Lottman, Herbert R. 1927-
LOTTMAN, Herbert R. 1927-
PERSONAL: Born August 16, 1927, in New York, NY; son of George D. (a Broadway press agent and a public relations representative) and Betty (Brackman) Lottman. Education: New York University, B.A., 1948; Columbia University, M.A., 1951.
ADDRESSES: Home—BP 214 75264 Paris, Cedex 06, France. Agent—Lois Wallace, Wallace & Sheil Agency, Inc., 177 East 70th St., New York, NY 10021.
CAREER: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York, NY, Paris editor, agent, and representative, 1956-69; Publishers Weekly, New York, NY, contributing editor, 1972-79, international correspondent, 1979—; freelance writer, 1960—.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fulbright fellow, 1949-50; appointed Chevalier of the French Order of Arts and Letters, 1991, promoted to Officier, 1996.
Detours from the Grand Tour (travel), Prentice-Hall (New York, NY), 1970.
How Cities Are Saved, Universe Books (New York, NY), 1976.
Albert Camus: A Biography, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1979.
The Left Bank: Writers, Artists, and Politics from thePopular Front to the Cold War, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1982.
Petain: Hero or Traitor, the Untold Story, Morrow (New York, NY), 1985.
The Purge: The Purification of French Collaborators after World War II, Morrow (New York, NY), 1986.
Flaubert: A Biography, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1989.
Colette: A Life, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1991.
The Fall of Paris: June 1940, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1992.
The French Rothschilds: The Great Banking Dynasty through Two Turbulent Centuries, Crown (New York, NY), 1995.
Jules Verne: An Exploratory Biography, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1997.
Michelin, 100 ans d'aventures, Flammarion (Paris, France), 1998.
Man Ray's Montparnasse, Harry N. Abrams (New York, NY), 2001.
(With Charles Roux, Edmonde Lottman, Stanley Garfinkel and others) Theatre de la Mode: Fashion Dolls: The Survival of Haute Couture, 2nd revised edition, Palmer/Pletsch (Portland, OR), 2002.
Author's works have been translated into numerous languages, including French, German, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, and Polish.
Contributor to magazines and to newspapers, including New York Times Magazine, Herald Tribune, Harper's, Saturday Review, Signature, Travel and Leisure, and New York Times.
SIDELIGHTS: Though raised in a glamorous world as the son of a Broadway press agent, Herbert Lottman chose a different career path. He became an expert on French culture, making Paris his home and working as a European correspondent for Publishers Weekly.
As an author, Lottman specializes in biographies and histories. Starting with the biography of Albert Camus in 1976, and continuing through the banking Rothschild family, authors Colette and Jules Verne, and politician Henri Philippe Petain, Lottman produced sweeping narratives on some of France's most influential citizens.
Praising Albert Camus: A Biography, John Sturrock of the New York Times marveled at Herbert Lottman's use of indiscriminate detail as well as his ability to portray Camus as an artist and a man. He declared that "Herbert Lottman's life [of Camus] is the first to be written, either in French or in English, and it is exhaustive, a labor of love and of wonderful industry."
According to Diane Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, Camus chronicles its subject's daily actions in addition to being a collection of facts and dates. Though some critics, such as Deidre Bair of the Washington Post, found the biographer's use of detail disconcerting, many felt that the exhaustive display of exact facts was, as Harold Clurman of Nation put it, the work of "a perceptive and conscientious reporter." Critics claimed that these details, gathered through Lottman's original research and from his access to Camus's family members and private letters, provided new and necessary information to the study of the artist. "Lottman has written a brilliant and absorbing book, which supplies new insight simply by including all the light and shade," wrote the New Statesman's Christopher Hitchens. "The detail and care is extraordinary; further slipshod generalisations about Camus will simply not be tolerable from now on."
Some critics also felt that Lottman was able to demystify Camus by presenting the realities surrounding the artist and communicating his total person. The book, Sturrock suggested, is the gallant and necessary work that brings the "lay saint," as Camus was once called, back to the realm of mortals. The biography "allows us to look at and listen to the writer as he works," explained John Leonard of the New York Times, "without the blinkers and the earmuffs, the periscopes and the headphones, of the Zeitgeist to mess up our minds." The book is credited with clarifying squabbles concerning Camus and with giving its readers "a clearer look at Camus' real importance," maintained Hitchens. "What emerges from Mr. Lottman's tireless devotions," Leonard observed, "is a portrait of the artist, the outsider, the humanist and skeptic, simultaneously sensuous and austere, righteous and guilty, that breaks the heart." "Lottman's achievement," concluded Johnson, "is considerable."
