Kaplan, Alice 1954- (Alice Y. Kaplan, Alice Yaeger Kaplan)

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Kaplan, Alice 1954- (Alice Y. Kaplan, Alice Yaeger Kaplan)


Born June 22, 1954, in Minneapolis, MN; daughter of Sidney J. (an attorney) and Leonore (a social worker) Kaplan. Education: University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1975; Yale University, Ph. D., 1981.


Office—Department of Romance Studies, 217A Language Center, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708. E-mail—[email protected]


Literary critic, translator, historian, and educator. Former faculty member, Columbia University and North Carolina State University; Duke University, Durham, NC, began as associate professor, became professor of Romance studies and literature, 1986—, Gilbert, Louis, and Edward Lehrman Professor of Romance Studies and History, and founding director of Duke Center for French and Francophone Studies. American Heritage Dictionary, member of usage panel; South Atlantic Quarterly, member of editorial board.


Modern Language Association of America, PEN, Association pour l'autobiographie et le patrimoine autobiographique, Société des études céliniennes, American Literary Translators Association.


Grant from National Humanities Center, 1989-90; French Lessons: A Memoir was named a New York Times notable book, 1993; grant from Stanford Humanities Center, 1994-95; Guggenheim fellow, 1995-96; finalist for National Book Award for nonfiction, 2000, and Los Angeles Times Book Prize in history, 2001, both for The Collaborator; Henry Adams Prize, Society for History in the Federal Government, 2005, for The Interpreter.


(Under name Alice Yeager Kaplan) Reproductions of Banality: Fascism, Literature, and French Intellectual Life, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1986.

(Under name Alice Yeager Kaplan) Relevé des sources et citations dans "Bagatelles pour un massacre," Editions du Lerot (Tusson, France), 1988.

French Lessons: A Memoir, University of Chicago Press (Chicago), 1993.

The Collaborator: The Trial and Execution of Robert Brasillach, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2000.

The Interpreter, Free Press (New York, NY), 2005.

Contributor of articles and reviews to periodicals, including Yale French Studies and South Atlantic Quarterly. Some writings also appear under the name Alice Y. Kaplan.


Roger Grenier, Another November, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 1998.

Roger Grenier, The Difficulty of Being a Dog, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2000.

(And author of preface) Roger Grenier, Piano Music for Four Hands, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 2001.

(And author of introduction) Louis Guilloux, OK, Joe (novel), University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2003.

Evelyne Bloch-Dano, Madame Proust: A Biography, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2007.


In The Collaborator: The Trial and Execution of Robert Brasillach, Alice Kaplan recounts the life, work, and death of a French citizen who would gain fame as a novelist, poet, and playwright. In 1938 he was called up for military service and became a prisoner of war after Germany invaded France. Virulently anti-Semitic, Brasillach disclosed Jewish fellow prisoners to his Nazi prison guards; his reward was an early release.

As a free man, Brasillach became an open Third Reich supporter, using his talents as a writer to produce tracts castigating and condemning European Jewry. With France's liberation in 1944, Brasillach became one of the thousands of suspected collaborators collared by the Resistance government. His trial, "as recreated by Kaplan, is suffused with the drama and heft of Dreyfus' or Joan of Arc's," according to Richard Corliss in a Time review of The Collaborator.

Convicted of "intelligence with the enemy," Brasillach was sentenced to death by firing squad—a war-crime execution based on the written word. What would drive an otherwise apolitical man to abandon his upbringing and revere the Third Reich? Kaplan's work in The Collaborator reveals one theory: that Brasillach subjugated his latent homosexual tendencies in a homoerotic fascination with the uniformed Aryans idealized by Hitler's Germany.

Kaplan argues that the collaborator, though guilty of treason, should not have been executed, "at least in part because it made him a martyr to Holocaust deniers." Equally important, commented a Kirkus reviewer, Kaplan "exhumes the lives and roles" of the attorneys and jury at Brasillach's trial. "With exemplary balance, she gives them all their due." A Publishers Weekly critic labeled The Collaborator a "rare scholarly page-turner" that "brilliantly demonstrates how a trial, and the lives of individuals, can serve as a metaphor for an entire nation."

Kaplan told CA: "After working on an English translation of Louis Giulloux's novel OK, Joe, I remained interested in the historical circumstances lurking behind the writing of the novel. I discovered that the events of OK, Joe were partially based upon Guilloux's experiences working as a translator for the U.S. Army in Normandy, and in particular with Guilloux's disturbing encounter with the racism and segregated justice the soldiers had brought with them from America.

"The Interpreter hinges on a pair of trials, the trial of James Hendricks, an African American soldier accused of shooting a French farmer and sexually assaulting his daughter, and the trial of George Whittington, a white officer who shot and killed a member of the French Resistance outside a bar. Hendricks was hung; Whittington was acquitted. In an interview with Will Haygood in the Washington Post, I said that I was trying to show how powerful white privilege can be: ‘This isn't a book about innocent victims. It's more complex than that. It's the kind of story people deal with when they're talking about the disproportionate death sentences between blacks and whites.’"

Critics generally responded favorably to Kaplan's account. In School Library Journal, Alan Gropman called The Interpreter an "elegantly written, solidly researched, articulate history." Library Journal contributor Anthony Edmonds recommended it as "a major contribution to investigative history." New York Times Book Review reviewer Christopher Caldwell, however, offered a different opinion. While acknowledging that racism was rampant in the European theater of the U.S. Army during World War II, he challenged whether Kaplan's account or, for that matter, the novel that inspired it actually validates that truth. He pointed out that the novel portrayed the two soldiers as the novelist saw them, not necessarily as they really were, and that the facts as Kaplan presents them do not provide clear-cut proof of justice served or denied. A Publishers Weekly contributor, however, found The Interpreter to be a timely contribution to "today's controversies over race and capital punishment."



Booklist, April 15, 2000, review of The Collaborator: The Trial and Execution of Robert Brasillach, p. 1520.

Kirkus Reviews, March, 2000, review of The Collaborator; July 15, 2005, review of The Interpreter, p. 777.

Library Journal, March 1, 2000, review of The Collaborator, p. 108; August 1, 2005, Anthony Edmonds, review of The Interpreter, p. 100.

Los Angeles Times, September 5, 2005, Michael S. Roth, review of The Interpreter, p. E8.

National Review, June 19, 2000, "Odd Man Out," p. 56.

New York Times, April 30, 2000, David A. Bell, review of The Collaborator, p. 10; May 10, 2000, Richard Bernstein, review of The Collaborator, p. B11; September 25, 2005, Christopher Caldwell, review of The Interpreter, p. 35.

Publishers Weekly, February 28, 2000, review of The Collaborator, p. 70; July 25, 2005, review of The Interpreter, p. 62.

School Library Journal, April, 2006, Alan Gropman, review of The Interpreter, p. 170.

Time (international edition), May 15, 2000, Richard Corliss, "Killed for His Words," p. 63.

Washington Post, October 28, 2005, Will Haygood, interview of Kaplan and review of The Interpreter, p. C3.


Talk of the Nation (radio broadcast transcript), National Public Radio, September 29, 2005, Lynn Neary, interview of Kaplan.

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Kaplan, Alice 1954- (Alice Y. Kaplan, Alice Yaeger Kaplan)

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