Study Guide

Zoé Oldenbourg

Zoé Oldenbourg Biography

Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Zoé Oldenbourg-Idalovici, who wrote under her maiden name Zoé Oldenbourg, was born in what was then the city of Petrograd. Her paternal grandfather was Perpetual Secretary of the Academy of Science, her father, Sergius Oldenbourg, was active as a journalist and historian, and her mother was a mathematician. The family emigrated to Paris in 1925, taking their four children with them: Oldenbourg, her sister, and her two brothers. She displayed an early interest in writing and was encouraged by her father; as of the age of twelve she wrote steadily, and although she does not consider those early writings to be important in themselves, she believes that they were invaluable as exercises. Oldenbourg was also interested in the visual arts, and at one time intended to make painting her career. She received her baccalauréat from the Lycée Molière in Paris in 1934; after attending the Sorbonne, she studied painting at the Académie Ranson and in 1938 theology in England. During World War II, she decorated articles produced by a small Paris workshop. In 1948, she married Heinric Idalovici, a Parisian art-gallery owner.{$S[A]Idalovici, Zoé Oldenbourg-;Oldenbourg, Zoé}

Publication of her first novel, The World Is Not Enough, in 1946 and its very favorable reception, determined her vocation. The work, a historical novel of life in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, was praised for the vividness with which it re-created a medieval family and...

(The entire section is 455 words.)

Zoé Oldenbourg Bibliography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Janeway, Elizabeth. “Courage and Faith in a Distracted Age.” The New York Times Book Review, January 9, 1955, 4. States that Oldenbourg’s theme in The Cornerstone is the triumph of “courage and faith” in a period of conflict, violence, and rapid change.

“Medieval Tapestry.” Time 65 (January 10, 1955): 88. States that The Cornerstone is “artfully written.” The accounts of vicious behavior and brutality are justified by Oldenbourg’s intention to present a “huge and intricate tapestry” showing clearly what life was like in the thirteenth century.

Pick, Robert. “Eros in a Wimple.” Saturday Review 38 (January 8, 1955): 10. The Cornerstone is the first modern novel to re-create the world of chivalric love in all its subtlety and its innocent blasphemy. Additionally, the characters symbolize historical change: Herbert is a man of the Middle Ages, and the son who kills him is a Renaissance humanist. Interesting comments.

Raymond, John. Review of The Cornerstone, by Zoé Oldenbourg. New Statesman and Nation 48 (December 4, 1954): 762. Blending historical events with her characters’ very human reactions to them, the author has produced a “great historical novel.”

Wilson Library Bulletin 34 (March, 1960). Includes a brief discussion of Oldenbourg.