Narrative is the metaphor of the moment
April 7, 2014 7:54 AM   Subscribe

One should add that he was an extraordinarily gifted con man, persuading the most discerning intellectuals that he had credentials he did not possess and a heroic personal history, rather than a scandalous one, while he worked his charm on generations of students. Just who was Paul de Man?
posted by shivohum (5 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Big Paul de Man post last month.
posted by ardgedee at 8:27 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Turns out you can get pretty far in life by being a completely unscrupulous bastard.

Still, Alter does seem fairly heavily biased against the fellow ---- the babyface turn, as it were, that De Man made in his post-war personal life goes unexamined, and that's what struck me as most odd. Influence of a good woman? Having finally attained a perch worth clinging to, and therefore quitting the distasteful tactics of his desperate climb? Alter seems uninterested in this question, and that combined with the way he sniffs "I never thought he was so good-looking, guess I'm just allergic to charisma" makes you wonder whether he's giving the guy an entirely fair shake. Was the art book publishing scheme really a pure scam from the start, or did De Man just think he could safely siphon off some funds here and there while still making a profit on the books, and then get in over his head?
posted by Diablevert at 8:34 AM on April 7, 2014

so...he never gave french lessons to Henry Kissenger?
posted by clavdivs at 9:13 AM on April 7, 2014

De Man’s mother made several attempts to do away with herself and finally succeeded when he was sixteen—it was he who discovered her hanging body.

Do we know that this isn't among the list of his fabrications? There should be facts in a police report somewhere to be looked up for verification, but I am wondering if people pass on this question by a premise that nobody, not even Paul de Man, could lie about such a thing.

If it is indeed true then that would be an explanation; not an excuse or justification, but an explanation. That would mess up a lot of people, even normal people.
posted by bukvich at 3:00 PM on April 7, 2014

He "forgot" his native Flemish?

I don't understand how the author thinks that's even possible. What made her think he forgot his native language?

The first thing this makes me think is that he didn't forget his native language because Flemish wasn't his native language.
posted by tel3path at 3:29 PM on April 8, 2014

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