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Authors: Alice Kaplan

French Lessons: A Memoir

BOOK: French Lessons: A Memoir
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Alice Kaplan beautifully describes the intricate mixture of
lust and embarrassment and voyeurism and submission and
pride involved in immersing oneself in another language. . . .
This girl's own story-of a daughter, a spy in the house of
French, a teacher and scholar-is imbued with a sense of the
multiplicity of identity, and it gracefully tells us what Kaplan
says French has taught her: 'There is more than one way to
speak.' "

-Lisa Cohen, Voice Literary Supplement

"An uncommonly forthright and concise piece of autobiography. Kaplan has shown that university professors, too, can
have a past worth telling, that the subjects they teach may
mean far more to them than any student could begin to

-John Sturrock, London Review of Books

"This original, artful, engaging book belongs to an evolving
genre of postmodern intellectual autobiography. Telling her
story about a girl from the midwest who learned to speak
perfect French, a student of deconstruction who became
intrigued by fascism, Alice Kaplan writes insightfully also
about language, memory, politics, and writing. Kaplan's
father was a lawyer at the Nuremberg trials who died when
she was only seven: she recalls the frightening photographs of
concentration camp victims she found among his papers. The
glamour of otherness and the allure of evil-as well as the
characters of various mentors, meals, lovers, and studentsare the subjects of this witty and insightful memoir."

-Rachel M. Brownstein, author of Becoming a Heroine

"Born a Jewish daughter of the American Midwest, Alice
Kaplan became a professor of French and an expert on the
literature of French fascism. French Lessons is the story of her
cultural odyssey, a brave attempt to articulate the compulsions
that drove her to embrace foreignness in order to become
truly herself.... Told in a 'staccato Midwestern style,' her
story of becoming French is arrestingly all-American."

-Arthur Goldhammer, Washington Post Book World

"Alice Kaplan has written a wonderful book, as accessible as
light fiction and as polished and layered as poetry.... The
precision and intensity of Kaplan's presentation of self in
everyday life makes for an extraordinary literary achievement."

-Graham Fraser, Toronto Globe and Mail

"A lovely book.... From the childhood learning of words
from her siblings, to her professorship at Duke, she has
catalogued her desire to speak a foreign language and thereby
to become something foreign and alluring herself."

-Fred Turner, Boston Phoenix

"French Lessons captures the excitement Kaplan experienced as
she fell into the French language: mastering the difficulties of
French pronunciation, the forms of the French verb, the
forms of French politeness."

-Thomas McGonigle, Chicago Tribune

"This is the most engaging new bildungsroman I have read in
years-and especially because the bildung in question, the
learning of French by a young American woman, brings with
it such an amazing range of personal drama of modern and
contemporary political and cultural history."

-R. W. B. Lewis


Alice Kaplan


BOOK: French Lessons: A Memoir
7.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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