To France and to the world, World War II marshal Henri Philippe Petain remains an enigma. "No Frenchman of this century has been the object of greater extremes of veneration and obloquy," noted critic Robert O. Paxton in a New York Review of Books article. As head of Vichy France during World War II, Petain—a hero of World War I—collaborated with the German government and thus, had a direct hand in the fate of French Jews and others targeted by the Axis powers. Following the war, Petain was sentenced for treason and spent his remaining few years on an isolated island in Brittany. In Lottman's Petain: Hero or Traitor, the Untold Story the author plays fair, according to Edward Pearce. "He makes few moral judgments and resists the temptation of stereotyping," wrote Pearce in Commentary. Pearce criticized Lottman for his single-minded approach to the subject. "One cannot write illuminatingly about the France which collapsed in 1940 without a more substantial background on the France which was rotting through the 30s," said Pearce. To Times Literary Supplement reviewer Francois Kennedy, in Petain Lottman "has doubtless given his readers three things for which we can be grateful: a pleasant and well-written narrative; a decidedly impartial view . . . ; and last but not least, some important keys to the understanding of that elusive and controversial destiny." David A. Bell of New Republic, called the biography of the complex Petain "a definitive portrait."
The story of Petain is taken up in the larger sense in The Purge: The Purification of French Collaborators after World War II, Lottman's 1986 book on the identification and punishment of individuals in France who collaborated with the Germans. In the postwar era in France, upwards of 10,000 individuals were targeted as traitors, with a good percentage of those possibly innocent of any crime. France's hunger for vengeance was characterized by hasty executions and court martial. John Gross of the New York Times said that Lottman, in recounting this chapter in French history, glosses over accusations of brutality and terror put forward by writers opposed to the purge. One of the more bizarre sentences was to shave off the hair of French women convicted of "horizontal collaboration," as sexual relations with German officials was termed.
"Some readers may feel that [the author] should have spent more time probing the omissions and inadequacies of the purge, and rather less defending it against accusations that it was excessively harsh," Gross concluded. Lottman puts together "a good case for his final verdict, which is that after the liberation the French re-established the rule of law and reasserted the principles of justice as quickly as possible, and that with all its faults, the purge is nothing for them to be ashamed of." And in the view of Spectator critic Colin Welch, Lottman's work shows his concern "first to tell the truth, the whole and nothing but. If he is a revisionist at all, he is of the best sort, tireless in dispelling myth, error and exaggeration and substituting for them, wherever he can dig it out, what actually happened."
Regarding Colette: A Life, New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani found Lottman's take on the free-spirited Parisian "oddly bloodless." Similarly, Alex Johnson in a New York Times Book Review missed the "psychological acuity" Lottman applied to previous biographies. Despite the lack of color in this biography, however, Lottman's ability to research and harness detail was noted by Genevieve Stuttaford of Publishers Weekly: "Lottman . . . has fashioned a careful, painstaking biography . . . the facts are all here, splendidly researched."
Departing from literary biography, Lottman next told an historical narrative. The Fall of Paris: June 1940 tells the story from the eyes of many more well-known intellectuals and political figures who were present, including Charles de Gaulle, who was then a commander of a French unit; the writer Simone de Beauvoir, who was at the time a school teacher; and the United States ambassador, William Bullitt. A Publishers Weekly critic called it "engrossing" and noted Lottman's "sharp eye for irony and incongruity . . . The chronicle is rich in emotion and incident."
Lottman next took on the story of six generations of the well-known banking family in The French Rothschilds: The Great Banking Dynasty through Two Turbulent Centuries. Rising to prominence after leaving a Frankfurt ghetto, the Rothschild family achieved enormous financial success in France during the time of Napoleon. Moving beyond banking into such realms as railroading, horse racing, and wine making, the Rothschilds took on endeavors in England, the United States, and Israel, as well as France. As a Publishers Weekly critic noted, the family was "politically canny, utterly trustworthy, remarkably clannish," and "Lottman tells all this with an abundance of detail, a keen sense of period and an awesome grasp of the family's many personages and complex financial structure." Davis Rouse of Booklist called Lottman's book a "richly detailed profile" of the Rothschild family that "shows why that name is synonymous with banking, power, and wealth." Though it was not the first book to be written about the Rothschilds, Rouse wrote that "Lottman's is unique because it brings us up to date and concentrates on the French branch of the dynasty."
Lottman's Jules Verne: An Exploratory Biography, was the first biography of the fantasy writer to appear in many years. Ray Olson of Booklist called Lottman's biography "the first thorough life of Verne in ages—if not ever." Despite Verne's mostly uneventful life, Lottman managed to present some new information for his readers, such as the fact that Verne "was primarily a mental traveler. Aside from using his beloved sailboat, he voyaged hardly at all," as Publishers Weekly pointed out. Much of Lottman's text addresses Verne's more than 100 novels, none of which is thought to be of the quality of Around the World in Eighty Days. Lottman is "informative on Verne's contracts and earnings," as Publishers Weekly noted. Much of Verne's writing had to be rewritten by his publisher. According to Los Angeles Times Book Review writer Eugene Weber, Lottman presents a valuable portrait of "an ordinary and conventional man. He was extraordinary only in his capacity to extrapolate from contemporary experience and in the fidelity with which he reproduced, not exactly the aspirations and anxieties of his own decades, but rather the forest murmurs that were to titillate and fret his contemporaries and many a generation to come."
