THE NOTORIOUS LIFE OF GYP by Willa Z. Silverman

THE NOTORIOUS LIFE OF GYP

Right-Wing Anarchist in Fin-de-Siecle France
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 An insightful biography of a compelling and paradoxical protagonist of modern French culture. In depicting the life and career of Gyp, Silverman (French/Penn State Univ.) illuminates the many contradictions of fin-de-siäcle France. Sibylle-Gabrielle Marie-Antoinette de Riquetti de Mirabeau, comtesse de Martel de Janville, adopted the male nom de plume ``Gyp.'' An extraordinarily prolific writer, she produced, between 1880 and 1930, over 100 novels, 20 plays, hundreds of articles, and four volumes of memoirs. She was the last descendant of the great Revolutionary orator Mirabeau; not without consequence, she was also related to the notorious counter- revolutionary Mirabeau-Tonneau. This contradictory political legacy would eventually coalesce to create what Silverman calls a ``right- wing anarchist.'' Gyp was a fervid nationalist and fanatical defender of the French Right. In 1899, at the height of the Dreyfus Affair, when asked to state her profession, she replied, ``Anti- Semite.'' Her political heroes included Napoleon, General Boulanger, and other champions of the centralized, authoritarian state. Gyp's political contradictions were matched by personal ones. As a woman and the last of the Mirabeau line, she was never allowed to forget that the distinguished family name would die with her. Her officer father, often absent, was killed in an absurd military accident, and her mother was an unloving woman, jealous of her daughter's commercial and social success. In her obsessive desire to obtain power and autonomy, as well as her crusade against the corset and arranged marriages, Gyp was sometimes deemed a feminist, an attribute she vehemently rejected as she created a personal, Manichean myth of female vice and male virtue. But if we allow the oxymoron of a ``right-wing anarchist,'' then we can admit a second conceptual contradiction--Gyp as a ``misogynist feminist.'' Although Silverman's characterization of Gyp as an anarchist is strained, the book is a fascinating examination of fin-de-siäcle France and one of its most provocative figures.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-19-508754-2
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1994