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Men’s Honour, Women’s Lives

Peter Burke, 6 March 1986

Trial by Impotence: Virility and Marriage in Pre-Revolutionary France 
by Pierre Darmon, translated by Paul Keegan.
Chatto, 234 pp., £10.95, March 1985, 9780701129149
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The Boundaries of Eros: Sex, Crime and Sexuality in Renaissance Venice 
by Guido Ruggiero.
Oxford, 223 pp., £25, March 1985, 0 19 503465 1
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The Tuscans and their Families: A Study of the Florentine Catasto of 1427 
by David Herlihy and Christiane Klapisch-Zuber.
Yale, 404 pp., £32, March 1985, 0 300 03056 8
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Women, Family and Ritual in Renaissance Italy 
by Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, translated by Lydia Cochrane.
Chicago, 338 pp., £25.50, September 1985, 0 226 43925 9
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French Women in the Age of Enlightenment 
edited by Samia Spencer.
Indiana, 429 pp., $35, November 1984, 0 253 32481 5
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... been forgotten.’ With these words, Darmon carefully places himself in the tradition of the late Michel Foucault, his history of madness as well as his more recent, regrettably unfinished history of sexuality. But the book does not live up to the expectations aroused by the beginning. Trial by Impotence deals in turn with the canon lawyers’ categories of ...

Like Cold Oysters

Bee Wilson, 19 May 2016

Edith Piaf: A Cultural History 
by David Looseley.
Liverpool, 254 pp., £25, October 2015, 978 1 78138 257 8
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... a dance favoured by the Peruvian working class. Piaf heard it and asked one of her librettists, Michel Rivgauche, to compose new French lyrics. It isn’t hard to see why it appealed to her, musically and thematically. She had always been good at milking nostalgia – ‘chanson’ itself is a wistful genre – and the plaintive, rhythmic accordion and ...

Capital’s Capital

Christopher Prendergast: Baron Haussmann’s Paris, 3 October 2002

Haussmann: His Life and Times, and the Making of Modern Paris 
by Michel Carmona, translated by Patrick Camiller.
Ivan Dee, 480 pp., £25, June 2002, 9781566634274
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... has Louis-Napoleon as a key player in a necessary process of ‘modernisation’ (roughly where Michel Carmona stands) or as a star figure in the creation of ‘the city as a work of art’ (the title of Donald Olsen’s book on the subject, published in 1988). Aesthetics were not Louis-Napoleon’s strong point. In the eclectic medley of Second Empire ...

White Hat/Black Hat

Frances Richard: 20th-Century Art, 6 April 2006

Art since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism 
by Hal Foster, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois and Benjamin H.D. Buchloh.
Thames and Hudson, 704 pp., £45, March 2005, 0 500 23818 9
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... new attention to Surrealists who rebelled against their controlling impresario, André Breton: Georges Bataille, Roger Caillois, Michel Leiris. It has pondered the theory of the sign, foregrounded photography and helped to install Peter Bürger’s 1974 essay ‘Theory of the Avant-Garde’ (translated into English in ...


Robert Walshe: Bumping into Beckett, 7 November 1985

... one’s reverence, as one goes, to Verlaine, to Sainte-Beuve, to Baudelaire, Flaubert, Stendhal, Georges Sand, all sitting there on pedestals as if the purpose of literature were to look down upon the world. My favourite statuary in the Luxembourg is dedicated to Frédéric Chopin. Whoever designed it was a miracle of discretion, because the artist himself ...

Report from Sirius B

Jeremy Harding: ‘Phantom Africa’, 22 March 2018

Phantom Africa 
by Michel Leiris, translated by Brent Hayes Edwards.
Seagull, 711 pp., £42, January 2017, 978 0 85742 377 1
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... In​ L’Age d’homme, his early excursion into autobiography, Michel Leiris recalls his mother warning him to beware of ‘bad people’ in the Bois de Boulogne. He imagined the predators in the woods to be ‘satyrs’, and later, cannibals: he had been struck by an exotic colour illustration in Le Pêle-Mêle, a humorous weekly, of ‘savages’ eating an explorer ...

Touchez-pas à mon de Gaulle

Douglas Johnson, 19 February 1987

De Gaulle. Vol III: Le Souverain 
by Jean Lacouture.
Seuil, 870 pp., frs 145, August 1984, 2 02 006969 5
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... in favour of the integration of France and Algeria. Most important of all, the Prime Minister, Michel Debré, and his entourage, were prodigal with their assurances that the President would never even contemplate abandoning Algeria. After the anti-de Gaulle rising of 1960, known as the affaire des barricades, the General decided to change the minister in ...

Who does that for anyone?

