George Sand: True Genius, True Woman review – a pleasure and an education

george sand: true genius, true woman review – a pleasure and an education

‘Delightful’: detail from George Sand: True Genius, True Woman. Illustration: Kim Consigny

This delightful graphic biography of the writer George Sand originally came out in French in 2021 – and now I’ve read it, I understand completely why SelfMadeHero has finally published an edition in English (the translation is by Edward Gauvin). Deftly written by Séverine Vidal, and wittily illustrated in black and white by Kim Consigny, it’s both a pleasure and an education: until now, Sand has always been a bit of a blind spot for me, a figure whose name is only familiar at all thanks to her appearances in books by other people (in Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own she sits alongside Charlotte Brontë and George Eliot as an example of a woman who had “to veil” herself by using a male pseudonym).

Vidal’s account of her life is strictly chronological, taking the reader from Sand’s childhood in the countryside – born Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, she was known as Aurore – where she was brought up by her grandmother, to her death in 1876 at the age of 71 (she ended her days in the village of Nohant, in the middle of France, having inherited her grand-mère’s house there three decades before). Along the way, there is an early marriage, which brings her the two children she’ll later have to fight for – somehow, Sand goes on to secure for herself a legal separation – and numerous love affairs, most famously with the actress Marie Dorval and the composer Frédéric Chopin. How she manages to settle to work in the midst of such a hectic sex life isn’t always clear to the reader, but Vidal begins each chapter with a well-chosen extract from Sand’s books, and thanks to this, the reader never forgets that her rather replete romantic life is not only another aspect of her free-thinking but even, perhaps, of her creativity. As she notes in Story of My Life: The Autobiography of George Sand: “I realised that I wrote quickly, easily, lengthily, tirelessly… I knew human nature well enough to depict it.”

I like the careful way Sand’s cross-dressing is depicted, a mode she slips into mostly as a means of securing anonymity; a passport to other realms; a way of ensuring she’s listened to (it is, in other words, a physical manifestation of her pseudonym). In other, clunkier hands, this could have been made into something it is not, but Vidal is determinedly historical. Sand’s britches and boots are more practical and more flexible than the “ludicrous crinolines and tiny little high-heeled shoes” of which she’s thoroughly sick, and Vidal and Consigny have a lot of fun with this. “Why, I ought to challenge him to a duel!” Sand announces of a critic who has decried her novel Lélia as so unsavoury as to be an infection risk for the reader (the implication is that its author is little more than a prostitute). Released from her whalebone corsets, a slim cigar between her lips, our heroine is able publicly to tease men for their pieties and pomposities. If this is an impersonation, it is not of a man, but of the woman she wants to be, and will very shortly become.

George Sand: True Genius, True Woman by Séverine Vidal and Kim Consigny (translated by Edward Gauvin) is published by SelfMadeHero (£18.99). To support the Guardian and Observer order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply

OTHER NEWS

14 minutes ago

Videos Show Large Flames at Trump Ally's Texas Church

14 minutes ago

TSA PreCheck not on boarding pass? Here’s what you should do

14 minutes ago

Quantum Simulators: A Step Towards Quantum Advantage

14 minutes ago

Joe Biden's donors 'in panic'

14 minutes ago

Belarus: Alexander Lukashenko has been in power 30 years

14 minutes ago

At least 40 Haitian migrants killed in boat fire, says IOM

14 minutes ago

Pub boss forced to close blames customers working from home for turning historic city into a 'ghost town'

14 minutes ago

It's beastly news! Scotland's wet Spring is perfect for pesky midges with huge numbers so far this year

14 minutes ago

Miriam Margolyes 'is wounded' over the friendships she has lost with other Jewish people over her strong pro-Gaza views as she says 'the abused have become the abusers'

14 minutes ago

Alberta town takes action fighting crime, addressing homelessness, addictions issues

14 minutes ago

Early starters make hay as wind drops on day three of Open

14 minutes ago

Massive global IT outage hits banks, airports, supermarkets—and a single software update is likely to blame

14 minutes ago

Why Marcus Rashford, Harry Maguire and Antony miss Rangers v Man Utd friendly

14 minutes ago

Tesco's popular Clubcard scheme is back and could earn you £50 in bonus points

14 minutes ago

Spartak Trnava vs Aston Villa: Preview, predictions and lineups

14 minutes ago

QPR-Spurs friendly only available on SpursPLAY/QPR+

14 minutes ago

Roughriders’ defence pivotal in beating Blue Bombers 19-9

14 minutes ago

Graceland questions authenticity of Elvis memorabilia sold by auction house with ties to Priscilla Presley

14 minutes ago

Here’s how animals and their keepers prepare for major storms at Houston Zoo and cleanup efforts after Hurricane Beryl

14 minutes ago

Disneyland workers authorize potential strike ahead of continued contract negotiations

14 minutes ago

‘Damn’: Stranger Things fans vent frustration as Netflix drops season five update

14 minutes ago

NRL Highlights: Storm v Roosters - Round 20

14 minutes ago

Karthik's crucial message to Suryakumar, Gambhir on replacing Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli in T20Is: 'There are 4 choices'

14 minutes ago

Dodgers’ Tyler Glasnow throws simulated game, expected to start vs. Giants next week

14 minutes ago

'It's huge leverage': Scott Galloway calls real estate 'the most tax-advantaged' investment you can make in the US, and offers tips to build your own portfolio

14 minutes ago

Here’s Exactly How Biden Plans To Make Housing More Affordable If He’s Reelected

14 minutes ago

Parents urge others to take their children on holiday during term time

14 minutes ago

Erik ten Hag speaks out on Man Utd bid to sign Matthijs de Ligt

14 minutes ago

EU warns Starmer it won’t let him cherry-pick trade-offs in Brexit reset

14 minutes ago

Russian rebel leader issues chilling warning about 'bloody revolution' in Putin prediction

14 minutes ago

Everton's new £110 Castore home shirt makes disastrous debut in pre-season friendly as the club badge falls off Idrissa Gueye's jersey during draw with Sligo Rovers in Ireland

14 minutes ago

How Project 2025 could impact your tax bracket and capital gains under a second Trump term

14 minutes ago

Won’t get fooled again — Fed wants inflation to cool further before cutting interest rates

14 minutes ago

There's one dish you shouldn't order at a restaurant, according to Gordon Ramsay

14 minutes ago

Toni Kroos names his four favourite Real Madrid teammates: No Benzema or Marcelo…

14 minutes ago

The 4 players to complete a career Golden Slam as Novak Djokovic seeks to join Rafael Nadal on list

14 minutes ago

The Champion Kiely: The Irishman who became the best athlete on the planet

14 minutes ago

Oktoberfest city to open first alcohol-free beer garden

14 minutes ago

German Muslim students impose sharia law in their school

14 minutes ago

Mason Greenwood in line for immediate England return after completing Man Utd exit

ALONGWALKER VIETNAM: Kênh khám phá trải nghiệm của giới trẻ, thế giới du lịch ALONGWALKER INDONESIA: Saluran untuk mengeksplorasi pengalaman para pemuda global