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Sanjay Subrahmanyam: Gabriel García Márquez, 27 August 2009

Gabriel García Márquez: A Life 
by Gerald Martin.
Bloomsbury, 668 pp., £25, October 2008, 978 0 7475 9476 5
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... of celebrity, García Márquez, like Hemingway, has fallen victim to a twisted version of what Pierre Bourdieu once called the ‘biographical illusion’. Perhaps it takes a biography like this one for us to understand that, and in any event it does not diminish him as one of the great novelists of the last half-century. But it leaves one ...

It’s him, Eddie

Gary Indiana: Carrère’s Limonov, 23 October 2014

Limonov: A Novel 
by Emmanuel Carrère, translated by John Lambert.
Allen Lane, 340 pp., £20, October 2014, 978 1 84614 820 0
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... French upper-middle-class background ‘that might have been used to illustrate the theses of Pierre Bourdieu’. Despite this insightful modesty, he assumes his readers share precisely this background and its code of sentiments, including its delicate political conservatism and fondness for fatuous gender stereotypes. It’s hard to write about ...

Après the Avant Garde

Fredric Jameson, 12 December 1996

Histoire de ‘Tel Quel’, 1960-82 
by Philippe Forest.
Seuil, 656 pp., frs 180, October 1995, 2 02 017346 8
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The Time of Theory: A History of ‘Tel Quel’ (1960-83) 
by Patrick ffrench.
Oxford, 318 pp., £37.50, December 1995, 0 19 815897 1
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The Making of an Avant Garde: ‘Tel Quel’ 
by Niilo Kauppi.
Mouton de Gruyter, 516 pp., August 1994, 3 11 013952 9
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... name and opening the door wide to the debunking analysis of intellectual opportunism pioneered by Pierre Bourdieu – and exemplified here in a particularly satisfying way by Niilo Kauppi’s book. Like the cycles of the great Mafiosi or the history of the Comintern, the chanson de geste of the various avant gardes has a relatively immutable pattern: the ...

Down to the Last Cream Puff

Steven Shapin: The End of Haute Cuisine, 5 August 2010

Au Revoir to All That: The Rise and Fall of French Cuisine 
by Michael Steinberger.
Bloomsbury, 248 pp., £8.99, July 2010, 978 1 4088 0136 9
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... classic French cuisine – such chefs as Michel Guérard, Alain Chapel, Jean Delaveyne, Jean and Pierre Troisgros. And it was betrayed, Steinberger says, by the media-savvy chef Paul Bocuse, wrongly identified as a leader of nouvelle cuisine. The new cuisine revolution needed its Trotsky, but what it got in Bocuse was its Stalin. What Bocuse did was to erode ...

Dynamo Current, Feet, Fists, Salt

Adam Shatz: What did you do in the war?, 18 February 2021

Papa, qu’as-tu fait en Algérie? Enquête sur un silence familial 
by Raphaëlle Branche.
La Découverte, 512 pp., £21.50, September 2020, 978 2 7071 9878 5
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... contemporary accounts of torture and assassinations by leading anti-war militants, in particular Pierre Vidal-Naquet and Henri Alleg.The title of Branche’s new book – Papa, qu’as-tu fait en Algérie? – suggests a continuation of this muckraking, but the subtitle points to a shift in focus: ‘An Inquiry into a Family Silence’. Branche’s aim is ...
... workers. The closely-related radical school of theorising, which includes Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu, engages in the same dubious explanations. With frictionless ingenuity they succeed in demonstrating, at any rate to their own satisfaction, that societies are systematically organised for oppression, even in the absence of identifiable ...

Always on Top

Edward Said: From Birmingham to Jamaica, 20 March 2003

Civilising Subjects: Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination 1830-67 
by Catherine Hall.
Polity, 556 pp., £60, April 2002, 0 7456 1820 0
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... writing – pomposity, jargon, self-indulgence – are avoidable. During his last years Pierre Bourdieu railed against American academic multiculturalism. What struck him was how easily writing about race, gender and empire according to a programmatic idea about ‘multiculturalism’ as the view ‘theoretically’ opposed to racist and ...

Maigret’s Room

John Lanchester: The Home Life of Inspector Maigret, 4 June 2020

... is fascinated by codes of behaviour and power relations; I find it hard to imagine Simenon reading Pierre Bourdieu, but if he did he would have found a lot to agree with. Another of Simenon’s unexpected intellectual affinities is with Raymond Queneau, who in the course of his studies spent a lot of time reflecting on the difference between spoken and ...

Whose person is he?

