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Althusser’s Fate

Douglas Johnson, 16 April 1981

The Long March of the French Left 
by R.W. Johnson.
Macmillan, 345 pp., £20, March 1981, 0 333 27417 2
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One-Dimensional Marxism 
by Simon Clarke and Terry Lovell.
Allison and Busby, 256 pp., £9.95, June 1980, 0 85031 367 8
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Communism and Philosophy 
by Maurice Cornforth.
Lawrence and Wishart, 282 pp., £8.95, July 1980, 0 85315 430 9
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The Crisis of Marxism 
by Jack Lindsay.
Moonraker, 183 pp., £7.95, March 1981, 0 239 00200 8
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Class in English History 1680-850 
by R.S. Neale.
Blackwell, 250 pp., £12, January 1981, 0 631 12851 4
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... to settle questions of Party philosophy, but to bring the intellectuals into line, in what R.W. Johnson, in his new book, has picturesquely called ‘the long march of the French Left’, culminating in the Communist-Socialist alliance which hoped to win the legislative elections of 1978 but failed to do so. R.W. ...

Imbroglio

Douglas Johnson, 4 February 1982

Un Crime sous Giscard 
by Jesus Ynfante.
Maspéro, 256 pp., £4.72, October 1981, 2 7071 1259 3
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Enquête sur les Affaires du Septennat 
by Jacques Derogy and Jean-Marie Pontaut.
Laffont, 336 pp., £7, November 1981
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... On Wednesday, 23 December 1981, four men were sent to prison for the murder, on 24 December 1976, of the Prince de Broglie. The trial, in the Paris assize court, ended with Gérard Frèche, the gunman, being given a ten-year term; Guy Simoné, a former policeman who was heavily involved in the conspiracy to kill, and Pierre de Varga, a self-proclaimed aristocrat of Hungarian origins who was allegedly the instigator of the whole affair, were also given ten years; Serge Tessèdre, who was accused of recruiting the gunman, received five years, and as he had already spent that time in prison, was almost immediately released ...

Simone de Sartre

Douglas Johnson, 7 June 1984

La Cérémonie des Adieux 
by Simone de Beauvoir.
Gallimard, 559 pp., frs 90
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Simone de Beauvoir Today 
by Alice Schwarzer, translated by Marianne Howarth.
Chatto, 120 pp., £6.95, February 1984, 0 7011 2784 8
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Lettres au Castor et à Quelques Autres 
by Jean-Paul Sartre, edited by Simone de Beauvoir.
Gallimard, 520 pp., frs 120, May 1983, 9782070260782
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... Has anyone ever written a satirical account of the first meeting between Simone de Beauvoir and Sartre? In an age when victims long to be mocked, in a country where satire is an essential part of the cultural heritage, and with two principals who have together inspired much controversy and aroused much dislike, the apparent absence of ridicule must be significant ...

L’Emmerdeur

Douglas Johnson, 20 May 1982

La Cérémonie des Adieux 
by Simone de Beauvoir.
Gallimard, 559 pp., £9.25, November 1981
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Mes Années Sartre 
by Georges Michel.
Hachette, 217 pp., £6.15
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Oeuvres Romanesques 
by Jean-Paul Sartre, edited by Michel Contat and Michel Rybalka.
Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 2174 pp., £22.50, January 1982
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... On the morning of 16 April 1980, two well-known Oxford figures chanced to meet in the High. ‘Have you heard the good news?’ called out the one, the former head of a prestigious college. ‘Sartre is dead.’ The other, a well-known and distinguished man about French history, was delighted. According to his own account, the two of them then enacted a little dance or jig to express their pleasure ...

God’s Godfather

Douglas Johnson, 6 October 1983

God’s Banker: An Account of the Life and Death of Roberto Calvi 
by Rupert Cornwell.
Gollancz, 260 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 575 03351 7
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A Man of Honour: The Autobiography of a Godfather 
by Joseph Bonnano and Sergio Lalli.
Deutsch, 416 pp., £9.95, September 1983, 0 233 97609 4
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The Biggest Game in Town 
by A. Alvarez.
Deutsch, 186 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 233 97521 7
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... On the evening of 15 June 1982 Roberto Calvi landed in a private plane at Gatwick airport and using a false passport proceeded to London. At the time he was one of the most sought-after men in Europe, and at the centre of a considerable financial scandal. The Ambrosiano Bank, of which he was director, was in the process of collapsing and there was talk of gigantic sums of money, thousands of millions of dollars’ worth, having vanished into thin air ...

