Assouline, Pierre 1953–
Assouline, Pierre 1953–
PERSONAL: Born 1953, in Casablanca, Morocco.
ADDRESSES: Home—72 boulevard Flandrin, Paris 75016, France.
CAREER: Journalist, biographer, and writer. Lire (French literary magazine), editor.
Monsieur Dassault, Balland (Paris, France), 1983.
Gaston Gallimard: Un demi-siècle d'éedition française, Balland (Paris, France), 1984, translation by Harold J. Salemson published as Gaston Gallimard: A Half-Century of French Publishing, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (San Diego, CA), 1988.
Une éminence grise: Jean Jardin (1904–1976), Balland (Paris, France), 1986.
L'homme de l'art: D.-H. Kahnweiler, 1884–1979, Balland (Paris, France), 1988, translation by Charles Ruas published as An Artful Life: A Biography of D.H. Kahnweiler, 1884–1979, Grove Weidenfeld (New York, NY), 1990.
Albert Londres: Vie et mort d'un grand reporter, 1884–1932, Balland (Paris, France), 1989.
Simenon: Biographie, Julliard (Paris, France), 1992, translation by Jon Rothschild published as Simenon: A Biography, Knopf (New York, NY), 1997.
Trois hommes d'influence, Balland (Paris, France), 1994.
Hergé: Biographie, Plon (Paris, France), 1996.
Grâces lui soient rendues: Paul Durand-Ruel, le marchand des impressionnistes, Plon (Paris, France), 2002, translation by Willard Wood and Anthony Roberts published as Discovering Impressionism: The Life and Times of Paul Durand-Ruel, Vendome Press (New York, NY), 2004.
La cliente, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1998.
Double vie, Gallimard (Paris, France), 2000.
Etat limite, Gallimard (Paris, France), 2003.
Lutetia, Gallimard (Paris, France), 2005.
(With Philippe Dampenon) De nos envoyes speciaux: Les coulisses du reportage, J.-C. Simoen (Paris, France), 1977.
Lourdes: Histoires d'eau, A. Moreau (Paris, France), 1980.
Les nouveaux convertis: Enquête sur les chrétiens, des juifs et des musulmans pas comme las eutres, A. Michel (Paris, France), 1982.
L'epuration des intellectuels, 1944–1945 (history), Editions Complexe (Brussels, Belgium), 1985.
Le fleuve Combelle, Calmann-Levy (Paris, France), 1997.
Le dernier des Camondo, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1997.
Elles: Histoires de femmes, Filipacchi (Paris, France), 1999.
SIDELIGHTS: Pierre Assouline is a French journalist, biographer, and historian who rose to the rank of editor-in-chief during his twenty-year career with Lire, the French literary magazine. As an author, he has published a number of books examining the lives and careers of significant figures in twentieth-century French literature and art. His first book, De nos envoyes speciaux: Les coulisses du reportage, an examination of French foreign correspondents, was written with Philippe Dampenon and published in 1977. In the early 1980s Assouline wrote nonfiction works on such topics as the religious pilgrimage site at Lourdes and religious conversions. He then focused on the biography genre, in which he would later produce his best-known works. His first biography, Monsieur Dassault, which was published in 1983, examines the life and career of Marcel Dassault, a French aviation executive with Bordeaux-Aronautique. During the 1980s Assouline published additional biographies on such figures as the politician Jean Jardin and journalist Albert Londres.
Among Assouline's works is the 1984 biography Gaston Gallimard: Un demi-siècle d'éedition française, which was translated into English by Harold J. Salemson as Gaston Gallimard: A Half-Century of French Publishing. Gallimard was the founder of the influential French publishing company that bears his name and has published the works of many of the most prominent authors of the first half of the twentieth century, including Albert Camus, Andre Gide, Andre Malraux, Francois Mauriac, Marcel Proust, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Paul Valery. Michael Edmonds, reviewing the translated biography in the Library Journal, called Gaston Gallimard an "engrossing book" and added that the work presents a view of the twentieth-century French literary world that is "richly textured and well proportioned." A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that "Assouline has done a remarkable job in weaving together all the strands in a rich and complex career" and further described the biography as "meticulously researched." Mavis Gallant of the New York Times Book Review called Gaston Gallimard "an admirably evenhanded account."
L'epuration des intellectuels, 1944–1945, published in 1985, offers Assouline's examination of the postwar purge of French intellectuals who collaborated with the Nazis during the Occupation period of World War II. Patrick McCarthy in the Times Literary Supplement noted that in addition to portraying the trials, executions, and suicides that characterized the period, "Assouline also offers useful addenda, like the text of Article 75 which served as the legal basis for much of the purge."
