David Plante Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

David Plante was born to a French-speaking family rooted in French culture, and he has never been able to escape his French-speaking heritage. In one novel, The Foreigner, the main character pretends to be of French origin, though he is an American. Plante attended Boston College from 1957 to 1959 and from 1960 to 1961, with the intervening academic year at the University of Louvain in Belgium. After graduating, Plante taught for several years, first in Rome from 1961 to 1962, and then, in succession, at the Boston School of Modern Languages and St. John’s Preparatory School.

In 1966 Plante moved to England to make his home there. He has received numerous grants and stipends, and in 1983 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. In the same year he won the Prize for Artistic Merit from the American Academy and Institute of the Arts and Letters. His novels, the literary form to which Plante has chiefly devoted himself, are usually short, almost novella-length. Each is written with a supreme care for frank, refined English. Many are told in an emotionless, almost documentary tone, even when the narration is in the first person. Plante’s first novel, The Ghost of Henry James, borrows the theme of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw (1898) in telling the story of a gothic family nightmare: The unpleasant entanglements of a New England family lead the main character to madness, and finally death. The horror of madness and death,...

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(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

David Plante was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on March 4, 1940, the son of Anaclet Joseph Adolph Plante and Albina (Bison) Plante. In 1959-1960, he attended the University of Louvain in Belgium, and in 1961 he earned a B.A. from Boston College. After graduation, Plante taught at the English School in Rome, Italy, at the Boston School of Modern Languages, and at St. John’s Preparatory School. He also worked for two years (1962-1964) as a researcher for Hart’s Guide to New York in New York City. In 1966, inspired, in part, by the example of the Anglo-American novelist Henry James, Plante settled in England, where he met Nickos Stangos, who would become his life partner.

Although he became a British citizen, Plante continued to spend time on both sides of the Atlantic; he was a writer-in-residence at the University of Tulsa (1979-1983) and at King’s College, Cambridge (1984-1985). The first Westerner allowed to teach at the Gorky Institute of Literature in Moscow, Plante also served as writer-in-residence at the University of East Anglia (1977-1978), Adelphi University (1980-1989), and L’Université du Quebec à Montreal (1990). In 1998, he was named professor of writing at Columbia University. He divides his residency between New York and London.