November 10, 1960 |
New York City
|Occupation||Novelist, essayist, critic|
|Alma mater||Magdalen College, Oxford|
She is the daughter of two patrons of New York City's avant-garde, Frederick Eberstadt, a photographer and psychotherapist, and Isabel Eberstadt, a writer. Her paternal grandfather was Ferdinand Eberstadt, a Wall Street financier and adviser to presidents; her maternal grandfather was the poet Ogden Nash.
She went to the Brearley School in New York City. As a teenager, she worked at Andy Warhol's Factory and for Diana Vreeland at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her first published piece was a profile in Andy Warhol's "Interview" in 1979 of the travel writer Bruce Chatwin.
In 1985, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. published the 25-year-old Eberstadt's first work of literary fiction, titled Low Tide. This told the story of Jezebel, daughter of an English art dealer and a mad Louisiana heiress, and her fatal love affair with two young brothers. It takes place in New York, Oxford and Mexico. Praise for her work landed her an interview with intellectual William F. Buckley on his television program, Firing Line, where she appeared with Bret Easton Ellis, who had published Less Than Zero the same year. The same year, Eberstadt discussed the author of Survival in Auschwitz, Primo Levi, in an article in Commentary magazine. An essay in The Cambridge Companion to Primo Levi by Bryan Cheyette describes the article as follows: "The problem with Levi, clearly, is that he is not Elie Wiesel ... Levi's secular humanism offers a completely different representation of The Holocaust to that of Wiesel and thereby endangers Wiesel's hegemony as the emblematic Holocaust survivor in the United States." Biographer Ian Thomson's 2002 volume Primo Levi characterizes Eberstadt's article as motivated mainly by a disagreement with "Levi's reputation as a liberal Diaspora Jew". (p. 482) Shortly after, Levi wrote to his translator that "It is not merely for this episode that I have lost my good humour."
Her next novel Isaac and His Devils came in 1991 and was again widely acclaimed, described by Library Journal as a "rich novel, full of promise for the author's future". Set in rural New Hampshire, the novel's hero is Isaac Hooker, a half-deaf, half-blind, hugely fat and ambitious boy-genius and his struggle to fulfill his parents' blighted dreams.
Her third novel, published in 1997 and set in the late 1980s New York art world, When the Sons of Heaven Meet the Daughters of the Earth, recounted the rise and fall of the now young painter, Isaac Hooker.
Her widely cited essay "The Palace and the City", about the Sicilian writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and the politics of urban restoration in Palermo, was published in the December 23, 1991, issue of The New Yorker.
In more recent years, she has worked extensively for The New York Times Magazine, publishing profiles of the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk, of Moroccan-based Spanish writer Juan Goytisolo, and the Portuguese novelist José Saramago, as well as of indie-rock group CocoRosie. Her work appeared in Architectural Digest.
Following her pattern of a six-year interval between novels, Eberstadt published The Furies in 2003. Praised by Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and The New York Times Book Review, fellow writer Bret Easton Ellis called it "spellbinding", and The New York Observer said "The Furies veers pretty close to genius."
John Updike, reviewing Little Money Street in The New Yorker, described Eberstadt as "ambitious, resourceful novelist".
Life in France
In 1998, Eberstadt went to live on a vineyard in the French Pyrenees, outside the city of Perpignan. She became friends with a family of French gypsy musicians. Her first work of non-fiction, Little Money Street—In Search of Gypsies and Their Music in the South of France, which portrays that friendship, was released by Knopf in March 2006. Luc Sante called the book "passionate, intimate, at once exhilarating and despairing, a rich and profound work of high nonfiction literature. A portrait of the Gypsies of southwestern France, it is also about family, about consumerism, and about the ruthlessness of a world in which there is no more open world."
Her sixth book, a novel called RAT, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in March 2010. RAT tells the story of a 15-year-old girl who set off on a journey from rural France to London, with her adopted brother in search of her birth father and a better life. It received very good reviews with Booklist calling it "mythic, gritty and unforgettable".
- Low tide, A.A. Knopf, 1985
- When the Sons of Heaven Meet the Daughters of the Earth, Harvill Panther, 1997, ISBN 9781860464416
- The Furies: A Novel, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2003, ISBN 9780375412561
- Little Money Street: In Search of Gypsies and Their Music in the South of France Vintage Departures, Random House LLC, 2008, ISBN 9780307487575 
- Isaac And His Devils. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. April 4, 2012. ISBN 978-0-307-80731-1.
- Rat. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. March 2011. ISBN 978-0-307-47239-7.
- Joyce, Cynthia (May 5, 1997). "The Salon Interview: Fernanda Eberstadt". Salon.com. Retrieved February 3, 2010.
- Lesher, Linda Parent (February 2000). The best novels of the nineties: a reader's guide. McFarland. p. 414. ISBN 978-0-7864-0742-2. Retrieved February 3, 2010.
- Block, Summer (May 29, 2006). "Fernanda Eberstadt". Identity Theory. Retrieved February 3, 2010.
- Kaufman, Marjorie (May 4, 1997). "Opening a Window to the Inner Souls of Artists, in a New Novel". The New York Times. Retrieved February 3, 2010.
- "WEDDINGS; Miss Eberstadt, Mr. Bruton". The New York Times. June 6, 1993. p. 914. Retrieved February 3, 2010.
- "Little Money Street—About this Author". Random House. Retrieved February 3, 2010.
- John Updike (April 10, 2006). "Drawn to Gypsies". The New Yorker.
Eberstadt's mildly melancholy coda to her dire portrait of contemporary European Gypsies leaves us with the mollifying impression that all parties end untidily, all lives are more or less muddles, and we all are, as the French officially term nomadic minorities, "gens du voyage."