WOMEN AND MEN by Francoise Giroud


A Philosophical Conversation
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 These transcripts of discussions by two French intellectuals-- a man and a woman--about relations between the sexes make for generally delightful reading. The male interlocutor is LÇvy (Barbarism with a Human Face, 1979, etc.), best known as one of the advocates of the ``nouvelle philosophie'' who in the late 1970s led an insurrection against Marxist and structuralist theory. The woman is Giroud (Alma Mahler, or the Art of Being Loved, 1992), a sometime government minister and a journalist perhaps best known for her association with the news magazine L'Express. These curricula vitae suggest this volume's range of reference: Giroud and LÇvy follow the thread of love through philosophies of all vintages, cultural politics, and conventional wisdom about contemporary lifestyles. Their ultimate common ground is the literary anecdote, where their discussion achieves a certain universality. One could never have heard of Proust and yet appreciate the verve with which they recapitulate his anatomy of jealousy. This book's accessibility will probably surprise apprehensive English-language readers. The central questions, after all, are familiar to everyone. Have women changed their vocation? Are they truly ``making progress''? Baroque exchanges--about whether women have an intrinsically masochistic relation to men, or about what ugliness really might be--resolve back to more mundane issues. Giroud and LÇvy ask if in this era of divorce we have lost touch with true romance. Is love a melding of two bodies or a battle of two minds? With great shows of reluctance, they draw on personal experience to consider whether love in marriage and fidelity are possible, and to analyze the behaviors of the coquette and the Don Juan. The discussion continually circles back to the central question of the degree to which sexual difference remains entrenched. LÇvy and Giroud relentlessly desiccate each other's clichÇs while appreciating each other's aperáus. They will make agreeable companions for those anglophone readers who don't find their Parisian intellectual millieu too recherchÇ.

Pub Date: Jan. 18th, 1995
ISBN: 0-316-31474-9
Page count: 248pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1994


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