Selfies

Author: Sylvie Weil (Author) , Ros Schwartz (Translated by) , Cecile Menon (Edited by) , Vivian Maier (Photographs by) , Marc Riboud (Photographs by)
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  • : $34.00(NZD)
  • : 9781999331825
  • : Les Fugitives
  • : Les Fugitives
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  • : May 2019
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  • : March 2019
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  • : books

Special Fields

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  • : Sylvie Weil (Author) , Ros Schwartz (Translated by) , Cecile Menon (Edited by) , Vivian Maier (Photographs by) , Marc Riboud (Photographs by)
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  • : Paperback
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  • : English
  • : 709
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Barcode 9781999331825
9781999331825

Local Description

______________________________
THOMAS'S REVIEW:
The hands holding the book in the painting by Markus Schinwald, and the black curtains between which they protrude, are painted in such a way as to make the viewer suspect that they are looking at a painting, or a part of a painting, by some Old Master, and the viewer, upon researching further, feels a little cheated to find that the artist is still alive. Had we perhaps confused even the name Markus Schinwald with that of some minor Germanic Old Master — perhaps a painter of agonising crucifixions, memento mori and surgically accurate Sts. Sebastians — which would have given this painting, in which the person holding the book into the light is effectively bodiless, concealed behind curtains, a disconcertingly suppressed reference to physical suffering? Maybe we should not feel cheated. Maybe it is the reference to the reference, by way of our confusion, that gives the painting, for us, its meaning. 

In the picture I didn't end up taking of myself I am sitting in an elderly armchair, the pile of its plush worn to the ghost of its original pattern on the arms and upper back. Beside me is a rather spindly green table upon which sits a vase of stocks, wilted at their tops, and a small empty coffee cup, a lip-mark of coffee at its rim. The sideboard behind me is stacked with books, and the fading light falls from my right onto the book I hold at an odd angle as if trying to postpone the moment in which I will have to get up and switch on a light. I am wearing a heavy mustard jersey, no longer worth darning, under which another jersey can be seen, and my head is thrust awkwardly forward over the oddly angled book, which I seem to be on the verge of finishing. Its title can be read despite the shadow: Selfies by Sylvie Weil. 
*
The thirteen exquisite pieces of memoir that comprise Selfies each begin with a description of an actual artwork, a self-portrait by a woman ranging from the thirteen century to today. This ekphrasis is followed by a description of a (possibly hypothetical) self-portrait by Weil which echoes or resonates with the historical work and provides a means of access to the third section of each piece, a more (but variously) lengthy examination of one of the more significant or uncomfortable aspects of Weil’s life. This tripartite structure demonstrates how viewing art can unlock new levels of understanding of our own lives, and how the communication of a stranger’s moment by means of a surface invariably stimulates the viewer’s memory to read that moment in terms of moments from the viewer’s own life, moments pressing at the surface of consciousness from the other side, so to speak. Viewing is remembering. The rigour and delicacy Weil demonstrates in viewing the artists’ works allows her to apply a similar set of criteria to her own memory-images, resulting in a remarkably nuanced set of realisations to be accessed and conveyed, potentially provoking a similar deepening of access in a reader to her or his own memories. Weil’s prose, pellucidly translated from the French by Ros Schwartz, gauges subtle shifts of tone, frequently shifting our understanding of situations or persons before any knowledge about them is attained. The awful American mathematician with whom Weil had a love affair, her son’s mother-in-law, the close friend of her mother’s, the unsympathetic owners of a “Jewish” dog, are all revealed as having complex and often ambiguous relationships with the surfaces they present. Weil’s sentences, at once so straight-forward and so subtle, can move both outwards and inwards at once, operating at various depths simultaneously, as when Weil describes responses to her adult son’s mental breakdown: “I reply politely to friends who say: ‘I wouldn’t be able to cope if something like that happened to my son.’ I didn’t tell them that it could happen to anyone. And that they would cope, as people do. They’d have no choice. I don’t reply that they deserve to have it happen to them. Deep down, I agree that it is unlikely to happen to them. Not to them.” Precision often leads us to the verge of humour, as when Weil describes “the remains of a smile abruptly cut short, as if by the sudden and unexpected arrival of a dangerous animal.” The ‘Self-portrait as an author,’ springing from a description of a 1632 self-portrait of Judith Leyster seen as an advertisement for her portrait commissions (a commercial imperative), is a devastatingly perfect, almost Cuskian account of the people who visited Weil’s signing table at a literary festival. The book is full of images, or moments, details, that implant themselves in the mind of the reader and continue to resonate there in a way similar to the reader’s own memories. What is the purpose of self-depiction? “Everyone takes selfies,” Weil observes. “It’s a way of going unnoticed,” but at the same time each selfie is a form of searching, an attempt to locate oneself, somehow, in the circumstances that comprise one’s life. Memory is the only way we have to attempt to make sense of these moments. 
{THOMAS}

 

Taking selfies is not the exclusive preserve of millennials.

