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Autobiographie d'Alice Toklas

3.62  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,649 Ratings  ·  428 Reviews
The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, published in 1933, is Gertrude Stein’s best-selling work and her most accessible. Consisting of seven chapters covering the first three decades of the twentieth century, the book is only incidentally about Toklas’s life. Its real subject, and narrator, is Stein herself, who reportedly had asked Toklas, her lifelong companion, for years ...more
264 pages
Published 1980 by Gallimard (first published 1933)
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Pablo Picasso! Henri Matisse! Ernest Hemingway! F. Scott Fitzgerald! Sherwood Anderson! T. S. Eliot! Djuna Barnes! Ezra Pound! Georges Braque! Ford Madox Ford! Jean Cocteau!

All of these artists and writers were bumping into each other in Paris in the 1920s, often at Gertrude Stein's apartment, the famous salon at 27 rue de Fleurus. (And if you're wondering who the hell Alice B. Toklas is, she was Stein's longtime partner and lover, and calling it an autobiography but yet it was written by Stein
May 12, 2009 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Hold your forefinger and thumb approximately an inch apart. That was how much I knew about Gertrude Stein prior to reading The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. I’m certainly no expert now, not even close, but I can safely say that I am completely enamored of both Stein and her life partner, Toklas.

No, it’s not because of the near-constant stream of visiting artists and other members of Parisian society to their home at rue de Fleurus in the early 1900s, though that was impressive. They were ve
"And now I will tell you how two Americans happened to be in the heart of an art movement of which the outside world at that time knew nothing."

I'm ashamed that I haven't delved into Stein's work until now, but quite honestly, at 900+ pages, The Making of Americans seemed daunting. Yet when I saw Stein's character in the movie Midnight in Paris, and I read Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, I knew it was time to read the work of one of the few women writers of her time and place. So I started with
Dec 16, 2015 Madeline rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-list, ugh, memoir
During my Modern Poetry class in college, we read some of Tender Buttons (prompting me to write a scathing review of it, which was promptly trolled) and my professor explained Gertrude Stein thus: "Gertrude Stein believed that there was only one great poet of the twentieth century, and it was her. She might admit that Shakespeare was talented as well, but only on a good day."

Having now read The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, I fully support this assessment of Miss Stein. Not that I dislike h
Jan 14, 2010 Jesse rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I don't dispute the book's importance, by Stein's style drives me bonkers. I'd much rather read ABOUT her than actually read her. That said, I'm glad she existed-- I'm also glad I'm not forced to read this all the time.
This is timely. There's an article about Gertrude Stein today in the Huffington Post. Others thought she was an asshole (as I describe below) as well. Except I don't think they appreciated the genius part I recognized after reading this book...

Here's what I know about Gertrude Stein: She was an asshole.

I say that in a joking way. I actually learned more about her from this book than I learned about Alice B. Toklas (whoever she was) because this "autobiography" was written by Stein, supposedly fr
Jul 04, 2014 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.75 stars rounded up.
I struggle with Gertrude Stein, as I struggled with this novel. I don’t think this work is typical of Stein as she wrote it very quickly with the idea of being commercial as she needed money; not a problem in itself, but it meant she was also ambivalent about it. It is a novel written as though Stein’s partner Alice Toklas is writing an account of Stein’s life in Paris before and after the First World War. It is also an account of those many famous and not so famous writers
Barry Pierce
I feel that if I had the chance to meet one person from the 20th Century it would be Gertrude Stein. She was friends with anyone who was anyone in the artistic and literary circles of early 20th century Paris. The sheer amount of name-dropping in this book is immense; Picasso, Braque, Man Ray, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Joyce, Pound, Beach, et al. Although don't go into this book expecting something along the lines of Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, this majorly focuses on the artists of Paris, not th ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
I had seen them during my mother's 75th birthday celebrations last January 2011. Both old women, lifetime companions. C. is the more "manly" of the two, short haircut, never wears a skirt. B. is my distant relative, very feminine in her deportment, said to have been the former girlfriend of another relative of mine (now deceased, God bless his soul). They brought with them to the party their three-year-old adopted girl, begot out-of-wedlock by a prostitute in our hometown, father unknown. Years ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Jun 25, 2011 K.D. Absolutely rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: Top 10 Gay and Lesbian Novels; 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Shelves: 1001-core, memoirs
What makes this book memorable for me is this interesting idea: a pseudo-autobiography. Gertrude Stein wrote this book from the perspective of her lover, Alice B. Toklas. It is like an autobiography yet Stein put herself in Toklas' shoes. I am still to read Stein's first novel, Three Lives and her long The Making of the Americans both of which were mentioned a lot of time in this book but I have an inkling that Stein's writing style or voice here is different from what she used in those two book ...more

This is a must-read for anyone interested in artists and writers in Paris in the early part of the 20th century, because every writer and artist of any note who was in Paris at that time encountered Gertrude Stein at some point. Picasso, Braque, Matisse and Magritte, Apollinaire, Gide, Pound and Hemingway: all of them and many others attended Stein's celebrated Saturday evening salon.

