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Edith Thomas

Edith Thomas (1909-1970), a remarkable French woman of letters, was deeply involved in the traumatic upheavals of her time: most crucially the resistance to Nazi occupation and the collaborationist Vichy regime, but also the Spanish Civil War and the Algerian War. During the occupation, she played an essential role in the struggle to counteract Nazi and Petainist propaganda. She was the only woman in the Paris network of Resistance writers; they held their clandestine meetings in her left-bank apartment.Dorothy Kaufmann's powerful and moving book is based in large part on previously unavailable material that Edith Thomas, a historian, novelist, and journalist, chose not to publish during her lifetime. A particularly fascinating chapter in Thomas's life was her intimate relationship with Dominique Aury, who wrote Story of O as "Pauline Reage." The astonishing documents made available to Kaufmann by Aury include Thomas's eight notebooks of diaries, which she kept from 1931 to 1963; her fictional diary of a collaborator, written during the first year of the occupation; and her political memoir, to which she gave the disturbing title Le Temoin compromis (The Compromised Witness).Edith Thomas: A Passion for Resistance sheds light on the historical dimensions of Thomas's life and work and on the autobiographical complexity of her writing, which everywhere illustrates her personal courage. Kaufmann follows Edith Thomas's itinerary as it intersects with that of well-known contemporaries-in particular Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Louis Aragon, Jean Paulhan, and, of course, Dominique Aury.
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"Though a contemporary of Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir, mid-century French woman of letters Edith Thomas remains unfairly obscure. However, Thomas led a fascinating, quixotic existence as a promising novelist, a communist journalist in the Spanish Civil War, a voluble critic of the Algerian War, and a feminist historian... This is a powerful chronicle of Thomas's tempestuous relationship with an imperfect world."-Publishers Weekly, August 2004 "A French intellectual and woman of letters, Thomas was a Communist from 1942 to 1949 and had an intimate relationship with Dominique Aury, author of the erotic Story of O. She was the only woman in the Paris network of Resistance writers, providing a place in her Left Bank apartment for their clandestine meetings. Thomas's eight notebooks of diaries, which she kept between 1931 and 1963, were given to Kaufmann by Aury, as well as her fictional diary of a collaborator, articles written for the underground press, a number of poems, her typewritten political memoir, and her handwritten personal memoir."-Starred Review, Booklist, September 1, 2004 "This illuminating biography brings to life one of the most accomplished, courageous, and least-known French writers of the twentieth century... Thomas's entire life and work bear witness to her commitment to social justice and to ... her very personal conception of women in society without a male mediator. Author of a critical edition (in French) of Thomas's writings, Kaufmann obtained the fascinating material at the heart of this biography from Dominique Aury, the longtime anonymous author of Histoire d'O, who had an intense affair and lifelong friendship with Thomas."-Choice, February 2005 "There is no one better qualified than Dorothy Kaufmann to write the biography of Edith Thomas... In the course of her research, Kaufmann met Dominique Aury, prominent editor, author of Histoire d'O, and, after the war, Thomas's lover for nine months in what was apparently the most sustained and reciprocated love relationship of Thomas's life. Aury gave Kaufmann a shopping bag of Thomas's correspondence and unpublished manuscripts to consult, and Kaufmann went on to edit and publish Thomas' wartime diary and her postwar memoir. Kaufmann makes good use of these materials and the remainder of Thomas's extensive diary in writing her biography.What Kaufmann provides us is not simply the first biography of Edith Thomas, but more importantly, access to an individual, the very exceptionality of whose lived experience and psychology provide important insights into the complicated, multifaceted experience of the Resistance and engagement in the Communist party, and living with the void each left."-Donald Reid, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill., H-France Reviews "I was impressed and enlightened by Dorothy Kaufmann's book. It is a strikingly well-written and thoughtful account of an ardent spirit, a Frenchwoman whose passion for freedom was perhaps sharpened by the painful constraints placed on her by her own ill-health. She is an intellectual heroine who has stood in the shadow of Simone de Beauvoir and Simone Weil. This book sheds a light on her very individual path through the minefields of sex, politics, and sexual politics and opens up for us some of the secrets of an uncompromising heart."-Hilary Mantel, author of Giving Up the Ghost "Edith Thomas-novelist, diarist, feminist, and Resistance journalist par excellence-deserves to be included with Simone de Beauvoir, Marguerite Duras, Elsa Triolet, and Simone Weil in the pantheon of essential twentieth-century French women writers. As Dorothy Kaufmann's suave new biography reveals, Thomas's contributions to French intellectual life in the war years were numerous and extraordinary, and her insights into French society-both during and after occupation-were courageous, unflinching, and intransigent."-Terry Castle, Stanford University

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