Book Excerpt! Virginia Woolf: A Portrait by Viviane Forrester

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For Woolf fans, [Virginia Woolf: A Portrait] is a provocative portrait, richly woven with Woolf’s distinctive voice and Forrester’s faithful echo.
~Maureen McCarthy, Star Tribune

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For our final post for Women in Translation Month–a time in which we celebrate the work of women writers in translation–we are featuring Viviane Forrester’s Virginia Woolf: A Portrait, translated from the French by Jody Gladding and newly published in paperback.

Written by the late writer and literary critic Vivian Forrester (1925-2013), Virginia Woolf: A Portrait was originally published in French in 2008 and was awarded the presitigious Prix Goncourt for Biography in 2009. The book is not a traditional biography though. Literary scholar Anne Fernald describes it well in her review of the book in Open Letters Monthly:

“As a second or third account of Woolf’s life, it offers unexpected insights and useful challenges to settled ideas about Woolf, her friendships, her marriage, and her imagination. Progressing in sections through five key relationships in Woolf’s life—her husband, her family of origin, her sister Vanessa Bell and Bloomsbury, other writers, and death itself. Forrester’s book emphasizes deep psychological motivations. . . . When the fiction comes in, however, Forrester often offers an astute and interesting connection to Woolf’s life. Bad or lazy biographers draw straight lines, linking historical figures to fictional characters. Forrester never does that. Instead, she shows patterns of imagery, suggestive links, taking up seldom-quoted diary entries and juxtaposing them against less-familiar passages from the novels to illuminate something that, at its best, seems both fresh and apt.”

Blending primary sources, personal interviews with Woolf’s relatives and other acquaintances, and recently unearthed documents Forrester presents a portrait of this beloved writer that forces readers to rethink their understanding of Woolf, her writing, and her world.

Take a look for yourself in this excerpt from the beginning of the book.

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