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La Bête républicaine

Christopher Prendergast, 5 September 1996

The Dreyfus Affair: ‘J’Accuse’ and Other Writings 
by Emile Zola, edited by Alain Pagès, translated by Eleanor Levieux.
Yale, 208 pp., £25, June 1996, 0 300 06689 9
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Zola: A Life 
by Frederick Brown.
Farrar, Straus, 888 pp., £37.50, May 1996, 0 374 29742 8
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... Zola’s moral stand over the Dreyfus Affair and the informing presuppositions of his fiction. Pagès invites us to connect the journalism with the world of the novels, remarking that the ‘roots’ of Zola’s repudiation of anti-semitism ‘go deep into his work’. Yet the language of biology, which in the second half of the 19th century furnished ...


Christopher Tayler: Alain de Botton goes on a trip, 22 August 2002

The Art of Travel 
by Alain de Botton.
Hamish Hamilton, 261 pp., £14.99, May 2002, 0 241 14010 2
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... In the fifth chapter of The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton goes on a trip to the Lake District. He takes his girlfriend, ‘M’, and a paperback copy of The Prelude. Applying his talent for summary to the latter, he explains that it prescribes ‘regular travel through nature’ as ‘a necessary antidote to the evils of the city ...

Vous êtes belle

Penelope Fitzgerald, 8 January 1987

Alain-Fournier: A Brief Life 1886-1914 
by David Arkell.
Carcanet, 178 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 85635 484 8
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Henri Alain-Fournier: Towards the Lost Domain: Letters from London 1905 
translated by W.J. Strachan.
Carcanet, 222 pp., £16.95, November 1986, 0 85635 674 3
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The Lost Domain 
by Henri Alain-Fournier, translated by Frank Davison.
Oxford, 299 pp., £12.95, October 1987, 0 19 212262 2
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... of Le Grand Meaulnes, which was published in 1913. Meanwhile, Fournier – he used the pen-name Alain-Fournier from 1905, partly to avoid confusion with a racing driver – had become a journalist and had a succession of mistresses, the last being the strong-minded actress Simone Benda, who pulled every string, in vain, to get him the Prix Goncourt. He took ...

Room Theory

Adam Mars-Jones: Joseph O’Neill, 25 September 2014

The Dog 
by Joseph O’Neill.
Fourth Estate, 241 pp., £16.99, July 2014, 978 0 00 727574 8
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... that the narrator is under an obligation to interact, with a helpful bidoon called Ali and with Alain, Batros’s teenage son, who is undertaking an internship which he experiences more as an internment. Alain Batros is fat and under orders from his father not to be. There is a reward waiting for him if he falls below ...

At the Crime Scene

Adam Shatz: Robbe-Grillet’s Bad Thoughts, 31 July 2014

A Sentimental Novel 
by Alain Robbe-Grillet, translated by D.E. Brooke.
Dalkey Archive, 142 pp., £9.50, April 2014, 978 1 62897 006 7
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... By the time​ he was elected to the Académie française in 2004, Alain Robbe-Grillet had suffered a cruel fate: he had all the renown he could have hoped for but few readers to show for it. The literary movement he’d launched half a century earlier – the nouveau roman – had ground to a halt. The new novel – anti-psychological and anti-expressive, stripped of individualised characters, temporal continuity and meaning itself – was no longer new ...

With the Aid of a Lorgnette

Frank Kermode, 28 April 1994

The Lure of the Sea 
by Alain Corbin, translated by Jocelyn Phelps.
Polity, 380 pp., £35, January 1994, 0 7456 0732 2
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The Foul and the Fragrant: Odour and the French Social Imagination 
by Alain Corbin, translated by Miriam Kochan.
Picador, 307 pp., £6.99, March 1994, 0 330 32930 8
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... Alain Corbin is a prolific new-style French historian, and these books are notable contributions to an interesting genre he describes as ‘the history of sensibilities’. The Foul and the Fragrant created something of a stir some years ago when the translation appeared in hardback, partly, I suppose, because no respected historian had ever before written so much, and so explicitly, about shit, which, as more sanitised historians had omitted to specify, occupied in former times the worry-space now claimed by nuclear waste ...


