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The Double Life of Paul De Man 1st Edition

2.8 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0871403261
ISBN-10: 0871403269
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Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal
The bestselling author of "Encyclopedia an Ordinary Life" returns with a literary experience that is unprecedented, unforgettable, and explosively human. Hardcover | Kindle book
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* When Mary McCarthy recommended the young Paul de Man for a position at Bard College in 1949, she characterized him as intelligent, cultivated, modest, and straightforward. In this stunning biography, Barish exposes a man who devoted his remarkable intelligence and cultural knowledge to constructing a reputation so deviously deceptive that it completely fooled McCarthy and many others. With its posthumous 1988 discovery, an anti-Semitic wartime article by de Man scandalized the academic world. Barish probes beyond that article, adducing evidence that de Man served as an executive in Nazi publishing, then exploited his postwar circumstances to embezzle from his own company, violate immigration laws, falsify his academic record, contract a bigamous marriage, and abandon his children. In the indictment Barish proffers, de Man also bent, even flouted, the policies of the prestigious universities where he made his degree. Readers will marvel at how successfully de Man hid his misdeeds behind the luminous persona of a brilliant critical theorist, repeatedly using the plausibility of past lies to leverage yet larger new prevarications. Barish indeed raises unsettling questions about the self-serving congruence between de Man’s egregious duplicity and his influential literary theory of deconstruction, premised on radical skepticism about the very possibility of truth. An astonishing exposé. --Bryce Christensen

Review

The Double Life of Paul de Man revives the man and his fall. This time, we get a story of the professor not just as a young collaborator, but as a scheming careerist, an embezzler and forger who fled Belgium in order to avoid prison, a bigamist who abandoned his first three children, a deadbeat who left many rents and hotel bills unpaid, a liar who wormed his way into Harvard by falsifying records, a cynic who used people shamelessly… Compelling… Picaresque.” (Susan Rubin Suleiman - New York Times Book Review)

“In this stunning biography…readers will marvel at how successfully de Man hid his misdeeds behind the luminous persona of a brilliant critical theorist, repeatedly using the plausibility of past lies to leverage yet larger new prevarications…An astonishing exposé.” (Bryce Christensen - Booklist, starred review)

“Evelyn Barish tells us exactly why Paul de Man, a pioneer of Theory, should have favoured 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, author of Cultural Amnesia)

“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, author of Dear Abigail: The Intimate Lives and Revolutionary Ideas of Abigail Adams and Her Two Remarkable Sister)

“A riveting biography of master confidence man Paul de Man (1919–1983), manipulator of the facts and influential literary instructor―a character both preposterous and irresistible…. An extraordinary story of a complex personality presented with a wise dose of irony and respect.” (Kirkus Reviews, Starred review)

“[De Man’s] story, the story of a concealed past, was almost too perfect a synecdoche for everything that made people feel puzzled, threatened, or angry about literary theory. Evelyn Barish’s new biography, The Double Life of Paul de Man (Liveright), is an important update on the story… [Barish] has an amazing tale to tell. In her account, all guns are smoking… Fascinating.” (Louis Menand - The New Yorker)

“Impressively researched… Carefully documented… The story Barish tells is riveting. The de Man family closet was so packed with skeletons that they would have had to spill out into the living room.” (Robert Alter - New Republic)

“[A] painstaking and probing account… Ultimately, a mark of Barish’s achievement is that, by the end of her story, de Man confounds and eludes us no less than he did his contemporaries.” (Robert Zaretsky - The American Scholar)

“Barish adds much to our knowledge of this brilliant intellectual counterfeit.” (David Lehman - The Wall Street Journal)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Liveright; 1 edition (March 17, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871403269
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871403261
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.6 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,064,306 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
A hatchet job by a jealous, failed academic. Honestly, don't waste your time.
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Format: Hardcover
There are several good reviews of this book (some of which address both the content of the story and the author's research methods) in the press (including the New York Times, the New Yorker, and the New York Review of Books)--and those interested in this tale of a proven Nazi sympathizer, convicted forgerer, bigamist, liar, and general "operator" and self-promoter, should seek them out. Despite some criticism of some aspects of Barish's historic research and some aspects of her interpretations of some events, none of those reviewers controvert her reporting in its essentials, and none impugn the basic truth of her book. I would be confident that none of those knowledgeable reviewers would rate the book at less than "three stars," though of course that is not a testable hypothesis. On the merits, the nearly 50% of reviewers who have given this book ONE star would seem to be denying the facts that Barish (and many others prior to her work) have unearthed--and I note that virtually none of them address the "charges" against de Man in specific, and do not controvert the record. Accordingly, I think the book is unfairly devalued, and deserves a much higher rating.

That said, we're left with the question of "so what"--what is the practical significance of retracing the early and middle career of the life of a scholar who in his mature years seems to have been generally respected by colleagues, both professionally and personally. As a case, it might resemble that of Heidegger or other publicly-known and professionally-accomplished scholars and writers. During the ascendancy of National Socialism, they were definite sympathizers who sought to revitalize their careers and pretty much succeeded.
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Format: Hardcover
This interesting biography of a 60's cultural hero and self-inventor seems to have caused some hurt feelings. Now, isn't it always better to know the truth?

Incidentally, if you check the "other reviews" of all those reviewers who gave this book one star, this seems to be the only book they ever reviewed, in most cases the only item of any kind they ever reviewed. Hmmmm.
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Format: Hardcover
It's PATHETIC that so many sock-puppet 1 star reviews are saturating this book's reviews. Academics, get your s*** together, and stop reviling the work of those trying to bring the clear light of day to your idols.
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Format: Hardcover
Insubstantial.
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Format: Hardcover
insubstantial
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Format: Hardcover
I recently read an excellent biography of Adorno, and I was eager to read a biography of another thinker I like, Paul de Man.
But the book o fEvelyn Barish is terribly disappointing, because it turns into a vulgar tabloid which seems to have been written by someone who envies him. Moreover, the author oversimplifies a lot of concepts - deconstruction, for instance...
Not a good biography (it's full of inaccuracies) not an academic book (Barish never substantiate her claims...), there is absolutely no reason to loose one's time to get through those horrible 400 pages.
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Format: Hardcover
what an awful book ! probably the worst i've read in my entire life, a tissue of lies and ineptitudes. If you like Paul de Man's work, please do not read this book !
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