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French Hearts and Minds: PW Talks with Marilyn Yalom
Interview of me

In How the French Invented Love: Nine Hundred Years of Passion and Romance, scholar Marilyn Yalom analyzes matters of the heart in French literature from the 17th to the 21st century.

Generations of young French readers, as you say, have learned about love through the classics. What books influenced your own perspective on love in your teenage years?

I was most influenced by women writers: Louisa May Alcott in Little Women, Charlotte Brontë in Jane Eyre, and Emily Brontë in Wuthering Heights. All sentiment and no sex!

You explain the roots of the difference between American and French culture when it comes to aspects of love. In the re-reading that you did for this book, what surprised you?

Most of the books held up on a second or third or fourth reading, for example, The Princess of Cleves, Dangerous Liaisons, The Lover, and of course Madame Bovary. But I was surprised to see that Rousseau’s New Eloise was so long-winded and even boring at times. George Sand is still impressive as a person, as were Sartre and Beauvoir in their early relationship.

Publishers Weekly
Bridget Potter