Simone de Beauvoir, The Inseparables
'Life without her would be death'
When Andrée joins her school, Sylvie is immediately fascinated. Andrée is small for her age, but walks with the confidence of an adult. Under her red coat, she hides terrible burn scars. And when she imagines beautiful things, she gets goosebumps... Secretly Sylvie believes that Andrée is a prodigy about whom books will be written.
The girls become close. They talk for hours about equality, justice, war and religion; they lose respect for their teachers; they build a world of their own. But they can't stay like this forever.
Written in 1954, five years after The Second Sex, the novel was never published in Simone de Beauvoir's lifetime. This first English edition includes an afterword by her adopted daughter, who discovered the manuscript hidden in a drawer, and photographs of the real-life friendship which inspired and tormented the author.
Praise for The Inseparables:
Merve Emre in The New Yorker
In Lauren Elkin’s fine translation, the lucid, sculpted prose can flare into starbursts of introspective sensuality.
— Boyd Tonkin, the Times of London
The Inseparables is slim, elegant, achingly tragic and unaffectedly lovely in its evocation of the closeness between girls — and the pressures that sunder them.
Much credit should go to Lauren Elkin’s beautifully accomplished translation. The prose feels like a living voice and not, as is too often the case with translation, like a heavy-footed performance of respect for an inaccessible original. A translator’s note and thoughtful footnotes explain some of the decisions she made, and it would be wonderful to see what Elkin could make of de Beauvoir’s other novels…
The Inseparables is not quite perfect… but it’s close enough that it thoroughly deserves to be found.
— Sarah Ditum, The Spectator
Listen to Lauren interviewed on Literary Friction on translating Simone de Beauvoir
And on Lost Ladies of Lit
And on BBC Free Thinking
No. 91/92: diary of a year on the bus
Your telephone is precious. It may be envied. We recommend vigilance when using it in public.
--Paris bus public notice
In fall 2014 Lauren Elkin began keeping a diary of her bus commutes in the Notes app on her iPhone 5c, writing down the interesting things and people she saw in a Perecquian homage to Bus Lines 91 and 92, which she took from her apartment in the 5th Arrondissement to her teaching job in the 7th.
Reading the notice, she decided to be vigilant when using her phone: she would carry out a public transport vigil, using it to take in the world around her and notice all the things she would miss if she continued using it the way she had been, the way everyone does.
During the course of that academic year, the Charlie Hebdo attacks occurred and Elkin had an ectopic pregnancy, requiring emergency surgery. At that point, her diary of dailiness became a study of the counterpoint between the everyday and the Event, mediated through early twenty-first century technology, and observed from the height of a bus seat. No. 91/92 is a love letter to Paris, and a meditation on how it has changed in the two decades the author has lived there, evolving from the twentieth century into the twenty-first, from analog to digital.
UK: Chatto & Windus
Germany: btb Verlag
Flâneuse: Women Walk the City
FINALIST FOR THE PEN/DIAMONSTEIN-SPIELVOGEL AWARD FOR THE ART OF THE ESSAY
A New York Times Notable Book of 2017
A Radio 4 Book of the Week
Flâneuse [flanne-euhze], noun, from the French. Feminine form of flâneur [flanne-euhr], an idler, a dawdling observer, usually found in cities.
That is an imaginary definition.'
If the word flâneur conjures up visions of Baudelaire, boulevards and bohemia – then what exactly is a flâneuse?
In this gloriously provocative and celebratory book, Lauren Elkin defines her as ‘a determined resourceful woman keenly attuned to the creative potential of the city, and the liberating possibilities of a good walk’. Part cultural meander, part memoir, Flâneuse traces the relationship between the city and creativity through a journey that begins in New York and moves us to Paris, via Venice, Tokyo and London, exploring along the way the paths taken by the flâneuses who have lived and walked in those cities.
From nineteenth-century novelist George Sand to artist Sophie Calle, from war correspondent Martha Gellhorn to film-maker Agnes Varda, Flâneuse considers what is at stake when a certain kind of light-footed woman encounters the city and changes her life, one step at a time.
Called "deliciously spiky and seditious" by The Guardian, Flâneuse will inspire you to light out for the great cities yourself.
