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Constitutional Fantasy

Jan-Werner Müller: Verhofstadt’s Vision, 1 June 2017

Europe’s Last Chance: Why the European States Must Form a More Perfect Union 
by Guy Verhofstadt.
Basic, 304 pp., £20, January 2017, 978 0 465 09685 5
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... achieved can be credited to national leaders, namely, Merkel and Hollande. Verhofstadt thinks such Franco-German leadership only reinforces the blindness that Paul-Henri Spaak (another Belgian), one of the founders of European integration, long ago observed. There are only two kinds of state in Europe, Spaak said: small states and small states that have not ...

In Search of Monsters

Stephen W. Smith: What are they doing in Mali?, 7 February 2013

... in terms of delusions of grandeur. They were not always wrong. But they rarely commented on the ‘Franco-African state’ (a term coined by the anthropologist Jean-Pierre Dozon), which then existed in all but name as a result of the slow-motion decolonisation orchestrated by Paris and African elites. In France, most people ...

Napoleon’s Near Miss

Linda Colley, 18 April 1985

Napoleon: The Myth of the Saviour 
by Jean Tulard, translated by Teresa Waugh.
Weidenfeld, 470 pp., £14.95, June 1984, 0 297 78439 0
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Alexis: Tsar of All the Russias 
by Philip Longworth.
Secker, 319 pp., £15, June 1984, 0 436 25688 6
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... so did the cult of Napoleon I, only to be revived as a salve to national humiliation after the Franco-Prussian War. The Napoleonic industry in France reached its height between 1885 and 1914 – a period when every European nation was frantically refurbishing old ideologies and inventing new ones. By contrast, post-Gaullist France has carried the torch ...

Mallarmé gets a life

Barbara Johnson, 18 August 1994

Mallarmé: A Throw of the Dice 
by Gordon Millan.
Secker, 389 pp., £16.99, March 1994, 9780436270963
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... structuralism, semiotics and deconstruction. We have had analyses of his work by Charles Mauron, Jean-Pierre Richard, Robert Greer Cohn, Julia Kristeva, Jacques Derrida, Paul de Man, Leo Bersani, Malcolm Bowie and others. It might seem surprising, therefore, not to find a single full-length biography published between Henri Mondor’s 1941 Vie de Mallarmé ...


R.W. Johnson, 20 June 1985

Pierre Mendès France 
by Jean Lacouture, translated by George Holoch.
Holmes & Meier, 486 pp., $34.50, December 1984, 0 8419 0856 7
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... darkest hours. Yet he was prime minister for just 245 days. George Holoch’s fine translation of Jean Lacouture’s excellent journalistic biography is thus especially welcome. Mendès was born of a family of Portuguese Jews (the original name was Mendo Franca) who fled to France from the tortures of the Inquisition. His father, a travelling salesman and ...


Robin Blackburn: In Haiti, 8 October 2009

... failure of the powers that be to furnish basic services. On two occasions – in 1991 and 2004 – Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the elected president, was forced out. And on two occasions – in 1994 and 2004 – the US and the international community sent in troops. There was a time when imperialists would seek to justify their presence with public works and ...

On (Not) Saying What You Mean

Colm Tóibín, 30 November 1995

... writers were bought any time anyone from the family went to Dublin. My sister became addicted to Jean-Paul Sartre. I remember a book called Words which began ‘I loathe my childhood’; this was an astonishing idea in Enniscorthy at that time. Not long afterwards another sister decided to build a house. There were no architects in Enniscorthy, but lots of ...

In Order of Rank

Jeremy Harding: Paris 1940, 8 May 2008

Fleeing Hitler: France 1940 
by Hanna Diamond.
Oxford, 255 pp., £16.99, June 2007, 978 0 19 280618 5
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Journal 1942-44 
by Hélène Berr.
Tallandier, 301 pp., €20, January 2008, 978 2 84734 500 1
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... in memories of August 1914, when the Germans looked likely to take Paris, and of the strategic Franco-British success on the Marne a month later. On 13 May, after a lull in the censorship and news of the German breakthrough in the Ardennes, a sanguine paterfamilias announced to his family over breakfast: ‘It doesn’t matter. We will win the war at ...


