by Faye Moskowitz

Cynthia Ozick Takes on Europe

The novelist repossesses Henry James

Old loves die hard and have lasting consequences; so we learn from Cynthia Ozick’s Foreign Bodies (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26.00). Speaking of old loves, much has been made of Ozick’s early and ongoing literary love affair with Henry James. Foreign Bodies, an homage to her master, will have bookish readers puzzling out correspondences to James’ The Ambassadors as she retells that story with an ingenious twist; her Paris in 1952 is still reeling from the aftershocks of WW II. It is a gray and foreboding city, teeming with refugees. “They were Europeans whom Europe had set upon; they wore Europe’s tattoo.” “Though they had washed up in Paris, the war was still with them.” To this Paris, Bea Nightingale, Ozick’s female version of James’ ambassador, Lambert Strether, is sent by her brother Marvin to fetch home his son Julian, who seems after three years away to have been swallowed up by Europe. She finds Julian in thrall to Lili, a Holocaust survivor.

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