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Hilary Mantel: Marie-Antoinette

30 September 1999
The Wicked Queen: The Origins of the Myth of Marie-Antoinette 
by Chantal Thomas, translated by Julie Rose.
Zone, 255 pp., £17.95, June 1999, 0 942299 39 6
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... Carnavalet museum this summer for a scrap of cloth from one of Marie-Antoinette’s dresses, which Chantal Thomas mentions in her lively and imaginative examination of the public personae of the French Queen. This fragment of cloth was carried to the scaffold, she says, by Barnave, who was first seen as an extreme revolutionary but later became an adviser ...

Just Sceaux Stories

Angelica Goodden

23 February 1995
Madame du Deffand and Her World 
by Benedetta Craveri, translated by Teresa Waugh.
Halban, 481 pp., £20, November 1994, 1 870015 51 7
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Lettres à Voltaire 
by Madame du Deffand, edited by Chantal Thomas.
Rivages, 215 pp., frs 55, October 1994, 2 86930 839 6
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... It is as well to establish at the outset what Madame du Deffand was not. She was not, whatever the publisher of Benedetta Craveri’s book may claim, a woman who ‘approached love and sex with a frankness centuries ahead of her time’: her time was the 18th-century Regency, which took a casual view of fidelity, and the hedonistic age of Louis XV. She died in the reign of Louis XVI, a couple of years ahead of the publication of Laclos’s Les Liaisons dangereuses, which may be read as, among other things, an exposé of the immorality of the Ancien Régime ...

On His Trapeze

Michael Wood: Roland Barthes

17 November 2016
Barthes: A Biography 
by Tiphaine Samoyault, translated by Andrew Brown.
Polity, 586 pp., £25, December 2016, 978 1 5095 0565 4
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... of an effect: that of what Barthes calls ‘festivity’. Two years after Barthes’s death, Chantal Thomas wrote very well of ‘the persistence of a theoretical desire progressively liberated from a concern with seriousness or consequence’. Does that sound frivolous? The concept of theoretical desire suggests a project that might be urgent, as ...

The Last Hundred Days

Peter Wollen: Kassel’s Mega-Exhibition

3 October 2002
Documenta 11 
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... rooms miraculously transformed into gallery spaces. Finally, a particularly eccentric outpost, Thomas Hirschhorn’s plywood and packing tape temple in honour of Georges Bataille, was erected in the middle of a low-income housing project. Documenta, whose original mission had been to celebrate Germany’s new postwar identity and the transnational role of ...

Grande Dame

D.A.N. Jones

18 July 1985
With Open Eyes: Conversations with Matthieu Galey 
by Marguerite Yourcenar, translated by Arthur Goldhammer.
Beacon, 271 pp., £19.95, October 1984, 0 8070 6354 1
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The Dark Brain of Piranesi, and Other Essays 
by Marguerite Yourcenar, translated with the author Richard Howard.
Aidan Ellis, 232 pp., £9.50, June 1985, 0 85628 140 9
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Alexis 
by Marguerite Yourcenar, translated with the author Walter Kaiser.
Aidan Ellis, 105 pp., £8.95, January 1984, 0 85628 138 7
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Coup de Grâce 
by Marguerite Yourcenar, translated with the author Grace Frick .
Black Swan, 112 pp., £2.50, October 1984, 9780552991216
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... a touch of French snobbery: she admits she is glad she was named Marguerite and not, for instance, Chantal – ‘a saint’s name, but it smacks too much of the Sixteenth Arrondissement’. Talking seriously of her work, she most frequently refers to Memoirs of Hadrian, which she completed on Mount Desert Island. She opened a trunk in 1948 and found in it a ...

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