Kauffmann, Jean-Paul 1944–
Kauffmann, Jean-Paul 1944–
PERSONAL: Born 1944.
ADDRESSES: Agent—Random House UK, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 2SA England.
CAREER: Matin de Paris, Paris, France, reporter, beginning 1977; L'evénement du Jeudi, foreign correspondent; kidnapped and held hostage in Beirut, Lebanon, 1985–88. L'Amateur de Bordeaux, editor; L'Amateur de Cigare, chief editor.
AWARDS, HONORS: Prix Fémina, Prix Roger Nimier, Grand Prix Lire-RTL, Prix Jules Verne, Prix Joseph Kessel, and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, all for The Black Room at Longwood: Napoleon's Exile on Saint Helena; Prix Goncourt finalist, for La lutte avec l'ange; Prix de littérature Paul Morand, l'Académie française, 2002.
(With Daniel Le Gac) Juifs en Arabes en Palestine, Le Centurion (Paris, France), 1975.
(With Jacques-Pierre Amette and others) Ecrits pour Jean-Paul Kauffmann, Mazarine (Paris, France), 1986.
(With Frédéric H. Fajardie and others) Quartre Lettres à Jean-Paul Kauffmann, Beau Fixe (Paris, France), 1987.
L'arche des Kerguelen: voyage aux îles de la désolation, Flammarion (Paris, France), 1993, translation by Patricia Clancy published as The Arch of Kerguelen: Voyage to the Islands of Desolation, Four Walls Eight Windows (New York, NY), 2000.
La chambre noire de Longwood: Le voyage à Sainte-Hélène, La Table ronde (Paris, France), 1997, translation by Patricia Clancy published as The Black Room at Longwood: Napoleon's Exile on Saint Helena, Four Walls Eight Windows (New York, NY), 1999.
L'oeil original = Primal Eye, photographs by Frédéric Desmesure, Mollat (Bordeaux, France), 1997.
La morale d'Yquem/Alexandre de Lur Saluces, Mollat (Bordeaux, France), 1999.
La lutte avec l'ange, La Table ronde (Paris, France), 2001, translation by Patricia Clancy published as The Struggle with the Angel: Delacroix, Jacob, and the God of Good and Evil, 2002.
Thirty-one, allées Damour, La Table Ronde (Paris, France), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Jean-Paul Kauffmann, editor of L'Amateur de Cigare, a magazine for cigar connoisseurs, is also the author of several critically acclaimed works of nonfiction, including The Black Room at Longwood: Napoleon's Exile on Saint Helena, winner of the Prix Fémina. Kauffmann is also the recipient of the 2002 Prix de littérature Paul Morand.
A former journalist, Kauffmann wrote for the French newspapers Matin de Paris and L'Evénement du Jeudi. On May 22, 1985, while serving as a foreign correspondent in Lebanon, he was kidnapped by Shiite Muslim fundamentalists. For much of his confinement, Kauffmann was kept chained and blindfolded in a basement, where, to preserve his sanity, he recited daily a list of famous wines. He was released in 1988 after almost three years in captivity. In a 1989 interview with Newsweek contributors Beatrix de Koster and Christopher Dickey, Kauffmann described how it felt to be free: "It's like being a deep-sea diver who comes up for air, but you don't come up all at once. Sometimes I feel it's a miracle, as if I'm a survivor—or a thief, because every minute I live I feel as if I've stolen from death."
Kauffmann eventually left his career as a journalist to become a magazine editor, and he began publishing a series of memoirs, including The Arch of Kerguelen: Voyage to the Islands of Desolation. "Part personal exploration, part historical narrative," according to Library Journal critic Janet Ross, The Arch of Kerguelen recounts Kauffmann's journey to the Kerguelen Islands, a bleak, isolated cluster of isles located in the southern Indian Ocean. Having first learned of the Kerguelens as a child, Kauffmann had long wanted to view a wondrous stone arch, discovered by French naval captain Yves-Joseph de Kerguelen, that stood more than three hundred feet high. In the work, Kauffmann describes his difficult trek to the arch and offers his thoughts on topics such as exile and solitude; as Curwen noted, "Kauffmann travels through the science and literature of the region, drawing portraits of the dreamers like himself who have been inextricably drawn to this desolation." Booklist contributor Gilbert Taylor stated that The Arch of Kerguelen "effectively comments on the ambience created when human dreams face nature's indifference."
