Alice Kaplan is the author of French Lessons: A Memoir, The Collaborator, and The Interpreter, and the translator of OK, Joe. Her books have been twice nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Awards, once for the National Book Award, and she is a winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.She holds the John M. Musser chair in French literature at Yale.
Her new book is Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis.
From Kaplan's Q & A with Marjorie Kehe at the Christian Science Monitor:
Q: You follow Jackie Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis through the year each spent in France. Which young woman was most profoundly impacted by her Parisian sojourn?--Marshal Zeringue
They were impacted in so many different ways that it’s hard for me to choose. [But] Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy got the intellectual sense of self that she would call on more in her life.
Susan Sontag got freedom. She got freedom from a marriage she never should have made. Paris was a place that gave her permission to live out her sexuality. She got a model of how to be an intellectual without being in a university. That was really key for her. What she had was like a model of a way of life.
Then Angela Davis, her case is very different than the other two. I would say that France had a profound impact on her in that she learned in France that racism is not confined to Birmingham, Ala. That it was an international phenomenon, that the French were extremely racist toward the Algerians. That opened her up to all sorts of analysis. She’s been very important in the American scene for having really had a very broad and nonparochial perspective on issues of race. That was important to her. But I would say that in general she was more important to France than France was to her.
Q: Could these young women have had an equally profound experience in Rome or Madrid?
Paris was then and remains the world capital of...[read on]