Adam Shatz: Jean-Pierre Melville, 20 June 2019

Jean-Pierre Melville: Le Solitaire 
by Bertrand Teissier.
Fayard, 272 pp., €22, October 2017, 978 2 213 70573 6
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Jean-Pierre Melville, une vie 
by Antoine de Baecque.
Seuil, 244 pp., €32, October 2017, 978 2 02 137107 9
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... credits: a device, as André Bazin noted, that Robert Bresson borrowed for his 1951 adaptation of Georges Bernanos’s Diary of a Country Priest. Melville’s early films were bookish, and rather talky. But in the early 1960s he began to hone back his dialogue. The first seven minutes of Le Samouraï (1967), in which Alain Delon plays the hitman Jef ...

Mon Pays

Michael Rogin: Josephine Baker, 22 February 2001

The Josephine Baker Story 
by Ean Wood.
Sanctuary, 327 pp., £16.99, September 2000, 1 86074 286 6
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Negrophilia: Avant-Garde Paris and Black Culture in the 1920s 
by Petrine Archer-Straw.
Thames and Hudson, 200 pp., £14.95, September 2000, 0 500 28135 1
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... or playing with them? Pan-Africanists, like the negrophiliac Surrealists and sousréalistes (Michel Leiris, Georges Bataille and the Documents group), deployed Africa against the imperial metropole, but Baker was being put to the opposite use. She was picked as queen of the 1931 Colonial Exhibition, whose display of ...

Crack Open the Shells

Hal Foster: The Situationist Moment, 12 March 2009

Correspondence: The Foundation of the Situationist International (June 1957-60) 
by Guy Debord, translated by Stuart Kendall and John McHale.
Semiotext(e), 397 pp., £12.95, February 2009, 978 1 58435 055 2
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... letters pile up, so do the bodies. At one point or another he deems such critics and artists as Michel Tapié, Georges Mathieu, Yves Klein and Simon Hantaï, not to mention all the Angry Young Men, ‘apolitical and fascistic’, and even the once-recruited Spur artists are soon dismissed as ‘ridiculous’. Sentiments ...

Poland and the New France

Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, 4 March 1982

... tainted by its compromise with the Stalinists, has never attracted even such radical thinkers as Michel Foucault or Pierre Bourdieu, who are consistent in their democratic views. There was a similar reaction from many journalists, who, despite their left-wing opinions, were profoundly hostile to the PCF: they included those working for the daily ...

Republican King

Philippe Marlière: François Mitterrand, 17 April 2014

Mitterrand: A Study in Ambiguity 
by Philip Short.
Bodley Head, 692 pp., £30, November 2013, 978 1 84792 006 5
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... supporters of Giscard d’Estaing were panic-stricken and rumours spread rapidly across France. Michel Poniatowski, a former interior minister, warned that within days Russian tanks would be rolling through the streets of Paris. Pundits predicted that the stock exchange would collapse and leaders of the right lamented the impending collectivisation of the ...

Sedan Chairs and Turtles

Leland de la Durantaye: Benjamin’s Baudelaire, 21 November 2013

Charles Baudelaire: Un poeta lirico nell’età del capitalismo avanzato 
by Walter Benjamin, edited by Giorgio Agamben, Barbara Chitussi and Clemens-Carl Härle.
Neri Pozza, 927 pp., €23, December 2012, 978 88 545 0623 7
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... to his favourite place in Paris, the Bibliothèque nationale. When he got there he gave them to Georges Bataille, a head librarian there, for safekeeping. Hours before the German army entered Paris with an order to arrest him, Benjamin left the city with ‘nothing but a gas mask and my toiletries’. What happened next – the attempted escape by way of ...

History is always to hand

Douglas Johnson, 8 December 1988

Notre Siècle: 1918-1988 
by René Rémond.
Fayard, 1012 pp., frs 190, February 1988, 2 213 02039 6
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Histoire de la Vie Privée: De la Première Guerre Mondiale à nos Jours 
edited by Philippe Ariès and Georges Duby.
Seuil, 634 pp., frs 375, May 1988, 2 02 008987 4
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France since the Popular Front: Government and People 1936-1986 
by Maurice Larkin.
Oxford, 435 pp., £30, July 1988, 0 19 873034 9
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France Today 
by John Ardagh.
Penguin, 647 pp., £6.95, June 1988, 0 14 010098 9
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... votes in the 1956 elections and by 1958 weren’t even in a position to contest the elections. Michel Rocard became prime minister after Mitterrand had been elected President. He formed a government and sent a letter to each of his ministers setting out their tasks and their methods of work. It was said that this recalled Mendès France, and the manner in ...

Have you seen my Dada boss?

Terry Eagleton: Standing up for stereotyping, 30 November 2006

Typecasting: On the Arts and Sciences of Human Inequality 
by Ewen.
Seven Stories, 555 pp., $34.95, September 2006, 1 58322 735 0
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... a jacket. But it underpins a good deal of postmodern thought, sinking to its nadir in the work of Michel Foucault. ‘Naming,’ Ewen and Ewen write in Foucauldian vein, ‘is a form of exercising power,’ a claim which implies that power is always objectionable. It is not a view that the powerless generally share. Typecasting is an encyclopedic browse ...

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