This volume of eight essays written by French scholars analyzes Daniel Mendelsohn's first three volumes of nonfiction (The Elusive Embrace, 1999; The Lost, 2006; and An Odyssey, 2017) and includes an illustrated interview (2019) in which Mendelsohn tackles various aspects of his work as a literary and cultural critic, as a professor of classical literature, as a translator, and as a memoirist. The essay discussing The Elusive Embrace (1999) argues that, in addition to offering a subtle reflection on sexual identity and genres, Mendelsohn’s first volume already broadens his topic and patiently weaves links between ancient and present times, feeding his meditation with his knowledge of Greek culture and myths—a natural movement of back and forth which would become his signature. The Lost (2006), his much-acclaimed investigation on six members of his family who died during the period known as the Holocaust by bullets, is analyzed as a close-up on the disappearance of a whole world, the unspeakability of which Mendelsohn addressed through intertwining several languages, linguistic echoes, and biblical references. Finally, Mendelsohn’s recent An Odyssey (2017) is studied as a brilliant musing on teaching Homer’s masterpiece while building up a memoir on his declining father sitting among his students and allowing Homer’s universal questions and lessons to enlighten a father and son’s last journey.
Sophie Vallas is professor of American literature at Aix-Marseille University, France.
Prelude: “Daniel Mendelsohn: An Interview in Arles”
Interviewed by Sophie Vallas and Laurence Benarroche
Photographs by Andres Escobedo
1 The Elusive Embrace: A Gay Man’s Bi-passing the Fantasy of Oneness
Nicolas Pierre Boileau
2 Translation, Heteroglossia and Othering in Daniel Mendelsohn’s The Lost
3 Rescued from Oblivion–The Search for One of Six in Daniel Mendelsohn’s The Lost. Bronia as a Tragic Character
4 An Odyssey: The Lost Redux
5 “A great story.” On Odysseus’ Scar and Daniel Mendelsohn’s Odyssey
6 Conversion in Daniel Mendelsohn’s An Odyssey: Reworking the American Memoir
7 A Father in the Classroom: Patrimony as An Odyssey’s Arkhê Kakôn
8 Rosebed: The Stuff Beds Are Made of in Daniel Mendelsohn’s An Odyssey
About the Contributors
A pioneering collection exploring Daniel Mendelsohn's several works of memoir, with astute attention to their manifold dimensions, formal complexity, and literary quality. A worthy tribute to a master.
This is the first collection ever of Daniel Mendelsohn’s first three memoirs, preceded by a long interview offering an inspiring introduction to his work. A ground-breaking volume of essays that favors a close reading of Mendelsohn’s powerful texts.