Not all obsessions are bad. Certainly not that of the French novelist Camille Laurens with Edgar Degas and his famous sculpture of a young ballet dancer. It has resulted in a charming little book, translated from the French by Willard Wood and published by Other Press as Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, subtitled as “The True Story Behind Degas’s Masterpiece.”

With notes and a select bibliography, it comes to no more than 166 pages, including profuse illustrations, making for a couple of hours of pleasurable reading that are likely to leave you with much longer fruitful speculation about what you have just read. “La petite danseuse de quatorze ans,” as the statue and book are titled in the original, is a little masterpiece of research, guesswork, and authorial meditation about everything that has been said and...


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