Stein wrote this work in the conversational style of Toklas, who was her life partner. Ostensibly Toklas' autobi
Sentimental Surrealist
You might be tempted to dismiss this book out-of-hand, either because of Gertrude Stein's reputation for unreadable austerity or because it's basically a bunch of bohemians (yes, they're famous bohemians, but the point stands) running around Paris and London, but I'm here to tell you it's well worth your time. Stein's style is a little repetitive, but has an easy conversational flow and quite a few beautiful moments, and besides, the book bristles with wit and an arrogance that's just on the rig ...more
Aug 30, 2007 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
I read this in my last year of college, in an autobiography seminar. Though it's not really an autobiography. A fictional autobiography.

I enjoyed it. Our class ultimately decided that it was an amazing love letter to Alice from Gertrude. It is incredibly pretentious and presumptious, but a love letter nonetheless. Just because the author is hopelessly self-involved doesn't make it any less a love letter.

Free download available at eBooks@Adelaide.

Opening lines:
Iwas born in San Francisco, California. I have in consequence always preferred living in a temperate climate but it is difficult, on the continent of Europe or even in America, to find a temperate climate and live in it. My mother’s father was a pioneer, he came to California in ‘49, he married my grandmother who was very fond of music. She was a pupil of Clara Schumann’s father. My mother was a quiet charming woman named Emilie.

A splendid
Jan 03, 2009 Katie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I will confess that I was intimidated by this book, having read only isolated bits of Stein and having heard much about her difficulty. So I was surprised to find this book so readable, and so downright funny in places. It's an odd sort of memoir, skating along across the surface of Stein's and Toklas's life together and almost never delving into any sort of interiority or emotional depth, but it's full of clever lines and sharp little portraits of all the writers and artists that they knew in P ...more
Jul 13, 2007 montana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lesbian geniuses and their supporters
Yes. Finally found, rather Ruthie found, in a bookshop here and finished her in a few days. Gertrude Stien appears at least five times on every page usually with some remark about being friends with Picasso or not having interest in some other painter or person of prewar, war, or just post wwI era. Her comments on Hemmingway are hysterical and on the whole I have a great weakness for facilitators of art, and this book was very validating in that regard. Interesting as a writer to try to write in ...more
John Spillane
Oh man Gertrude, by your own description you were a pill. Stein got into an unimaginable number of tiffs and spats, but to her credit, strong personalities take note, she also patched them up even if it took a couple years. Her pal-ing around with Picasso, Matisse, and every other notable figure of the era is interesting in the beginning, but the book quickly devolves into her recounting every minor social slight, and every success involving her being admitted into various countries with or with ...more
This book put two songs in my head*.
Harpers Bizarre - I Love You Alice B. Toklas
Peter Sarstedt - Where Do You Go To My Lovely?** (mentions of the Boulevard Saint Michel)

It's also a reminder that avant-gardes using simplified, faux-naive writing styles (e.g. Tao Lin and alt-lit) are nothing new. I've said quite a few times this year that I don't enjoy these very basic styles, that I feel some writers under-describe - yet I did rather like the Autobiography. It's not a flat sort of basic, conveyin
Jan 29, 2008 Becky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gertrude Stein writes her partner's fictional autobiography which turns out to be more a biography of Gertrude Stein and her friendship with Picasso and Matisse loaded with gossipy accounts of her Salon she ran in Paris just before and during these painters rise to fame. While Stein is, as she boasts, often annoyingly, a genius, her crisp conversational prose makes the book a fascinating rendering of an art subculture during a time of modern(ist), and futurist breakthroughs, it really left me a ...more
Sep 06, 2011 Phil rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I did enjoy this book, but not as much as Gertrude Stein probably enjoyed writing it, or thinks that I should like it. And that's my main problem with this book; Stein isn't the epoch-making writer that she believes herself to be.

