DEPARTURES: Memoirs by Paul Zweig


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Aptly titled, this poignant memoir of one of America's most sensitive poet/ scholars describes Zweig's lifelong leave taking--from family and homeland; from love affairs and marriages; from political beliefs and, finally, from life itself. A movingly forthright self-portrait of a man in search of his soul. Born of middle-class Jewish parents in Brooklyn and educated at Columbia University, the bookish, solitary Zweig found himself ill-at-ease in the US. In 1956, he set off for Paris, where he soon fell into a vie de boheme world of shabby Left Bank pensiones, existentialist rap sessions in cafes, strolls with girls along file Seine. Zweig captures this milieu in vivid images that reveal his poetic vision. He remained in PaNs for a decade, during which he conducted a series of affairs with women who instructed him in the complexities of such matters as Communism, colonialism and coitus. (He was a member of a Red cell, harbored Algerian nationalists and became a connoisseur of the orgasm, though suffering at one point an embarrassing and, in his telling, faintly ludicrous impotence.) A respected member of the academic community (Comparative Lit, Queens College), remarried and father of a child, he discovered he was suffering from lymphoma. During the six years he struggled with the cancer, he turned out a number of works, including the highly-praised Walt Whitman: The Making of a Poet in 1983. The final brief segment of Departures recounts his experiences as a patient with heartbreaking understatement. (He was to die in August, 1984, age 49--ironically, in Paris,) Zweig wrote with a combination of subtlety and candor that involves the reader in a peculiarly powerful way. His story encapsulates the insecurities and strivings that characterized the middle decades of this century in the memories and musings of one extraordinary man. Polished and moving.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Harper & Row