Bollmann, Stefan 1958-

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Bollmann, Stefan 1958-

PERSONAL:

Born 1958.

CAREER:

Writer, editor, and publisher.

WRITINGS:

Selbsterlösung oder Selbsterhaltung: Thomas Mann's Roman Der Zauberberg im Kontext (nonfiction; title means "Self-Release or Self-Preservation: Thomas Mann's Novel The Magic Mountain in Context"), Bollmann (Dusseldorf, Germany), 1991

(Editor, with Edith Flusser) Vilém Flusser, Schriften (nonfiction; title means "Works"), five volumes, Bollmann (Belsheim, Germany), 1993-96.

(Editor, with Edith Flusser) Vilém Flusser, Jude Sein: Essays, Briefe, Fiktionen (anthology; title means "The Jews: Essays, Letters, Fiction"), Bollmann (Mannheim, Germany), 1995.

(Editor) Kursbuch Stadt: Stadtleben und Stadtkultur an der Jahrtausendwende (nonfiction; title means "City Course Book: City Life and City Culture at the Turn of the Century"), Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt (Stuttgart, Germany), 1999

(Editor) Patient Deutschland: Eine Therapie (nonfiction; title means "Patient Germany: A Therapy"), Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt (Stuttgart, Germany), 2002

Frauen, die Lesen, Sind Gefährlich (nonfiction), Sandmann (Munich, Germany), 2005, translation by Christine Shuttleworth published as Reading Women, Merrell Publishers (New York, NY), 2006.

Frauen, die Schreiben, Leben Gefährlich (nonfiction), Sandmann (Munich, Germany), 2006, translation by Helen Atkins published as Women Who Write, Merrell Publishers (New York, NY), 2007.

SIDELIGHTS:

German author Stefan Bollmann is a scholar of the works of novelist Thomas Mann and Czech philosopher Vilém Flusser, and his works translated into English include a study of art that depicts women reading and a study of women authors. Both of the latter works are extensively illustrated and view their subjects in terms of women's changing roles over the past few centuries.

Reading Women gathers 200 paintings, drawings, and photographs, from medieval to modern times, that portray women reading, with Bollmann providing historical information and commentary on the images. He discusses the artistic intentions behind each work and the culture in which the work was done, noting, among other things, that in many societies and eras it was frowned upon for women to read—something also covered by Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club, in her foreword to Reading Women. The book's original German title translates as "Women Who Read Are Dangerous."

The book covers a broad range of art, some pieces famous, some relatively obscure. The works include Simone Martini's Annunciation, from the fourteenth century; Rembrandt's The Prophetess Anna and Johannes Vermeer's Woman Reading a Letter, from the seventeenth century; Jean-Honoré Fragonard's A Young Girl Reading, from the eighteenth century; James McNeill Whistler's Reading by Lamplight and Vincent van Gogh's L'Arlésienne (Madame Joseph-Michel Ginoux), from the nineteenth century; and Albert Marquet's painting Standing Female Nude, André Dunoyer de Segonzac's sketch of the author Colette, Theodore Miller's photograph of his daughter Lee (a photographer herself) and her friend Tanja Ramm, and Eve Arnold's photograph of film star Marilyn Monroe reading James Joyce's Ulysses, from the twentieth century.

Several critics thought Bollmann's efforts made a well-written and insightful companion to the book's beautifully reproduced color images, and found the volume had much to say about women's hard-won right to literacy. Reading Women, reported Amy Finnerty in the New York Times Book Review, is "sharply curated" by Bollmann and "not only offers a trove of visual riches, but also poses cultural questions from times when women burned with an ardor for self-improvement (or, just as threateningly, for private divertissement): should women be allowed to imagine lives different from their own? To think about politics, foreign travel or adultery while sitting in a park or lying in bed?"

Donna Seaman, writing in Booklist, remarked that Bollmann brings to the book "shrewd and entertaining commentary" on a "delectably wide spectrum" of art. She further observed that the artworks are "heart-lifting." A contributor to Internet Bookwatch saw the book as a "celebration" of its subject and pronounced it "highly recommended." Evelyn Small, reviewing Reading Women for the Washington Post Book World, related that it made reading look extremely appealing; it made her "want to find a comfy chaise lounge, put up my feet and pick up a book."

Women Who Write covers a varied group of women writers, including Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Anne Frank, Sophie Scholl, Ingeborg Bachmann, Marguerite Duras, Toni Morrison, Isabel Allende, and Johanna Spyri, all illustrated with a painting or photo. Bollmann writes a brief biography of each, and along with Francine Prose, who wrote a foreword to the book, touches on the fact that writing, like reading, has been considered a subversive activity for women. This book's original German title translates as "Women Who Write Are Also Dangerous."

Like Reading Women, Women Who Write won praise for advancing the understanding of its subject. In Booklist, Donna Seaman remarked that in comparison to the previous work, Women Who Write offers "an equally magnetic mix of pictures and commentary," and she called Bollmann's essays "succinct yet revealing." Kirsha Frye-Matte, a contributor to the FeministReview, observed that "Bollmann has compiled a book that is not only beautiful in its presentation, but is intimate in the intricate details that it provides for each writer." Megan Milks, writing for PopMatters, found Women Who Write "more informational than it is activist," but nevertheless maintained that "it is a feminist book, and it will likely inspire readers of all genders, but especially women, through its celebration of women who did what they weren't supposed to."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, February 15, 2006, Donna Seaman, review of Reading Women, p. 36; June 1, 2007, Donna Seaman, review of Women Who Write, p. 32.

Guardian (London, England), April 29, 2006, "Solitary Pleasures."

New York Times Book Review, December 3, 2006, Amy Finnerty, review of Reading Women, p. 29.

Washington Post Book World, December 3, 2006, Evelyn Small, review of Reading Women, p. 8.

ONLINE

California Bookwatch,http://www.midwestbookreview.com/ (May, 2006), review of Reading Women.

Feminist Review,http://feministreview.blogspot.com/ (August 20, 2007), Kirsha Frye-Matte, review of Women Who Write.

Internet Bookwatch,http://www.midwestbookreview.com/ (May, 2006), review of Reading Women.

PopMatters,http://www.popmatters.com/ (August 10, 2007), Megan Milks, review of Women Who Write.