophie essentially sold her daughter to the rich Dupin relatives, and the tug of war between Aurore's grandmother and mother took its toll on the young girl. Liaisons with strong, intelligent men formed her early development, while marriage to minor Gascon Baron Casimir Dudevant brought her stimulation and travel, as well as two children. Separation and a dizzying succession of lovers-including affairs early on with the much younger Jules Sandeau, from whom Sand fashioned her nom de plume, and Le Figaro's powerful editor Henri Latouche-launched her on a literary career. Her first novel, Indiana (1832), about the failure of a miserable marriage set in a typically exotic outpost, swept Paris and set the tone for a succession of romances about proto-feminist relationships: Valentine, L‚lia, Mauprat, etc. Curiously, Sand was also mightily attracted to weak-willed, brilliantyounger men who needed maternal nursing, such as Alfred de Musset and Fr‚d‚ric Chopin, and Eisler does a fine job of trying to integrate the many sides of this complex writer and political activist without capitulating to her charm and fame. Indeed, Eisler remains a rather severe moral critic of this fascinating, and rule-bending, personality. Eisler skillfully incorporates much correspondence within a frame of lively writing. Agent: Gloria Loomis/Watkins Loomis Agency Inc.

Product Details

Counterpoint Press
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6.13(w) x 9.50(h) x (d)

Meet the Author

A native New Yorker, Benita Eisler was educated at Smith and Harvard. She has worked as an art editor, reporter, on-camera correspondent, and producer of arts programming for pubic television. Her interest in the varieties of artistic expression is reflected in her teaching and writing: She has taught the nineteenth- and twentiethcentury novel at Princeton and is the author of biographies of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz; Lord Byron, and Frédéric Chopin. She lives in Manhattan.

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