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Who invented Vercingétorix?

Julian Jackson: French national identity, 27 June 2002

Rethinking France: Les Lieux de mémoire. Volume I: The State 
by Pierre Nora, translated by Mary Trouille.
Chicago, 475 pp., £25, October 2001, 0 226 59132 8
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... kind of positivist and exclusively political history. Almost a century later, the seven volumes of Pierre Nora’s Lieux de mémoire, of which this is the latest to be translated, stand comparison with Lavisse at least in ambition and scope. Sumptuously produced and copiously illustrated, they contain 130 articles by the most distinguished contemporary ...

Le Journal and Le Club

Tariq Ali: Mediapart, 22 October 2014

... 1936, 1968 – misrepresented or forgotten? The new liberals, the historians François Furet and Pierre Nora, the politicians Jospin and Hollande, prepared the ground well for the French right. Manuel Valls, currently the Socialist prime minister, declares his admiration for Tony Blair while competing with the Front National’s Marine Le Pen to ...

Dolorism

Robert Tombs: Biography, 28 October 1999

Le Monde retrouvó de Louis-François Pinagot: Sur let Traces d’un Inconnu, 1798-1876 
by Alain Corbin.
Flammarion, 344 pp., frs 135, November 1998, 2 08 212520 3
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... something extraordinary which made them noticed at the time, and makes them fascinating to us. Pierre Rivière, Martin Guerre and Menocchio seem to inhabit a Grimms’ fairy-tale world of Grand-Guignol violence, changelings and magic. What about all those who lived ordinary lives and hence are unknown, but who made up everyday reality? How can they be ...

Looking back at the rubble

David Simpson: War and the Built Environment, 25 May 2006

The Destruction of Memory: Architecture at War 
by Robert Bevan.
Reaktion, 240 pp., £19.95, January 2006, 1 86189 205 5
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... objects (the heritage industry) might be a sign of our loss of authentic memory, as it was for Pierre Nora in his monumental survey of the French construction of a national past, Les Lieux de mémoire. If we accept that there is no architecturally embodied identity of a nation or people, that our current historical existence is not vitally wrapped up ...

Union Sucrée

Perry Anderson: The Normalising of France, 23 September 2004

Le Rappel à l’ordre: Enquête sur les nouveaux réactionnaires 
by Daniel Lindenberg.
Seuil, 94 pp., €10.50, November 2002, 2 02 055816 5
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Esquisse pour une auto-analyse 
by Pierre Bourdieu.
Raisons d'Agir, 142 pp., €12, February 2004, 2 912107 19 9
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La République mondiale des lettres 
by Pascale Casanova.
Seuil, 492 pp., €27.50, March 1999, 2 02 035853 0
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... of the past had yet to be thoroughly purged of its ambiguities: the Nation. This task fell to Pierre Nora. In his editorial on the tenth anniversary of Le Débat in 1990, Nora had hailed the ‘new cultural landscape’ of the country, and within another couple of years, he completed his own monumental ...

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 ...

Dégringolade

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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... and soon outpaced, by a partner in the liberal centre. Le Débat, launched in a sleeker format by Pierre Nora under the auspices of Gallimard, had a more ambitious agenda. Nora opened the journal with a programme for intellectual reform. In the past, French culture, steeped in humanist traditions, had been dominated by ...

Violets in Their Lapels

David A. Bell: Bonapartism, 23 June 2005

The Legend of Napoleon 
by Sudhir Hazareesingh.
Granta, 336 pp., £20, August 2004, 1 86207 667 7
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The Retreat 
by Patrick Rambaud, translated by William Hobson.
Picador, 320 pp., £7.99, June 2005, 0 330 48901 1
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Napoleon: The Eternal Man of St Helena 
by Max Gallo, translated by William Hobson.
Macmillan, 320 pp., £10.99, April 2005, 0 333 90798 1
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The Saint-Napoleon: Celebrations of Sovereignty in 19th-Century France 
by Sudhir Hazareesingh.
Harvard, 307 pp., £32.95, May 2004, 0 674 01341 7
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Napoleon and the British 
by Stuart Semmel.
Yale, 354 pp., £25, September 2004, 0 300 09001 3
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... him, only the relatively minor rue Bonaparte. In the great monument to French memory edited by Pierre Nora, Les Lieux de mémoire, the only essay on him concerns the pathos-laden return of his body to France in 1840. Which is to say that he receives roughly the same space as the abbey of Port-Royal, the Larousse dictionary or the theme of ‘visits to ...

Made in Algiers

Jeremy Harding: De Gaulle, 4 November 2010

Le mythe gaullien 
by Sudhir Hazareesingh.
Gallimard, 280 pp., €21, May 2010, 978 2 07 012851 8
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The General: Charles de Gaulle and the France He Saved 
by Jonathan Fenby.
Simon and Schuster, 707 pp., £30, June 2010, 978 1 84737 392 2
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... de mémoire’) – and his book is a model of recent French historiography, in the tradition of Pierre Nora and Maurice Agulhon. He is also a political scientist, intrigued by the general’s stake in his own myth-making as a means of empowerment and self-justification. In his new biography, Jonathan Fenby delivers the infant Charles into an era of ...

The Kiss

Gaby Wood, 9 February 1995

Jean Renoir: Letters 
edited by Lorraine LoBianco and David Thompson, translated by Craig Carlson, Natasha Arnoldi and Michael Wells.
Faber, 605 pp., £25, October 1994, 0 571 17298 9
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... This last film, though, is the subject of a 1951 letter in which be reminds his wife Dido ‘how Nora Grégor’s blunders nearly killed that film’. In 1959 he explains to a theatre director how the story of his play, Orvet, was inspired by his survival in a car crash which killed his best friend; and in 1963 he tells a New York Times journalist that the ...

Butcher, Baker, Wafer-Maker

Miri Rubin: A Medieval Mrs Beeton, 8 April 2010

The Good Wife’s Guide: A Medieval Household Book 
translated by Gina Greco and Christine Rose.
Cornell, 366 pp., £16.95, March 2009, 978 0 8014 7474 3
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... spice merchant; it also involved a visit to Les Halles for eggs and fruit, to the dairy market of Pierre-au-Lait for good, rich milk, and to the Place de Grève for firewood and coal. And then there was the management of the servants hired for the day: a cook and assistants, waiters, water servers and bouncers (‘big, strong ushers to guard the door’). The ...

Into the Alley

Daniel Soar: Dashiell Hammett, 3 January 2002

Nightmare Town: Stories 
by Dashiell Hammett, edited by Kirby McCauley and Martin Greenberg et al.
Picador, 396 pp., £16.99, March 2001, 0 330 48109 6
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Selected Letters of Dashiell Hammett 1921-60 
edited by Richard Layman and Julie Rivett.
Counterpoint, 650 pp., £28.99, June 2001, 1 58243 081 0
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... from a prison cell; he also played with the idea of reconstructing what was already there: his Pierre Menard begins rewriting Don Quixote word for word, and his version turns out to be better than the original. Paul Auster, in the New York Trilogy, follows the logic of detection into dizzy madness. But these clevernesses aren’t just sparked by the ...

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