Andy Beckett: Bo Fowler, 3 September 1998

Scepticism Inc. 
by Bo Fowler.
Cape, 247 pp., £9.99, April 1998, 0 224 05124 5
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... his publisher is keen to make known). His pages seem to be congratulating themselves, like Alain de Botton’s. Sometimes the action scenes, too, are overdone. Early on, Fowler gives more than two pages to the funeral of a minor character. It takes place in a vast meteorite crater. There are thousands of plastic chairs around the coffin, with religious ...

Refeudalising Europe

Alain Supiot: The Perils of Thinking in English, 21 July 2005

... To encourage French voters to approve the treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, President Chirac warned them against the risk of France becoming the ‘black sheep’ of Europe. But, as Einstein once wrote, ‘in order to be an immaculate member of a flock of sheep one must, first of all, be a sheep.’ In the event, the French, whichever way they voted, did not behave like a flock of sheep ...


Giles Gordon: Experimental Sideshows, 7 October 1993

... was, and the French writers being published in translation by John Calder were a revelation. Alain Robbe-Grillet was God, and his Snapshots and Towards a New Novel (1965) – fiction and criticism between the same covers – was an essential primer. Inanimate objects ruled the world with a greater coherence and rationality than messy, mucky human ...

It wasn’t a dream

Ned Beauman: Christopher Priest, 10 October 2013

The Adjacent 
by Christopher Priest.
Gollancz, 432 pp., £12.99, June 2013, 978 0 575 10536 2
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... Bioy Casares’s novel, The Invention of Morel (1940), has a similarly silly ending, but when Alain Resnais and Alain Robbe-Grillet took a similar story as the basis for Last Year at Marienbad they excised the futuristic gadgetry, presenting the same events with no mundane underpinning. Even memory can make such ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Politicians v. the press, 22 July 2004

... weren’t the ones breaking into Democrat headquarters, planting bugs and stealing files. When Alain Juppé (or ‘Juppe’, as Lloyd calls him) was found guilty of dodgy dealing, he was widely expected to retire from politics as he had promised to before judgment was handed down (he was given an eight-month suspended sentence). Juppé announced his ...

Autumn in Paris

Musab Younis: Autumn in Paris, 5 December 2019

... the veil to an SS uniform.On 18 October, on the television show C à vous, the philosopher Alain Finkielkraut said: ‘The hijab is not France.’On 19 October, hundreds of people demonstrated against Islamophobia at Place de la République in Paris. One of them was Clémentine Autain, a politician from La France Insoumise (‘France unbowed’), who ...

Dying for Madame Ocampo

Daniel Waissbein, 3 March 1988

‘Sur’: A Study of the Argentine Literary Journal and its Role in the Development of a Culture, 1931-1970 
by John King.
Cambridge, 232 pp., £27.50, December 1986, 0 521 26849 4
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... prerogative in Argentina – which didn’t help her either. The final straw must have come when Alain Robbe-Grillet, in Buenos Aires in 1962 to attend a Pen Club meeting and ‘taken on the “de rigueur” visit to Villa Ocampo’, was said to have observed that the place reminded him of a brothel. There is something strikingly apt in the idea of Ocampo as ...


Mary Hawthorne, 10 November 1994

The Informers 
by Bret Easton Ellis.
Picador, 226 pp., £9.99, October 1994, 0 330 32671 6
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... on the kitchen table and its blood-soaked face – even with both eyes scooped out and a pair of Alain Mikli sunglasses over the holes – looks like it’s frowning. I get very tired looking at it. Pasolini’s horrific film Salò – to which I would not be surprised to learn Ellis owed a debt of inspiration – comes to mind more than once while reading ...

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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... prison ship. Malraux then married his brother’s widow Madeleine, and adopted her son (his nephew Alain) to be brought up with the sons he had by Josette Clotis. Madeleine and Alain described to me the private face of André Malraux – shyer, more vulnerable and more self-critical than the public mask. He was awkward with ...

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