​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

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)