Called a "spirited account" by Publishers Weekly, Man Ray's Montparnasse recaptures the Paris of the 1920s and 1930s in which the famed photographer made his mark. At a time when Paris was the epicenter of avantgarde art movements and political turmoil, the photographer Man Ray was busy producing his legendary portraits of such figures as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Gertrude Stein, and Ernest Hemingway, all of whom lived in Paris. Ellen Bates of Library Journal called the book "a colorful snapshot of Man Ray between the two world wars." Notwithstanding the plethora of biographies and scholarly studies of Man Ray and his work, Lottman's book is distinct for its emphasis on the details of the Montparnasse neighborhood. A Publishers Weekly critic wrote, "What sets Lottman's compact and breezy study apart from a thick pack is its view of Ray's Parisian career as a neighborhood phenomenon, one in which the geography of chance—which cafes were popular, which buildings had cheap studio space, who moved down the street from who—has as much to do with the direction of both Ray's career and 20th-century art as any manifestos or larger historical forces."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
America, March 28, 1987, William J. Bosch, review of The Purge: The Purification of French Collaborators after World War II, p. 258.
American Historical Review, April 1988, Robert O. Paxton, review of The Purge, p. 433.
Analog Science Fiction & Fact, May 1997, Tom Easton, review of Jules Verne: An Exploratory Biography, p. 150.
Booklist, October 15, 1992, Roland Green, review of The Fall of Paris: June 1940, p. 396; April 15, 1995, David Rouse, review of The French Rothschilds: The Great Banking Dynasty through Two Turbulent Centuries, p. 1460; December 15, 1996, Ray Olson, review of Jules Verne, p. 705; September 15, 2001, Regina Schroeder, review of Man Ray's Montparnasse, p. 175.
Chicago Tribune, April 8, 1979.
Commentary, March, 1986, Edward Pearce, review of Petain: Hero or Traitor, the Untold Story, pp. 68-70.
Commonweal, May 11, 1979.
Economist (US), June 22, 1985, review of Petain, p. 93.
Insight on the News, January 27, 1997, pp. 36-38.
Journal of Modern Literature, spring, 1999, Eric Sellin, review of Albert Camus: A Biography, p. 498.
Library Journal, May 1, 1982, review of The LeftBank: Writers, Artists, and Politics from the Popular Front to the Cold War, p. 887; October 15, 1984, Mark R. Yerburgh, review of Petain, p. 1940; July 16, 1986, Ann H. Sullivan, review of The Purge, p. 82; September 1, 1992, R. James Tobin, review of The Fall of Paris, p. 189; April 1, 1995, Lisa K. Miller, review of The French Rothschilds, p. 110; December 1996, Marilyn Gaddis Rose, review of Jules Verne, p. 94; September 15, 2001, Ellen Bates, review of Man Ray's Montparnasse, p. 76.
London Review of Books, July 15, 1982, p. 15; March 5, 1987, pp. 10-11.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, January 5, 1997, p. 30.
Maclean's, June 25, 1979.
Nation, April 14, 1979.
National Review, May 14, 1982, Arnold Beichman, review of The Left Bank, pp. 563+.
New Leader, June 18, 1979.
New Republic, January 28, 1985, David A. Bell, review of Petain, p. 39.
New Statesman, July 20, 1979.
Newsweek, April 16, 1979.
New Yorker, July 5, 1982, Naomi Bliven, review of The Left Bank, pp. 98+.
New York Review of Books, February 14, 1985, Robert O. Paxton, review of Petain, pp. 17-19; July 17, 1997, John Weightman, review of Jules Verne, p. 53.
New York Times, March 19, 1979; April 5, 1981, review of Albert Camus, p. 35; December 5, 1982, review of The Left Bank, p. 52; October 27, 1984, John Gross, review of Petain, p. 15; October 28, 1984, Don Cook, review of Petain, p. 30; July 22, 1986, John Gross, review of The Purge, p. 23; January 29, 1991, p. C15.
New York Times Book Review, March 18, 1979; November 25, 1979; April 5, 1981, review of Albert Camus, p. 35; December 5, 1982, review of The Left Bank, p. 52; October 28, 1984, Don Cook, review of Petain, p. 30; July 27, 1986, Joel Colton, review of The Purge, p. 9; June 11, 1995, Ron Chernow, review of The French Rothschilds, p. 40; April 5, 1981; April 4, 1982, pp. 3, 26; July 27, 1986, p. 9; February 24, 1991, p. 28; January 26, 1997, Julian Barnes, review of Jules Verne, p. 4.
Publishers Weekly, February 5, 1982, review of TheLeft Bank, p. 387; August 17, 1984, review of Petain, p. 51; May 23, 1986, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of The Purge, p. 98; December 14, 1990, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Colette: A Life, p. 59; August 1992, review of The Fall of Paris, p. 59; February 27, 1995, review of The French Rothschilds, p. 91; November 4, 1996, review of Jules Verne, p. 45; September 3, 2001, review of Man Ray's Montparnasse, p. 79.
Spectator, January 3, 1987, pp. 22-23.
Time, March 19, 1979.
Times Literary Supplement, December 14, 1979; June 28, 1985; April 3, 1987, p. 367; March 8, 1991, p. 10; February 5, 1993, p. 7.
Washington Post Book World, March 25, 1979; March 15, 1981.*