Kauffmann traveled to the South Atlantic island of St. Helena for The Black Room at Longwood, "an inquiry into the mechanics of remembrance and regret," noted W. S. Di Piero in the New York Times Book Review. A prisoner of the British after his defeat at Waterloo, Napoleon Bonaparte lived in exile on St. Helena from 1815 until his death in 1821. In 1993 Kauffmann ventured to the island, where he visited Longwood, the house that served as Napoleon's final residence. "What he finds at Longwood is a rotting diorama, a monument to time as torture," stated Di Piero, who added, "The more he looks for articulations of the past, the more he realizes that the perfume of old memory provokes and vexes but does not restore." "The book, written in the form of a diary of Mr. Kauffmann's journey, eddies back and forth between reflections on Napoleon and contemporary encounters on the island," observed Roger Cohen Paris in the New York Times Book Review. "It moves slowly at first but gathers urgency as it confronts its major theme: the weight and strange intermittences of time in a place like Longwood, abandoned and yet charged with the past."
Several critics noted the parallels between Napoleon's exile and the author's own captivity. "Kauffmann never mentions his imprisonment in Lebanon," Paris remarked. "But like the eddying whiff of Margaux in his Beirut basement, the experiences permeates his book, giving the eternal ambiguity between subject and author a particular twist." A contributor in Publishers Weekly called The Black Room at Longwood a "stark meditation on Napoleon's confinement," noting that Kauffmann's "experience colors the entire text." "This is an engrossing and frequently moving chronicle," wrote Booklist reviewer Jay Freeman.
A mural by French Romantic painter Eugene Delacroix is the subject of Kauffmann's The Struggle with the Angel: Delacroix, Jacob, and the God of Good and Evil. In the work, the author contemplates the meaning of Delacroix's Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, found in the church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris, a work which took the artist eight years to complete. Among the subjects Kauffmann discusses are the history of Saint-Sulpice, the biblical passage in Genesis that inspired the mural, and the nature of God. Reviewing The Struggle with the Angel in Library Journal, Nadine Dalton Speidel wrote, "Kauffmann's insight is profound, and his connections from church to artist to humankind to his own life flourish."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kauffmann, Jean-Paul, The Arch of Kerguelen: Voyage to the Islands of Desolation, Four Walls Eight Windows (New York, NY), 2000.
Booklist, June 1, 1999, Jay Freeman, review of The Black Room at Longwood: Napoleon's Exile on Saint Helena, p. 1778; November 15, 2000, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Arch of Kerguelen: Voyage to the Islands of Desolation, p. 605.
Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2002, review of The Struggle with the Angel: Delacroix, Jacob, and the God of Good and Evil, p. 1448.
Library Journal, October 15, 2000, Janet Ross, review of The Arch of Kerguelen, p. 90; November 15, 2002, Nadine Dalton Speidel, review of The Struggle with the Angel, p. 68.
Los Angeles Times, December 21, 2001, Thomas Curwen, "Kingdom at the Edge of the World," review of The Arch of Kerguelen, p. E1.
Newsweek, June 5, 1989, Beatrix de Koster and Christopher Dickey, "'I Feel as If I'm a Thief': A Former Hostage Talks about Life under Guard," p. 42.
New York Times, May 27, 1985, "Two Frenchmen Kidnapped in Lebanon," p. A5; May 5, 1988, Youssef M. Ibrahim, "French Hostages Freed in Beirut; Boon for Chirac," p. A1.
New York Times Book Review, May 4, 1997, Roger Cohen, "Ways of Doing Time," review of The Black Room at Longwood, p. 35; September 5, 1999, W. S. Di Piero, "Napoleon Slept Here," review of The Black Room at Longwood, p. 23.
Publishers Weekly, June 7, 1999, review of The Black Room at Longwood, p. 64.
St. Petersburg Times, November 19, 2000, Philip Herter, "Foreign Correspondence," review of The Arch of Kerguelen.
World Literature Today, winter, 2002, Bettina L. Knapp, review of La lutte avec l'ange, p. 173.