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Memories of a Skinny Girl

Michael Wood: Mario Vargas Llosa, 9 May 2002

The Feast of the Goat 
by Mario Vargas Llosa, translated by Edith Grossman.
Faber, 404 pp., £16.99, March 2002, 0 571 20771 5
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The Decline and Fall of the Lettered City: Latin America in the Cold War 
by Jean Franco.
Harvard, 323 pp., £15.95, May 2002, 0 674 00842 1
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... conversion, as well as a banality of evil. ‘Different time lines run through these chapters,’ Jean Franco says of The Decline and Fall of the Lettered City. ‘The rapid time of modern communications, the frozen time of military dictatorships, the retrospective time of memory, and the strange temporalities of residues and remnants of the past.’ By ...

Nodding and Winking

Stephen W. Smith: Françafrique, 11 February 2010

... the town in a pink Rolls Royce, sometimes accompanied by François Mitterrand’s eldest son, Jean-Christophe, then in charge of Africa at the Elysée. ‘Our interests would be better served if someone more competent, with fewer genetic links to the old regime, were to take over in Gabon,’ a French minister confided last summer. Off the ...

Unmasking Monsieur Malraux

Richard Mayne, 25 June 1992

The Conquerors 
by André Malraux, translated by Stephen Becker.
Chicago, 198 pp., £8.75, December 1991, 0 226 50290 2
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The Temptation of the West 
by André Malraux, translated by Robert Hollander.
Chicago, 122 pp., £8.75, February 1992, 0 226 50291 0
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The Walnut Tree of Altenburg 
by André Malraux, translated by A.W. Fielding.
Chicago, 224 pp., £9.55, April 1992, 0 226 50289 9
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... then, ‘all his life long Malraux was an actor playing Malraux.’ A conscious echo, no doubt, of Jean Cocteau’s remark that ‘Victor Hugo was a mad-man who thought he was Victor Hugo.’ But Lottman’s – and others’ – objection to Malraux was less that he was mad than that he was misleading. ‘For all of his life André Malraux let it be ...

De Gaulle’s Debt

Patrice Higonnet: Moulin, the French martyr, 4 December 2003

Jean Moulin: Le politique, le rebelle, le résistant 
by Jean-Pierre Azéma.
Perrin, 507 pp., €24, April 2003, 2 262 01329 2
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... By 1995, there were 37 monuments and 113 plaques dedicated to Jean Moulin in France; 978 boulevards, avenues, streets, squares, bridges and stadiums were named after him, as well as more than 365 schools, including one university. There are even more today; only de Gaulle is more honoured. And yet at the time of his death at the hands of Nazi torturers in the first days of July 1943, Moulin was unknown even among the elite circles of the day ...

Someone like Maman

Elisabeth Ladenson: Proust’s mother, 8 May 2008

Madame Proust: A Biography 
by Evelyne Bloch-Dano, translated by Alice Kaplan.
Chicago, 310 pp., £16, October 2007, 978 0 226 05642 5
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... them accounted for a large proportion of the population of France around the turn of the century. Jeanne Proust, née Weil, was born in 1849 into a rich, relatively assimilated Jewish family which had moved to Paris from Alsace in the early 19th century. The politician and social reformer Adolphe Crémieux was her great-uncle, the philosopher Henri Bergson a ...

Semiotics Right and Left

Christopher Norris, 4 September 1986

On Signs: A Semiotics Reader 
edited by Marshall Blonsky.
Blackwell, 536 pp., £27.50, September 1985, 0 631 10261 2
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... novelist and film-maker Edmundo Desnoes, on First World perceptions of Third World politics; by Jean Franco, who writes about El Salvador and the link between militarisation, mass murder and the destruction of traditional symbolic spaces, like church and home; and by Michel de Certeau on the ‘long march’ of American Indians toward some form of ...

To the Manure Born

David Coward: An uncompromising champion of the French republic, 21 July 2005

Memoirs of a Breton Peasant 
by Jean-Marie Déguignet, translated by Linda Asher.
Seven Stories, 432 pp., £17.99, November 2004, 1 58322 616 8
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... Jean-Marie Déguignet was born near Quimper, in Brittany, in 1834, the fifth of ten children born to an illiterate tenant farmer. A succession of bad harvests drove the family off the land into the town and at six, Jean-Marie was sent out to beg. He survived fevers, the potato famine of 1845, and a near-fatal accident which happened when he was ‘no taller than a riding-boot ...