Assouline's 1988 work, L'homme de l'art: D.-H. Kahnweiler, 1884–1979, was translated into English by Charles Ruas as An Artful Life: A Biography of D.H. Kahnweiler, 1884–1979 in 1990. Its subject, the influential art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, was just twenty-three years old when he opened his Parisian art gallery and eventually became one of the most important dealers of the twentieth century. He began in 1907, assembling works by Henri Matisse and other Fauves, including Andre Derain and Georges Braque, and later secured works by the chief Cubists, including Pablo Picasso, Fernand Leger, and Juan Gris. In Library Journal, Mary Hamel-Schwulst observed that those working in the field of art would find the book's details noteworthy, while average readers would "benefit from the opportunity to acquaint themselves with the man and his foibles." Hilton Kramer, critiquing the biography in the New York Times Book Review, commented: "The book is a good read, but in the end we are reminded of how thin the literature on art dealers really is." Writing in Booklist, Mary Ellen Quinn concluded that An Artful Life gives the reader "a useful record of a major force in the history of twentieth-century art."
In his 1992 biographical study, Simenon: Biographie, which was translated into English by Jon Rothschild as Simenon: A Biography in 1997, Assouline surveys the life and career of Georges Simenon, who was among the most flamboyant and prolific French authors of the twentieth century. Best-known for his series of "Inspector Maigret" detective novels, Simenon wrote hundreds of works under his own name and under more than fifteen pseudonyms, including twenty volumes of autobiographical material that disclose his numerous sexual exploits. Richard Boston, whose review of the study appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, noted: "Assouline gives us more publishing detail than will engage the attention of most readers, but otherwise his biography is well balanced…. His comments on the novels are sensible and commendably brief." Boston continued: "Assouline helpfully shows how themes, incidents and even physical details from the life are turned into fiction. He is adroit in the use he makes of his sources." New York Times critic Christopher Lehmann-Haupt called Simenon "absorbing" and commented that "despite its ugly portrait of Simenon, Mr. Assouline's biography does offer a serious assessment of his value as a writer, along with a plausible interpretation of what drove him to write so prodigiously." In World Literature Today, Lucille F. Becker praised Simenon as "the definitive biography of one of the world's most widely read novelists," while a Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that "scholarly Simenonists will be delighted to find in the back of the book exhaustive lists of everything by or about Simenon, including a filmography."
For Assouline's Henri Cartier-Bresson: L'oeil du siècle, a biography of the renowned photojournalist which was published in English as Henri Cartier-Bresson: A Biography, Assouline interviewed his subject numerous times over the course of five years. As a Publishers Weekly reviewer noted, rather than a strictly factual account of Cartier-Bresson's life or a critical appraisal of his work, Assouline writes "a portrait … summarized with generalizations of the artist's approach toward art and life." This approach "brings out Cartier-Bresson's restless, tactlessness and general unpredictability," wrote John Jolliffe in Apollo, but "also his enthusiasm, and his belief in chance."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Scholar, autumn, 1986, Philip Kolb, review of Gaston Gallimard: Un demi-siècle d'éedition française, p. 557.
Apollo, October, 2005, John Jolliffe, review of Henri Cartier-Bresson: A Biography, p. 68.
Art in America, June-July, 2005, review of Discovering Impressionism: The Life of Paul Durand-Ruel, p. 71.
Biography, spring, 1993, p. 173.
Booklist, July, 1990, Mary Ellen Quinn, review of An Artful Life: A Biography of D.H. Kahnweiler, 1884–1979, p. 2058; March 1, 1993, review of Simenon: Biographie, p. 1161.
Bookwatch, July, 1988, p. 4.
Choice, January, 1991, p. 766.
Guardian Weekly, October 4, 1992, p. 18.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 1988, p. 504; June 1, 1990, p. 771.
Library Journal, May 1, 1988, Michael Edmonds, review of Gaston Gallimard: A Half-Century of French Publishing, p. 75; August, 1989, Mary Hamel-Schwulst, review of An Artful Life, p. 117.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, October 7, 1990, p. 11.
Nation, October 29, 1990, Susan Grace Galassi, review of An Artful Life, p. 502.
New Republic, October 1, 1990, E.V. Thaw, review of An Artful Life, p. 38.
New Yorker, July 1, 1991, John Updike, review of An Artful Life, p. 84.
New York Times, July 21, 1997, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, review of Simenon: A Biography, p. B7.
New York Times Book Review, September 18, 1988, Mavis Gallant, review of Gaston Gallimard, pp.11-12; September 2, 1990, Hilton Kramer, review of An Artful Life, pp. 8-9.
Publishers Weekly, April 15, 1988, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Gaston Gallimard, p. 68; June 29, 1990, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of An Artful Life, p. 92; September 27, 1991, review of An Artful Life, p. 55; April 28, 1997, review of Simenon, p. 56; September 19, 2005, review of Henri Cartier-Bresson, p. 56.
Reference and Research Book News, October, 1988, review of Gaston Gallimard, p. 32.
Times Literary Supplement, April 12, 1985, Patrick McCarthy, review of L'epuration des intellectuels, 1944–1945, p. 412; June 6, 1986, p. 625; February 5, 1993, Richard Boston, review of Simenon, p. 9.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), July 29, 1990, review of An Artful Life, p. 6.
World Literature Today, summer, 1985, p. 402; winter, 1994, Lucille F. Becker, "Georges Simenon," p. 83.