Napoleonology

Douglas Johnson, 7 February 1980

Napoleon: Master of Europe 1805-1807 
by Alistair Horne.
Weidenfeld, 232 pp., £6.95, September 1980, 0 297 77678 9
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Napoleon’s Diplomatic Service 
by Edward Whitcomb.
Duke, 218 pp., June 1981, 9780822304210
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Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars 
by David Chandler.
Arms and Armour, 576 pp., £12.95, November 1980, 0 85368 353 0
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Napoleon, the Jews and the Sanhedrin 
by Simon Schwarzfuchs.
Routledge, 200 pp., £5.50, March 1979, 0 7100 8955 4
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Auguste de Colbert: Aristocratic Survival in an Era of Upheaval, 1793-1809 
by Jeanne Ojala.
Utah, $15, February 1979, 9780685953709
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... It would appear to be difficult to write a book about Napoleon without apologising for it. Alistair Horne talks about the three hundred thousand which have already been devoted to this one man, but Edward Whitcomb brings about a substantial (and welcome) reduction by referring only to some two hundred thousand. David Chandler explains that ever since he wrote his excellent book on the campaigns of Napoleon ten years ago, he has been inundated by requests for further information coming from the widest possible variety of people, all of whom are, as he puts it, ‘caught up by the awesome range of Napoleon’s attributes and talents’, while Simon Schwarzfuchs, in his more specialised study of Napoleon and the Jews, refers to a change in Napoleon’s reputation and to his recent loss of repute among historians ...

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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... In his novels, the late Gwyn Thomas used to refer to those who frequented the pubs and cafés of small Welsh towns as ‘the voters’. It would certainly be the way to describe the adult population of France who, last spring, voted twice to elect a President (on 24 April and 8 May) and twice to elect a Parliament (on 5 and 12 June). In September they voted in local elections, and in November the referendum on the future of New Caledonia took place ...

Homage to Spain

Douglas Johnson, 22 May 1986

Homage to Catalonia 
by George Orwell.
Secker, 260 pp., £12.95, April 1986, 0 436 35028 9
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The Spanish Civil War 
by Hugh Thomas.
Hamish Hamilton, 1115 pp., £20, March 1986, 0 241 89450 6
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The Triumph of Democracy in Spain 
by Paul Preston.
Methuen, 274 pp., £14.95, April 1986, 0 416 36350 4
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... Revolutions have frequently been analysed and categorised. Wars, and the art of war, have been carefully studied. But the category of civil wars has been neglected. Perhaps this is because they are difficult to recognise or to define. Should we continue to write about guerres franco-françaises, arising from the Paris Commune, the Resistance movements, or the Organisation de l’Armée Secrète formed by Algerian settlers, or should we think of them as civil wars? Often there is a reluctance to admit to the existence of civil wars as anything other than an accident or temporary aberration: many English historians have liked to play down the importance of the English Civil War and tell anecdotes about the way in which the two sides paused at the moment of battle so that a hunting party could pass between them, or, more philosophically, to ask whether the Civil War had any effect on English history at all ...

May ’88

Douglas Johnson, 21 April 1988

Les Sept Mitterrand 
by Catherine Nay.
Grasset, 286 pp., frs 96, September 1988, 2 246 36291 1
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France Today 
by John Ardagh.
Secker, 647 pp., £22.50, October 1987, 0 436 01746 6
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Jacques Chirac 
by Franz-Oliver Giesbert.
Seuil, 455 pp., frs 125, April 1987, 2 02 009771 0
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Monsieur Barre 
by Henri Amouroux.
Laffont, 584 pp., frs 125, June 1986, 2 221 04954 3
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The Workers’ Movement 
by Alain Touraine, Michel Wieviorka and François Dubet, translated by Ian Patterson.
Cambridge/Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, 322 pp., £35, October 1987, 0 521 30852 6
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The State and the Market Economy: Industrial Patriotism and Economic Intervention in France 
by Jack Hayward.
Wheatsheaf, 267 pp., £32.50, December 1985, 0 7450 0012 6
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France under Recession 1981-86 
by John Tuppen.
Macmillan, 280 pp., £29.50, February 1988, 0 333 39889 0
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... In April 1984 President Mitterrand gave a press conference unlike any that had previously been held under the Fifth Republic. He did not sit at a sombre bureau Louis XV decorated with red, white and blue flowers. He was not playing the part of the professor from the Sorbonne, as de Gaulle had so often done, lecturing his audience on the history of France ...

