Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie
- Promenades by Richard Cobb
Oxford, 158 pp, £5.95, June 1980, ISBN 0 19 211758 0
These Promenades come from a man who, although he is the most hexagonal[*] historian in the United Kingdom, is still not recognised at his true worth south of the Channel. Right from the start of his itinerary Cobb gaily mixes everything together. He paints well-behaved Norman children such as one can only dream of meeting these days. He rides his biography backwards, he describes his period as a pion (a supervisor) in boarding-schools run either by priests or by anti-clericals, both of whom were great believers in corporal punishment. Lay or clerical, these child-rearers shared the pedagogical sadism that Dr Spock later decided to abolish: are we to believe, with reactionaries of all shades – among whom we of course are not numbered – that in doing away with the repression of children Spock gave rise to the generation of 1968, with its drop-outs of all kinds?
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[*] ‘The Hexagon’ is a fairly recent epithet for France.
[†] Une foutaise is ‘a load of rubbish’. Queneau added a few pages of ‘foutaises’ – epigrams, witticisms, somewhat risqué puns – to one of his books, published in 1962 (though he withdrew them in later editions). Beckett has written a book of short pieces which he called ‘Foutaises’ in French: in English he calls them ‘Fizzles’.