How Stein and Toklas Waited Out the War

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TwoLivesMalcolmTwo Lives: Gertrude and Alice
by Janet Malcolm
Yale University Press
229 pages, $25.

 

THIS COLLECTION of three stand-alone essays—not to be confused with Gertrude Stein’s 1936 novel, Three Lives—is a handsomely produced volume with some rarely seen photographs. While portions of these essays were first printed in The New Yorker, Malcolm expands upon those articles here.

How were Stein and Toklas—Americans, Jews, and, oh yes, lesbians—able to live unmolested in occupied France while the war raged all around them and deportations were being carried out at every turn? How did they manage to maintain their pleasant, country life while experiencing few deprivations other than a reduction in the number of their usually lavish meals? How did they survive the billeting of German soldiers at their beloved home? Why did they decide not to escape to Switzerland when they were told that their lives were in imminent danger?

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