The Schmooze

Uncarnal Love: Fictionalizing French Socialist Léon Blum

Ilan Greilsammer, who teaches political science and French culture at Bar-Ilan University, is the author of a 1996 biography from Les Éditions Flammarion of the French Jewish Socialist leader Léon Blum, as well as a 1998 “New History of Israel” (Gallimard). After editing Blum’s “Letters from Buchenwald” (2003; also from Gallimard), Greilsammer has just published a new take on Blum in the form of a novel.

“A Spanish Friendship” (“Une Amitié Espagnole”) from Les Éditions Grasset is Greilsammer’s first published work of fiction, and he has certainly followed the dictum to “write about what you know.”

The novel tells of a lovely upper class Spanish woman, Maria, whom a teenaged Blum meets at André Gide’s home in 1891. Adding sometimes over-detailed historical background, Greilsammer has Blum explain: “That evening I arrived at the home of Gide, who was three years older than myself.” When Blum describes Maria, the prose rings truer: “Her dark skin tone conveyed Mediterranean origins, she might have been an Arabian Jew or even an Arab.”

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Uncarnal Love: Fictionalizing French Socialist Léon Blum

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