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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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... volume collective history of France which was later much derided by the Annales school as the worst kind of positivist and exclusively political history. Almost a century later, the seven volumes of PierreNora’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 ...

Le Journal and Le Club

Tariq Ali: Mediapart

22 October 2014
... will soon be erased and the events of the memorable years – 1789, 1793, 1815, 1830, 1848, 1871, 1936, 1968 – misrepresented or forgotten? The new liberals, the historians François Furet and PierreNora, 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 ...

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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... virtuosity. Biographies even of ‘the people’ focus on the abnormal: on individuals who have done 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 ...

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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... a rebuilt Warsaw or a cherished ruin. We have the privilege of wondering whether the fetishism of built objects (the heritage industry) might be a sign of our loss of authentic memory, as it was for PierreNora 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 ...

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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... been laid to rest. The Republic had found its feet in the safe ground of the centre. Only one heritage of the past had yet to be thoroughly purged of its ambiguities: the Nation. This task fell to PierreNora. 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 ...

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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... he landed a job as a lecturer at the Sorbonne. But his psychological state was precarious, his thoughts never far from his family in Algeria. In 1961, a year before independence, the historian PierreNora, 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 ...

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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... functionaries, politicians and businessmen, as well as the academy. Two years later it was joined, and soon outpaced, by a partner in the liberal centre. Le Débat, launched in a sleeker format by PierreNora 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 ...

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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... on Napoleon with something like embarrassed disdain. Napoleon has no grand Parisian squares named after him, only the relatively minor rue Bonaparte. In the great monument to French memory edited by PierreNora, 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 ...

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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... with the registers of collective memory – monuments, rituals, symbols, street names (‘lieux de mémoire’) – and his book is a model of recent French historiography, in the tradition of PierreNora 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 ...

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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... Grande Illusion was put together or what he felt about La Règle du jeu, so near the outbreak of war. 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 ...

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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... 40 involved bargaining with the baker and butcher, the wafer-maker and poulterer, the sauce-maker and 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 ...

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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... self-reflexive non-genre writing. Borges was an addict who wrote pastiches in which the detective works 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 ...

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