Is it legitimate to take an interest in an author's correspondence to fill the gap between a life and a literary work? Kaufmann (French, Univ. of California, Berkeley) answers in the affirmative, arguing that letters bridge distances between people. Kaufmann discovers, however, that the writer of a letter sometimes opts not to communicate but to keep correspondents at bay and deny any form of sharing. This epistolary approach introduces a new dimension into the study of several European modernist writers: Baudelaire and his financial troubles, Artaud and his quest for authenticity, Proust and his health bulletins, Valery and his confidences, and Rilke and his real estate dealings are among the situations brought to light. In this abundant epistolary corpus, Kaufmann seeks a genealogy in the works of these authors. Originally published in French in 1990, this is a closely reasoned and innovative discussion. Recommended for academic and large public libraries.-- Ali Houissa, Cornell Univ., Ithaca, N.Y.