In Selfies, Sylvie Weil gives a playful twist to the concept of self-representation: taking her cue from self-portraits by women artists, ranging from the 13th c. through the Renaissance to Frida Kahlo and Vivian Maier, Weil has written a memoir in pieces, where each picture acts as a portal to a significant moment from her own life and sparks anecdotes tangentially touching on topical issues: from the Palestinian question to the pain of a mother witnessing her son’s psychotic breakdown, to the subtle manifestations of anti-Semitism, to ageism, genetics, and a Jewish dog...

‘A beguiling series of vignettes, by turns wry, amusing and disturbing, inspired by self-portraits by women artists and reflecting on the images they provoke. An illuminating survey of the author's various identities, in a fractured world, as mother, lover and writer.’ – Michèle Roberts

‘A new genre is born: the short selfie collection! Lively, inventive, compassionate, aching, morally complex and troubling, I loved these self-portraits more than anything I’ve read lately.’ – Lauren Elkin

Description: Taking selfies is not the exclusive preserve of millennials. In Selfies, the niece of French philosopher Simone Weil, also daughter of one of the most brilliant mathematicians of the 20th c., gives a playful twist to the concept of self-representation: taking her cue from self-portraits by women artists, ranging from the 13th c. through the Renaissance to Frida Kahlo and Vivian Maier, Weil has written a memoir in pieces, that is yet unified. Each picture acts as a portal to a significant moment from Weil's own life (as schoolgirl, writer, daughter and mother) and sparks anecdotes tangentially touching on topical issues (from the Palestinian question to the pain of a mother witnessing her son's psychotic breakdown, to the subtle manifestations of anti-Semitism, to ageism, genetics, and a Jewish dog...). Switching from poignant to light-hearted, with Weil's trademark irony and self-deprecating humour, Selfies is a sophisticated, `delightful read', with heartwrenching tendencies.

Review: Reviews of Sylvie Weil's 'At Home with Andre and Simone', published by Northwestern University Press, USA, 2010 : `...an elegant and witty memoir-cum-reflection.' -The Spectator. `Sylvie Weil's memoir is simply one of the best books I've read in the past decade. At turns poignant, poetic, and deeply personal'-Paul LeClerc, president, The New York Public Library. `The missing link in the story of Andre and Simone Weil is Sylvie Weil, daughter of the great mathematician, niece of the legendary philosopher. In her memoirs... the 'merely' personal is transformed into something rich and strange.' -Palle Yourgrau, author of A World Without Time: The Forgotten Legacy of Goedel and Einstein.

Contents: 13 chapters including Self-portrait at the organ, Self-portrait as a capital letter, Self-portrait with postcard, Self-portrait as a visitor, Self-portrait with portrait of my son, Self-portrait as a Chinese mushroom, Self-portrait with dog, Stabat mater, Self-portrait as an author, Self-portrait on the beach, Self-portrait as a maker of idols, Self-portraits in fugitive mirrors, Photobomb selfie.

 

Author Biography: Sylvie Weil is the author of fiction and non-fiction works published in France and, in English translation, in the USA. The daughter of Andre Weil, one of the twentieth century's most brilliant mathematicians (and a founding member of Bourbaki) and the niece of Simone Weil, one of its most important philosophers, Sylvie was born in the United States but was raised in Paris. She now divides her time between Paris and New York City. After teaching French literature in several American universities she devoted herself to writing. Her critically acclaimed memoir 'Chez les Weil' was translated and published in several languages, in English by Northwestern University Press in 2010 (At Home with Andre and Simone'). She has published several collections of short stories and has contributed stories to literary magazines. Her fiction work for young adults has won the prestigious Prix Sorcieres in France.

Promotional Information: `A beguiling series of vignettes, by turns wry, amusing and disturbing, inspired by self-portraits by women artists and reflecting on the images they provoke. An illuminating survey of the author's various identities, in a fractured world, as mother, lover and writer.' - Michele Roberts. `A new genre is born: the short selfie collection! Lively, inventive, compassionate, aching, morally complex and troubling, I loved these self-portraits more than anything I've read lately.' - Lauren Elkin. 'In Selfies Sylvie Weil uses a work of an artist to set the theme for a snapshot of a past episode in her life. These selfies are exquisite vignettes - intelligent, witty, observant, sometimes poignant, and beautifully written - the elegance of the original French apparent in this fine English translation.' - Piers Paul Read . 'If yesteryear's painted self-portraits were as concerned with pose and presentation as are today's phone selfies, Sylvie Weil is the ideal analyst of what may lie behind the image. In a sequence of transpositions of the work of women portraitists from the Renaissance onwards, she applies their appearance to her experience, and implies a continuity in women's self-presentation. Like them, Sylvie Weil has an illustrious heritage (daughter to Andre a brilliant and renowned mathematician; niece to Simone, a brilliant and renowned philosopher). Unlike them, she moves from the visual to the verbal, expressive of both profound truth and imagination.' - Amanda Hopkinson Front cover photograph (c) Estate of Vivian Maier, Courtesy Maloof Collection and Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York End page photograph of the author by Marc Riboud, courtesy of Catherine Riboud, Paris