THE DOUBLE LIFE OF GEORGE SAND: Woman and Writer by Renee Winegarten
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In the wake of Curtis Cate's huge, painstaking, occasionally obtuse George Sand (1975) have come two works of less imposing dimensions: Ruth Jordan's lucid and unassuming George Sand (1976) and Joseph Barry's Infamous Woman (1977), a biography of lively insights marred by some awful errors of style and emphasis. Winegarten's Double Life best invites comparison with the Barry, but it is a much more disciplined and better-written book. Winegarten's thesis is that in taking up ""a new identity and a new personality"" with the ""composite name"" of Mme. George Sand, the former Aurore Dudevant ""was going to create herself. Such self-invented personalities are precarious."" The act of invention was carried out with moments of great honesty and determination, but also with a lack of mediating balance stemming from an isolated and emotionally unanchored childhood. Hence George Sand's excesses and lifelong proneness to inconsistency or prevarication, the result of a constant painting-over of the self in adopted roles. Hence also her great power to project her own imaginative perceptions. Winegarten does not find it necessary to dwell on the absurdities or improbabilities of the novels; what she does point out is their remarkably undimmed emotional and psychological energy. Without straining the evidence beyond what it will bear, she also manages to suggest that George Sand's developing concern with social and political issues represents a real if not ideally consistent attempt to affirm human continuity beyond the vagaries of self. More than some biographers, she emphasizes the novelist's sympathy with the cause of women over the much-remarked limitations of that sympathy (in the 1848 revolutions, George Sand went to some lengths to dissociate herself from a feminist proposal to nominate her to the Constituent Assembly). Occasionally one is troubled by the possessiveness and air of being in the know about inner motivation which inevitably mark biographies of this kind. Still, in the larger picture this is a rewarding approach, pursued with forceful intelligence.

Pub Date: Nov. 24th, 1978
Publisher: Basic Books