The Double Life of Paul De Man
A landmark biography that reveals the secret past of one of the most influential academics of the twentieth century.
Over thirty years after his death in 1983, Paul de Man, a hugely charismatic intellectual who created with deconstruction an ideology so pervasive that it threatened to topple the very foundations of literature, remains a haunting and still largely unexamined figure. Deeply influential, de Man and his theory-driven philosophy were so dominant that his passing received front-page coverage, suggesting that a cult hero, if not intellectual rock star, had met an untimely end.Yet in 1988, de Man's reputation was ruined when it was discovered that he had written an anti-Semitic article and worked for a collaborating Belgium newspaper during World War II. Who was he, really, and who had he been? No one knew. Still in shock, few of his followers wanted to find out. Once an admirer, although never a theorist, the biographer Evelyn Barish began her own investigation. Relying on years of original archival work and interviews with over two hundred of de Man's circle of friends and family, most of them now dead, Barish vividly re-creates this collaborationist world of occupied Belgian and France.Born in 1919 to a rich but tragically unstable family, Paul de Man, a golden boy, was influenced by his uncle Henri de Man, a socialist turned Nazi collaborator who became the de facto Belgian prime minister. By the early 1940s, Paul, while seemingly only a reviewer for Nazi newspapers, was secretly rising in far more important jobs in Belgium's and France’s collaborationist regimes.Postwar, barred from the university, de Man created a publishing house, but stole all its assets; then, facing jail, he fled to New York, abandoning his family (his opportunistic, anti-Semitic writing seemed the least of his crimes). Arriving penniless, he quickly rose again, befriending an entire generation of American writers in New York, including Dwight Macdonald, Elizabeth Hardwick, and Mary McCarthy. Barish sketches de Man's renowned careers at Bard and Yale, as well as the circumstances surrounding his loving—but bigamous—second marriage to former Bard student Patricia Kelley, who created the tranquillity he so lacked.Juxtaposing this personal story to his meteoric rise through American academia, Barish traces the origins of the philosophical deconstructionism that he later created with Jacques Derrida, showing how de Man attracted followers with his attack on the hypocrisy of society that attempts to cover up the "essential alienation" of art from "the system." While focusing on the biographical facts, this commanding and psychologically probing biography reveals as much about human behavior and the cross-currents of twentieth-century intellectual thought as it does about the man who held an entire generation in his thrall.
Baker & Taylor
Describes the life of the Yale University professor behind the deconstruction movement, who at the time of his death was one of the most influential literary critics in America but was later revealed to be a Nazi collaborator and anti-Semite.
Barish offers a painstakingly researched biography of literary critic and theorist Paul de Man (1919-1983), who at the time of his death was immensely influential. But his reputation was severely tarnished by the discovery after his death of an anti-Semitic article he had written for a Belgian newspaper that collaborated with the Nazis during World War II. Based on original archival research and more than 200 interviews, Barish provides insights into the life of de Man, the collaborator, his swift rise to prominence in American academia, and a revealing look at his personal life. In other words, a detailed examination of his accomplishments and failings. Annotation ©2014 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR (protoview.com)
A Landmark Biography That Reveals The Secret Past Of One Of The Most Influential Academics Of The Twentieth Century
In this long-awaited work, Evelyn Barish retraces the personal story and explosive career of Paul de Man, one of philosophy's most controversial figures--from pre--World War II and war-torn Europe to his reincarnation in postwar America. The life of the man who despised narrative is finally rendered in this searching portrait
"Evelyn Barish's necessary, illuminating, and unstoppably addictive biography goads us to ask whether the success of charm and genuine brilliance ought eventually to override one's revulsion at systematic deceit. And beyond this: Was Paul de Man's acclaimed theory cut to fit the machinations of the man? And further still: How can an entire generation of the professoriat have fallen into unthinking adulation of a brazen rascal?"---Cynthia Ozick
"Evelyn Barish tells us exactly why Paul de Man, a pioneer of theory, should have favored notions about the impossibility of an objective narrative or a fixed personality. Viewed objectively, the narrative of his own life was the story of a cheat and a liar; and he made up his personality as he went along. Yet he fooled one high-level American college after another into treating him as a genius. This is one of the most daunting portraits of a literary charlatan since A. J. A. Symons wrote the life of Baron Corvo."---Clive James
"Evelyn Barish's revelatory and compulsively readable biography proves that Paul de Man, once considered America's foremost literary theorist, had been an active Nazi collaborator in Belgium during the war and was also a convicted embezzler, a bigamist, and a narcissist who stared at himself in the mirror for hours.... Barish's gripping book is everything de Man's writing is not; it sticks to real facts gained through painstaking research, facts that disperse nebulous theorizing like a nail puncturing a balloon."---David S. Reynolds
"A rigorously researched probe into a life of systematic duplicity and into the mystery of a strangely flawed, charismatic personality. Evelyn Barish's book is in no sense a polemic; her accounting of Paul de Man's character and career is evenhanded in its judgments and cumulatively devastating."---Warner B. Berthoff
"A page-turner, The Double Life of Paul de Man is a brilliant piece of writing--dispassionate in its analysis, moving in its vision of a tortured man."--Diane Jacobs
Describes the life of the Yale University professor behind the deconstruction movement, who at the time of his death was one of the most influential literary critics in America but was later revealed to be a Nazi collaborator and anti-Semite. 13,000 first printing.
From Library Staff
The story of how Yale professor Paul De Man, influential critic and darling of the deconstructionists successfully bamboozled his way into literary stardom by hiding his collaboration with the Nazis in France during WW II.
From the critics
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