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The Enlightened Vote

Stefan Collini: Ernest Renan

9 December 2019
‘What Is a Nation?’ and Other Political Writings 
by Ernest Renan, translated and edited by M.F.N. Giglioli.
Columbia, 328 pp., £62, September 2018, 978 0 231 17430 5
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... Whatever may be the judgment of time on the intrinsic value of Renan’s contribution to the sum of knowledge, he can never lose his place among the few great names in the history of letters.’ This assessment from the 1901 edition of Chambers’s Encyclopedia ...

Back to the futuh

Robert Irwin

1 August 1996
The Middle East: 2000 Years of History from the Birth of Christianity to the Present Day 
by Bernard Lewis.
Weidenfeld, 433 pp., £20, September 1995, 0 297 81345 5
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... movement of merchants and commodities’. Similarly, The Arabs in History, which provided quite a detailed narrative of the life of the Prophet Muhammed, prefaced this with a quotation from ErnestRenan on the origins of Islam: ‘Its roots are at surface level, the life of its founder is as well known to us as those of the Reformers of the 16th century.’ But in recent decades various scholars ...

How are you finding it here?

Patrick Sims-Williams: Celts

28 October 1999
The Atlantic Celts: Ancient People or Modern Invention? 
by Simon James.
British Museum, 160 pp., £6.99, March 1999, 0 7141 2165 7
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... rightly or (often) wrongly with various archaeological manifestations such as megaliths, La Tène art etc, with various stereotyped literary conventions (Matthew Arnold and his unacknowledged mentor ErnestRenan were the chief culprits), and even with certain biological characteristics – ‘Celtic’ genes for phenylketonuria, cystic fibrosis and HLAA1, the B8 tissue antigen being the current fashion ...

An Absolutely Different Life

Michael Wood: Too Proustian

7 November 2019
Sept conférences sur Marcel Proust 
by Bernard de Fallois.
Editions de Fallois, 312 pp., €20, January, 978 1 03 210214 6
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Proust avant Proust Essai sur ‘Les Plaisirs et les jours’ 
by Bernard de Fallois.
Les Belles Lettres, 192 pp., €21.50, May, 978 2 251 44939 5
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‘Le Mystérieux Correspondant’ et autres nouvelles inédites 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Luc Fraisse.
Editions de Fallois, 174 pp., €18.50, October, 978 1 03 210229 0
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... differently by a contemporary Frenchman called Quélus. He’s a gay man who likes women, who has ‘always infinitely appreciated them’. The dialogue ends with the appearance of the historian ErnestRenan, who seems to believe homosexuality is some sort of affectation, to be denied because it deprives men of the experience of heterosexual love as poetry or madness or both. ‘The pleasure of ...

Here you will find only ashes

Geoffrey Hosking: The Kremlin

2 July 2014
Red Fortress: The Secret Heart of Russia’s History 
by Catherine Merridale.
Penguin, 528 pp., £10.99, May 2014, 978 0 14 103235 1
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... susceptible to constant reinterpretation and punctuated by black holes: events that the authorities at any given time preferred their subjects to forget. Selective amnesia is not unique to Russia: ErnestRenan pointed out long ago that national memories are constituted as much by forgetting as by remembering. What is unusual is the sheer quantity and variety of dramatic and often bloody events in ...
9 July 1992
... and half-participating in a random parade of words and images which wheeled, shuffled and slid interminably across my mind. Among these there suddenly appeared a phrase used by the French historian, ErnestRenan, in speaking about the history of the Jews during the early years of the Roman Empire. Somewhere I had once read an observation by him to the effect that those years had presented Judaism, then ...

Wedded to the Absolute

Ferdinand Mount: Enoch Powell

26 September 2019
Enoch Powell: Politics and Ideas in Modern Britain 
by Paul Corthorn.
Oxford, 233 pp., £20, August, 978 0 19 874714 7
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... the murders of Airey Neave and Lord Mountbatten. Conspiracy theory came naturally to him. Nationalism​ expressed with Powell’s intensity tends to repel historians, or at any rate to unnerve them. Ernest Gellner, for example, says he is ‘allergic to the history of ideas approach, because nationalism as an elaborated intellectual theory is neither widely endorsed, not of high quality, nor of any ...
5 April 1984
The World, the Text and the Critic 
by Edward Said.
Faber, 327 pp., £15, February 1984, 0 571 13264 2
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The Deconstructive Turn: Essays in the Rhetoric of Philosophy 
by Christopher Norris.
Methuen, 201 pp., £4.95, December 1983, 0 416 36140 4
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The New Pelican Guide to English Literature. Vol. VIII: The Present 
edited by Boris Ford.
Penguin, 619 pp., £3.50, October 1983, 0 14 022271 5
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... be pushing things a bit when he says Auerbach owed the book ‘to the very fact of Oriental, non-Occidental exile’. Two interesting essays at the end on the Orientalist writings of Raymond Schwab, ErnestRenan and Louis Massignon contain fascinating material, but Said’s French needs a lot of pardoning and I don’t know the subject enough to know whether this radically affects his discussion. Among ...
15 June 2016
The Other Paris: An Illustrated Journey through a City’s Poor and Bohemian Past 
by Luc Sante.
Faber, 306 pp., £25, November 2015, 978 0 571 24128 6
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How the French Think: An Affectionate Portrait of an Intellectual People 
by Sudhir Hazareesingh.
Allen Lane, 427 pp., £20, June 2015, 978 1 84614 602 2
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... think, and where do they go in search of intellectual respectability? To Voltaire on the Jews, ‘born with raging fanaticism in their hearts’, eventually ‘deadly to the human race’? Or ErnestRenan on Islam and ‘the intellectual nullity of the races that hold, from that religion alone, their culture and their education’? Perhaps it’s wiser, with Algeria and Vichy lurking in the not-so ...
22 June 2000
The Arcades Project 
by Walter Benjamin, translated by Howard Eiland.
Harvard, 1073 pp., £24.95, December 1999, 9780674043268
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... Maxime Du Camp wrote a poem called ‘Steam’ with the punchline, ‘Last word of him who died on the Cross!’; or that the photographer Nadar was shortsighted to the point of blindness; or that ErnestRenan recoiled from the English word ‘comfort’ in 1859 with ‘I am forced to use this barbarous word to express an idea quite un-French’; or that after Thermidor, busts of Marat and Le ...

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