The General vanishes

Douglas Johnson, 18 September 1986

De Gaulle. Vol. I: Le Rebelle 
by Jean Lacouture.
Seuil, 869 pp., frs 99, April 1984, 2 02 006969 5
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De Gaulle. Vol. II: Le Politique 
by Jean Lacouture.
Seuil, 724 pp., frs 120, April 1984, 2 02 008933 5
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Charles de Gaulle: A Biography 
by Don Cook.
Secker, 432 pp., £15, February 1984, 0 436 10676 0
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Jean Moulin et le Conseil National de la Résistance 
Institut d’Histoire du Temps Présent/Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 192 pp., frs 40, February 1983, 2 222 03428 0Show More
De Gaulle et la nation face aux problèmes de défense 1945-1946 
Institut d’Histoire du Temps Présent/Institut Charles-de-Gaulle, 317 pp., frs 110, May 1982, 2 259 01109 8Show More
De Gaulle 
by Sam White.
Harrap, 239 pp., £9.95, November 1985, 0 245 54213 2
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... An interesting moment has been reached in de Gaulle studies. That the traditional approach has by no means been exhausted is shown by the biography by Don Cook, a journalist on the Los Angeles Times. It is still possible, and some would say still desirable, to write about the General using the same evidence and the same anecdotes that have already been used by scores of other writers ...

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 ...

En famille

Douglas Johnson, 16 August 1990

Little Gregory 
by Charles Penwarden.
Fourth Estate, 247 pp., £13.99, August 1990, 1 872180 31 0
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... When one thinks of crime in France, one remembers those who are considered to be the great criminals, those who have met the guillotine, which has been called Le Goncourt des assassins. There is the infamous Landru. There is the anarchist Jules Bonnot and his gang, who cried Vive la mort when they were encircled by the Police. Eugène Weidemant, who used to shoot his victims in the back of the neck and then rob them of ludicrously small sums of money: his was the last public execution in France, in June 1939, due to the shock caused by his admirers, who had soaked their handkerchiefs in his blood and kept them proudly ...

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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... The historians who have argued that the continuities of French history count for more than its ruptures and revolutions have tended to avoid examining the disastrous year of 1940, when the Third Republic came to a bad end and the German Occupation began. These four books suggest that even this cataclysm can be fitted into the pattern of continuity. In her long and detailed examination of the way French writers behaved during the years from 1940 to 1953, Gisèle Sapiro shows that the disagreements and quarrels were much the same as before the defeat: the same arguments were to be heard, the same gestures were made, and often the same antagonists took further issue with each other ...

La Grande Sartreuse

Douglas Johnson, 15 October 1981

Simone de Beauvoir and the Limits of Commitment 
by Anne Whitmarsh.
Cambridge, 212 pp., £14.50, June 1981, 9780521236690
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Un Fils Rebelle 
by Olivier Todd.
Grasset, 293 pp., £5.50, June 1981, 2 246 21231 6
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The Intellectual Resistance in Europe 
by James Wilkinson.
Harvard, 358 pp., £14, July 1981, 0 674 45775 7
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... There will be many who will find it significant that Anne Whitmarsh, beginning a careful and detailed study of Simone de Beauvoir with a section called ‘Biographical Notes’, should make the first entry read, ‘1905 21 June: Jean-Paul Sartre born in Paris’, and the last: ‘1980: Death of Sartre’. There are those for whom Simone de Beauvoir is important only because of her association with Sartre ...

Aux sports, citoyens

Douglas Johnson, 3 December 1981

Sport and Society in Modern France 
by Richard Holt.
Macmillan, 256 pp., £20, July 1981, 0 333 25951 3
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... Richard Holt begins his book on French sport with two misleading observations. In the one, he recalls that when, in the course of his research, a pile of books on football or on cycling arrived on his desk at the Bibliothèque Nationale, his neighbours were bemused by his reading material. How extraordinary that he never seems to have found himself sitting next to one of those readers who begins his day’s work with a careful perusal of L’Equipe or Paris-Turf ...

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