LOST EARTH: A Life of C‚zanne by Philip Callow

LOST EARTH: A Life of C‚zanne

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A lame and unscholarly life of a major artist, by novelist and biographer Callow (From Noon to Starry Night: A Life of Walt Whitman, 1992, etc.). While the title may be the first indication of Callow's approach to biography, the foreword sets the stage for this life of C‚zanne. Here we are told, ""To journey through the world of C‚zanne is to move, more and more often toward the end, through empty stretches of time, silent featureless places where no word reaches."" Still waxing poetic, the author further indulges his romantic sensibility by devoting an entire chapter to the history of Provence, from Caesar on, to underline the connection of that ""wild country"" to C‚zanne's roots and character. The leitmotif throughout the book is C‚zanne's ongoing though often strained relationship with his childhood friend Emile Zola. While Callow's reliance on primary sources, such as the correspondence between the two friends, makes for fascinating reading, we are all too often forced to view C‚zanne through Zola's subjective eyes. This is most problematic in the author's constant use of material from Zola's novel The Masterpiece, which is loosely based on C‚zanne and his life. Callow, no art historian, is overly reliant on the comments and observations of others when it comes to analyses of C‚zanne's work. Most alarming from the scholarly point of view, however, is Callow's penchant for inserting citations on unrelated subjects into his text (a line by Storm Jameson on Stendhal, for instance, arrives out of nowhere). Also disturbing is his tendency to take on the role of psychic, delving deep into the inner recesses of C‚zanne's mind: ""He sometimes wondered if he could ever escape his own fatal weakness and become strong at the center of himself, instead of nothing."" This source material remains, needless to say, unfootnoted. An unfortunate biography, written in Irving Stone mode.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1995
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Ivan Dee