Sheila Fitzpatrick: ‘Practising Stalinism’, 20 March 2014

Practising Stalinism: Bolsheviks, Boyars and the Persistence of Tradition 
by J. Arch Getty.
Yale, 359 pp., £30, September 2013, 978 0 300 16929 4
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... to wonder if those archival folders were, in a sense, tricking me. Was the modern state, as in Pierre Bourdieu’s suspicion, creating itself through my reading of it?’ Perhaps that state, with all its modern bureaucratic rationality, existed only on paper, masking a reality rooted in personal relationships and informal practices. ...

Fumbling for the Towel

Christopher Prendergast: Maigret’s elevation to the Panthéon, 7 July 2005

Romans: Tome I 
by Georges Simenon.
Gallimard, 1493 pp., €60, May 2004, 2 07 011674 3
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Romans: Tome II 
by Georges Simenon.
Gallimard, 1736 pp., €60, May 2004, 2 07 011675 1
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... an equal contemporary of Leiris, Michaux and Bataille (an odd alignment, all things considered); Pierre de Boisdeffre placed him with Jean Giono, Céline and Queneau. This will doubtless come as some surprise to those for whom Simenon means only the Maigret novels. In fact, of the 192 novels he published under his own name, 75 were romans policiers and the ...

Not in the Mood

Adam Shatz: Derrida’s Secrets, 22 November 2012

Derrida: A Biography 
by Benoît Peeters, translated by Andrew Brown.
Polity, 629 pp., £25, November 2012, 978 0 7456 5615 1
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... thoughts never far from his family in Algeria. In 1961, a year before independence, the historian Pierre Nora, a lycée classmate, published a scathing little book, Les Français d’Algérie, pillorying the colons as genocidal in their hatred of Arabs. Derrida sent Nora a 19-page single-spaced letter. He agreed that independence was now inevitable, but ...


Perry Anderson: The Fall of France, 2 September 2004

La France qui tombe 
by Nicolas Baverez.
Perrin, 134 pp., €5.50, January 2004, 2 262 02163 5
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La Face cachée du ‘Monde’: Du contre-pouvoir aux abus de pouvoir 
by Pierre Péan and Philippe Cohen.
Mille et Une Nuits, 631 pp., €24, February 2003, 2 84205 756 2
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... to invent his archaeology of knowledge; Derrida to become the antinomian philosopher of the age; Bourdieu to develop the concepts that would make him its best-known sociologist. The concentrated explosion of ideas is astonishing. In just two years (1966-67) there appeared side by side: Du miel aux cendres, Les Mots et les choses, Civilisation matérielle et ...

Tall and Tanned and Young and Lovely

James Davidson: The naked body in Ancient Greece, 18 June 1998

Art, Desire and the Body in Ancient Greece 
by Andrew Stewart.
Cambridge, 272 pp., £45, April 1997, 0 521 45064 0
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... man of adultery was like charging an invalid with assault. All this led the French classicist Jean-Pierre Vernant to conclude that the Greek body was best seen, not as a lump of meat, temporarily animated by the soul, but as a source of energy and light, a corps éclatant. When the body was at its best, powerful attributes played over its surface like a kind ...

Exit Sartre

Fredric Jameson, 7 July 1994

Past Imperfect: French Intellectuals, 1944-1956 
by Tony Judt.
California, 348 pp., £11.95, February 1994, 0 520 08650 3
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Arguing Revolution: The Intellectual Left in Post-War France 
by Sunil Khilnani.
Yale, 264 pp., £19.95, December 1993, 0 300 05745 8
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... of the Revolution as fully as the enemies they use it against. Both books betray the influence of Pierre Bourdieu’s auto-referential analysis of the intellectual career as a struggle of every instant for self-promotion; only they lack the richness of Bourdieu’s analyses, which (very much indebted to Sartre, be it ...

The Tangible Page

Leah Price: Books as Things, 31 October 2002

The Book History Reader 
edited by David Finkelstein and Alistair McCleery.
Routledge, 390 pp., £17.99, November 2001, 0 415 22658 9
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Making Meaning: ‘Printers of the Mind’ and Other Essays 
by D.F. McKenzie, edited by Peter D. McDonald and Michael F. Suarez.
Massachusetts, 296 pp., £20.95, June 2002, 1 55849 336 0
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... of words to transcend social constraints and physical contingencies. This is the belief from which Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of the ‘field of cultural production’ tries to gain critical distance: at a particular time and place, he argues, art came to define itself through its contradistinction to economic life. For that reason, the ...

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