A few things to get straight: i) this isn't an autobiography of Alice B Toklas, ii) this is a sort of autobiography of Gertrude Stein, iii) not a lot happens, iv) most of the people mentioned as geniuses are no longer more than footnotes in art history, v) Stein's writ
Aug 14, 2007 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people languishing in obscurity
this book is interesting because of the seemingly endless stream of people flowing through stein's house, and also for the depiction of how hard stein had to work to get her work published, and for how long she was downright obscure. this will surely warm the cockles of the hearts of many contemporary writers and thinkers languishing in obscurity, but i - interested in self-publishing - also took heart from the fact that toklas herself took up the challenge of publishing stein's work herself. ho ...more
Joe Cummings
Aug 13, 2014 Joe Cummings rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As I have said in other reviews of other books, Paris during the 20th Century was a magnet for some of the great artists, writers and other intellectuals of our time. (Actually, Paris has been attracting great minds since before Peter Abelard in the eleventh century.) The delights of the City of Lights for Earnest Hemingway and others of the Lost Generation during the 1920s was recently shown the nostalgic 2011 Woody Allen film "Paris after Midnight." Part of the movie was centered around the sa ...more
At first it just seems like simply a gossipy good time, but it also functions as a fascinating mise en abyme (the author speaking about herself through the voice of her partner, etc).

It's a thoroughly delightful portal through which to slip into 1920's Paris. I'd wager that Hemingway's A Moveable Feast is generally preferred, but I'm definitely Team Stein.
Leo Robertson
Nov 27, 2015 Leo Robertson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great intro to Stein and fun being historically starstruck by all her pals :)

At first I thought it was arrogant that she should write a biography of herself through the eyes of someone else, then I thought maybe she was making some sort of commentary that she does not come to life without her life's love. An explanation of the chosen voice is given at the end, but I think the answer is a mixture of my two interpretations :D
Oct 30, 2015 moneypenny rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Awful! This book is like be stuck next to someone's boring wife during the longest dinner party ever. Sure, she name drops like nobody's business but what she has to say is dull and inane. "We met so and so. He was charming and Gertrude Stein liked him very much. He preferred English Daises above all other flowers."

I would have loved an editor with some guts working on this too. The same things are mentioned over and over but the thinking isn't linear so you end up saying "wait, didn't that pers
Jan 14, 2011 Holly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i love this! i like gertrude stein's ideas about rhythm of text. and poodle called bucket! yes!
May 22, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, classics
Charming, beautiful, witty, challenging, satisfying.
Mar 05, 2015 Mat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An absolutely fascinating read. This was the first book by Gertrude Stein that I have read, that I have read. No, I will stop there.
It was written in a very accessible style, something for which Stein is not known usually to do when she writes but I believe this was her potboiler, i.e. her attempt to make some cash. I think it is a true classic. I could not put it down.
Not only does the prose sweep you along in the tide of Stein's imagination but also you feel like you are right there during an
Dec 01, 2014 Charity rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classicsclub, owned
Before I started reading The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, I looked at reviews online. Many, many of them mention how conceited Stein is. They complain that she thinks herself a genius and that her writing is fantastic and groundbreaking and to the writing world what Picasso’s paintings are to the art world.

After reading the book, I would contend that she’s not nearly as much of a braggart as people say she is, and that the book itself is something of a joke, and she intersperses self-deprec
Jan 14, 2010 Aeron rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read this to prepare for a mystery dinner party we had in which I played the character of Alice B. Toklas. It was certainly an interesting read, and it must have been tongue in cheek. It was not a cohesive, flowing narrative, but more like a series of random vignettes about the lives of Alice and Gertrude and all the famous people they knew.

It is really Gertrude Stein's autobiography, masquerading as Alice's biography. It is ballsy to tell your own story through the eyes of your beloved. I me
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Gertrude Stein was an American writer who spent most of her life in France, and who became a catalyst in the development of modern art and literature. Her life was marked by two primary relationships, the first with her brother Leo Stein, from 1874-1914, and the second with Alice B. Toklas, from 1907 until Stein's death in 1946. Stein shared her salon at 27 rue de Fleurus, Paris, first with Leo an ...more
More about Gertrude Stein...

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“She always says she dislikes the abnormal, it is so obvious. She says the normal is so much more simply complicated and interesting.” 29 likes
“A little artist has all the tragic unhappiness and the sorrows of a great artist and he is not a great artist.” 19 likes
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