UK: Zer0 Books
The End of Oulipo? An Attempt to Exhaust a Movement
As this experiment in literary patterns enters its sixth decade, its members, fans and critics are wondering: where can it go from here?The Oulipo, founded in 1960s, is a group of writers and mathematicians which seeks to create literature using constrained experimental writing techniques such as palindromes, lipograms and snowballs. A lipogram is writing that excludes one or more letters. A snowball is a poem in which each line is a single word, and each successive word is one letter longer. The Oulipo group celebrated its fiftieth birthday in 2010, and as it enters its sixth decade, its members, fans and critics are all wondering: where can it go from here? In two long essays Veronica Esposito and Lauren Elkin consider Oulipo's strengths, weaknesses, and impact on today's experimental literature.
US/UK: Yale University Press
Michelle Perrot, The Bedoom: An Intimate History
The winner of France’s prestigious Prix Femina Essai (2009), this imaginative and captivating book explores the many dimensions of the room in which we spend so much of our lives—the bedroom. Eminent cultural historian Michelle Perrot traces the evolution of the bedroom from the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans to today, examining its myriad forms and functions, from royal king’s chamber to child’s sleeping quarters to lovers’ trysting place to monk’s cell. The history of women, so eager for a room of their own, and that of prisons, where the principal cause of suffering is the lack of privacy, is interwoven with a reflection on secrecy, walls, the night and its mysteries.
Drawing from a wide range of sources, including architectural and design treatises, private journals, novels, memoirs, and correspondences, Perrot’s engaging book follows the many roads that lead to the bedroom—birth, sex, illness, death—in its endeavor to expose the most intimate, nocturnal side of human history.
Praise for The Bedroom:
Perrot sets out to locate what she calls the “multiple genealogies” of the bedroom, “the melodic lines where religion and power, health and illness, body and spirit, love and sex interweave”. This sounds so dreamy and yet so thrilling – thanks in part to Lauren Elkin’s exquisite translation – that you can’t wait to push open the door and get cracking on this search for God, love, rest and death.
—Kathryn Hughes, The Guardian
The Bedroom: An Intimate History, translated lucidly from the French by Lauren Elkin, is a sort of sinuous essay on a subject that cultural historian Perrot admits is “inherently ephemeral and unknowable”. [...] [T]o take this motif of something as prosaic as the empty space around where we sleep — whose most exciting association is with what Perrot slyly terms “conjugal activity” — and interrogate it, proves to be fascinating.
—Lucy Watson, Financial Times
Francis Picabia, Caravansérail
Limited to 500 copies, Litterature pairs excerpts from Francis Picabia’s (1879–1953) novel Caravanserail with nine drawings and seventeen studies he created for the cover of André Breton’s Litterature journal between 1922 and 1924. This beautifully produced linen-bound book―whose front cover features circular die-cuts derived from one of Picabia’s dice drawings―offers a celebration of subversive play and fluid forms.
US: Small Press
Claude Arnaud, Jean Cocteau: A Life
Co-translated with Charlotte Mandell
WINNER OF THE 2017 FRENCH-AMERICAN TRANSLATION AWARD
Unevenly respected, easily hated, almost always suspected of being inferior to his reputation, Jean Cocteau has often been thought of as a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. In this landmark biography, Claude Arnaud thoroughly contests this characterization, as he celebrates Cocteau’s “fragile genius—a combination almost unlivable in art” but in his case so fertile.
Arnaud narrates the life of this legendary French novelist, poet, playwright, director, filmmaker, and designer who, as a young man, pretended to be a sort of a god, but who died as a humble and exhausted craftsman. His moving and compassionate account examines the nature of Cocteau’s chameleon-like genius, his romantic attachments, his controversial politics, and his intimate involvement with many of the century’s leading artistic lights, including Picasso, Proust, Hemingway, Stravinsky, and Tennessee Williams. Already published to great critical acclaim in France, Arnaud’s penetrating and deeply researched work reveals a uniquely gifted artist while offering a magnificent cultural history of the twentieth century.
Praise for Jean Cocteau: A Life:
"Sweeping . . . insightful . . . [a] passionate retelling of a life fully lived. . . . Arnaud’s poetic prose, skillfully translated by Elkin and Mandell, sharp observations, and devotion to his subject make this an endlessly rewarding read and invaluable addition to readers' understanding and appreciation of Cocteau."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)