Paul Henley: The EU, 14 January 2002

... refuge while other politicians use it as a way of supporting their ongoing projects elsewhere: Jean-Marie Le Pen and Umberto Bossi, for example, or Ian Paisley and John Hume, who are merely adding a third Parliamentary seat to those they already hold at Westminster and in the Northern Ireland Assembly. A number of MEPs first achieved celebrity in other ...

Behind the Gas Lamp

Julian Barnes: Félix Fénéon, 4 October 2007

Novels in Three Lines 
by Félix Fénéon, translated by Luc Sante.
NYRB, 171 pp., £7.99, August 2007, 978 1 59017 230 8
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... time, mellowed his judgment: in 1943 he told his friend and future literary executor, the critic Jean Paulhan, that it was ‘the least successful work painted by Signac’. Worse for Fénéon, it established a template of profilism. Bonnard, Vuillard and Vallotton all depicted him in more or less the same pose: leaning forwards – bent into a near ...

Next Stop, Reims

Ardis Butterfield: Medieval Literary Itineraries, 26 April 2018

Europe: A Literary History, 1348-1418 
by David Wallace.
Oxford, 1591 pp., £180, April 2016, 978 0 19 873535 9
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... across Europe. The chapter on Valenciennes is also based on a single author, in this case Jean Froissart. Jane Gilbert provides a brief cultural and political history of the region of Hainaut before commenting on Froissart and his predecessor in the Anglo-Hainaut court, Jean de le Mote. Reims is the next stop: Jane ...

All This Love Business

Jean McNicol: Vanessa and Julian Bell, 24 January 2013

Julian Bell: From Bloomsbury to the Spanish Civil War 
by Peter Stansky and William Abrahams.
Stanford, 314 pp., £38.95, 0 8047 7413 7
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... to Paul Preston, however, Brunete was a ‘strategic irrelevance’, and the battle merely gave Franco the opportunity to kill a large number of Republicans using the Messerschmitts he had just acquired. On 18 July a bomb from one of those planes hit the olive grove where Bell’s group was stationed. He had taken cover under a lorry, but was hit by a shell ...

Rwanda in Six Scenes

Stephen W. Smith: Fables of Rwanda, 17 March 2011

... daily newspaper Libération. The combination of the paper’s independence from the notorious Franco-African networks and my US passport represented Kagame’s best chance of an unbiased hearing in France, where government officials routinely referred to his rebel forces as the ‘Khmers noirs’. At the time, French public opinion made short shrift of ...

Reasons of State

R.W. Johnson, 5 June 1986

The ‘Rainbow Warrior’ Affair 
by Richard Shears and Isobelle Gidley.
Allen and Unwin, 215 pp., £2.95, January 1986, 0 04 900041 1
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Sink the ‘Rainbow’: An Inquiry into the Greenpeace Affair 
by John Dyson.
Gollancz, 192 pp., £8.95, February 1986, 9780575038561
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La Piscine: Les Services Secrets Français 1944-1984 
by R. Faligot and P. Krop.
Seuil, 431 pp., March 1985, 9782020087438
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... already an American agent, they had to let him go. But the man the BCRA really wanted to get was Franco: plans were laid to destabilise his regime and assassinate him – until the British vetoed the idea. In these early years, the British SIS and the American OSS effectively laid down the parameters within which the French were allowed to operate. Thanks to ...

A Particular Way of Looking

J. Hoberman: NeoRealismo, 21 November 2019

NeoRealismo: The New Image in Italy 1932-60 
edited by Enrica Viganò.
Prestel, 349 pp., £49.99, September 2018, 978 3 7913 5769 0
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... Communist Vote Is a Vote against God’). Portraits made by the leftist photojournalists Franco Pinna, Ando Gilardi and Arturo Zavattini (Cesare’s son) on ethnographic expeditions to Basilicata – Town Witch, Ritual Keener, Dying Healer – illuminate Christ Stopped at Eboli. So does the sequence of photographs entitled A Woman Possessed, and the ...

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