To kill a cat

Anthony Pagden, 21 February 1985

Settecento Riformatore. Vol. IV: La Caduta dell’Antico Regime 1776-1789. Part One: I Grandi Staii dell’Occidente 
by Franco Venturi.
Einaudi, 463 pp., lire 45,000, July 1984, 88 06 05695 6
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Settecento Riformatore. Vol. IV: La Caduta dell’Antico Regime 1776-1789. Part Two: II Patriotismo Repubblicano e gli Imperi dell’Est 
by Franco Venturi.
Einaudi, 1040 pp., lire 55,000, July 1984, 88 06 05696 4
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The Great Cat Massacre, and Other Episodes in French Cultural History 
by Robert Darnton.
Viking, 284 pp., £14.95, July 1984, 0 7139 1728 8
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Rousseau, Dreamer of Democracy 
by James Miller.
Yale, 272 pp., £25, July 1984, 0 300 03044 4
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... perhaps the misfortune, of the Enlightenment that its historians frequently write very long books. Franco Venturi’s Settecento Riformatore, which must surely be one of the longest, has now reached its fifth and final volume. As an enterprise it can have few parallels even among dixhuitièmistes. It offers no less than the description of an entire culture ...

Candidate Macron

Jeremy Harding: The French Elections, 16 March 2017

... goods – toing and froing by ferry. But the war of decolonisation – 1954-62 – still dogs the Franco-Algerian partnership and alluding to it in an election campaign, as Macron has, is risky; in this election especially, where sensitivities are heightened by an ongoing state of emergency declared after the jihadist killings in Paris in 2015.‘Une vraie ...

At the National Portrait Gallery

Peter Campbell: 273 Fabiolas, 11 June 2009

... controversy in England. The novel is a more likely reason for the French academic painter Jean-Jacques Henner to have turned to the subject than Jerome’s letter. Henner exhibited his Fabiola in the Salon of 1885 (its present whereabouts are unknown). It shows a woman’s head, covered by a red shawl, in profile. Fourteen years earlier, in the ...

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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... La France Libre,’ de Gaulle wrote to Jean Marin, who’d been his companion in London from the summer of 1940 and was now the Director of the Agence France-Presse, ‘that was the finest thing we ever did.’ He believed this. Many of his closest associates believed it too. But as the leader of la France Libre (and la France Combattante), de Gaulle was hardly a free man ...

Too Much Gide

Douglas Johnson: French writers (1940-53), 15 November 2001

La Guerre des écrivains 1940-53 
by Gisèle Sapiro.
Fayard, 807 pp., frs 220, September 1999, 2 213 60211 5
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Correspondance: Marcel Arland – Jean Paulhan 1936-45 
edited by Jean-Jacques Didier.
Gallimard, 397 pp., frs 140, March 2000, 2 07 075789 7
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Dialogue des ‘vaincus’: Prison de Clairvaux, janvier-décembre 1950 
by Lucien Rebatet and Pierre-Antoine Cousteau, edited by Robert Belot.
Berg, 285 pp., frs 120, March 2000, 2 911289 22 6
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The Collaborator: The Trial and Execution of Robert Brasillach 
by Alice Kaplan.
Chicago, 320 pp., £9.50, December 2000, 0 226 42415 4
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... took further issue with each other. One of the figures with whom she’s most concerned, Jean Paulhan, the editor of the Nouvelle Revue française before the Occupation, exchanged letters during this period with his friend and fellow author, Marcel Arland, and this correspondence has now been published. Many of the letters are very short, and merely ...

Textual Intercourse

Claude Rawson, 6 February 1986

The Name of Action: Critical Essays 
by John Fraser.
Cambridge, 260 pp., £25, December 1984, 0 521 25876 6
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... and definition. He is much given to the inclusive ‘like’: ‘writers like Lawrence, Jean Giono, George Eliot, Traven, Tolstoy, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and, of course, Sturt’. The ‘of course’ is part of a bullying knowingness that never lets up. If you don’t believe me, turn to page 69, where you will find all the following ...

The Next Fix

Lara Pawson: African Oil, 7 February 2008

Poisoned Wells: The Dirty Politics of African Oil 
by Nicholas Shaxson.
Palgrave, 280 pp., £15.99, May 2007, 978 1 4039 7194 4
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Oil Wars 
edited by Mary Kaldor, Terry Lynn Karl and Yahia Said.
Pluto, 294 pp., £17.99, March 2008, 978 0 7453 2478 4
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Untapped: The Scramble for Africa’s Oil 
by John Ghazvinian.
Harcourt Brace, 320 pp., $25, April 2007, 978 0 15 101138 4
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... not to interfere with the Elf networks – and the French left joined ‘the Clan’, as the Franco-Gabonese elite was known. It took another twenty years, and the biggest fraud investigation in Europe since the Second World War, for the scale of Franco-Gabonese corruption to come to light. The investigation did not ...

Communiste et Rastignac

Christopher Caldwell: Bernard Kouchner, 9 July 2009

Le Monde selon K. 
by Pierre Péan.
Fayard, 331 pp., €19, February 2009, 978 2 213 64372 4
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... political and financial misdeeds. Pierre Péan is best known for having revealed that the dictator Jean-Bédel Bokassa, of the Central African Republic, had given diamonds worth millions of francs to Giscard d’Estaing, and for uncovering the extent of Mitterrand’s work for the Vichy government as a young man. In Le Monde selon K., Péan considers a number ...

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