A couple of months ago I finished to read the new edition of Robespierre, derniers temps by J.Ph. Domecq, as I was curious to read about an alternative approach to historical narration. I am not an historian myself, but I am interested in history and as a writer (to-be?), historical fiction is my preferred genre.
The book is an interesting experiment, although, in my opinion, the author sets to himself a too high task; for those of you who might have not read it, it is an attempt to explain the behaviour of Robespierre in the nigh of Thermidor through what the author calls `intuition de la littérature'. The book is not completely fiction and it is constructed around quotation of various sources (primarily Robespierre's speeches), fragmented by an attempt of narrative and various thought of Domecq himself.
The experiment was at first curious, but it soon become really annoying and personally I do not think it achieved anything new; moreover the fictive portions were not enjoyable.
Furthermore at the end of the book is attached a shorter essay (La littérature comme acupuncture) about the role and the theory of historical fiction and the eventual contribution that a writer can give to a historian. It starts from a very sharp critic of another novel, Littell's Les Bienfaisants (that I personally enjoyed as a reading), to debate about the reception both in Literature and in History of Robespierre's figure.
Now, some questions for you. I was curious to know your opinion if you have read the book. Secondly, what is for you `good historical fiction'? I have read mostly discontent with fiction settled during the French Revolution, so it will be interesting to have some debate about what would be a good fiction (if it is actually possible to have one). Moreover what is the relation between (good) historical fiction and History itself, taking to account the fact that we are speaking of two really different genres with very different rules?
BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.
PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.
Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.
If you have some time to waste (not likely, given that you all seem like intelligent, productive people) and are in the mood for some very lightweight, very not-to-be-taken-seriously fiction, then go for it.
EDIT: Please forget that I ever suggested reading this book (unless you're reading it in order to write a vehement, public rebuttal of its contents).
I'll be sure to let you know if it's interesting or mildly entertaining. Also, I apologize for taking forever to translate and post the rest of that other play (by Duzéa). With school and everything, I've just been too busy. However, I'll make it my project to finish over winter break and tell you when it's up.
On a different note, a Joyeux Halloween to all!
It’s dedicated to Claretie, whose book Dale used as her central source. Her other sources (listed at the end) include Carlyle and George Henry Lewes’ Life of Robespierre (which I've never read--any good?), so that alone should indicate what kind of a novel it is. Very Victorian.
But for all its Victorian sentimentalism, I actually found it a fairly enjoyable read. If you like Claretie’s style, this novel is pretty much a fleshed out adaptation with dialogue and description, full of charming little domestic scenes and many social engagements among the revolutionaries: dinner parties, nights at the opera, romping around the green pastures of Bourg-la-Reine, etc. It’s not great literature, but the style is fluid and engaging, even if the characterizations are a little flat. While it isn’t free from the 19th-c. British prejudices against the Revolution (and Robespierre, of course, is dealt a poor hand), I wouldn’t say the politics of the novel are very conservative; overall, it’s really not that bad.
I’ve tried to learn more about Marianne Dale, and I’ve found a mention of her in “The Women’s Industrial News” and she seems to have been the author of an essay, “Child Labor Under Capitalism” (1908). Maybe her progressive views on her own society contributed to her interest in revolutionary France! :)
The first is his unedited (selected...if only it were complete!) ‘Correspondance,’ published in 1836, first edition (according to the seller). I actually just picked this up at the post office today, so I haven’t examined it very closely yet. I’ll be sure to convey/translate any letters of special interest.
The second is ‘Camille Desmoulins, Tragedy’ by Pierre Duzéa, published in 1894. I was especially interested in this, having never seen it before. My efforts to find information on Duzéa have been futile, so I guess he was pretty obscure. If anyone could tell me anything about it, that would be great.
Again, I haven’t had much time to give this a thorough reading; superficial observations don’t support any remarkable literary merit. But as I happen to be particularly interested in 19th c. representations of the Revolution, I’ll eventually give it a much closer look and report back with better details/insight.
Maybe I’ll translate an excerpt in honor of April 5th!
Last semester I checked out a book from my university library called Commemorating the Dead in Revolutionary France: Revolution and Remembrance, 1789-1799 by Joseph Clarke but accidentally returned it with a bulk of other books, not having read it. Anyway, I was wondering if anyone else had given it a glance over and if so, what you thought of it. Also, if you have any other similar books to recommend, I'd appreciate it, since I'm currently very interested in this topic.
I also recently read an interesting essay called "Gothic Thermidor: The Bals des victimes, the Fantastic, and the Production of Historical Knowledge in Post-Terror France" by Ronald Schechter. In a word, no one can ascertain that 'bals des victimes' actually took place, but they grew to such mythic proportions that mention of them can be found in many memoirs and other writings from the 1790s to WWI.
I think we should really hold our own 'bal des victimes'; only, instead of commemorating the aristos, we'd be drinking to the Revolution;)
(Hasty) translation of the summary:
For everybody, the name of "Robespierre" is obviously associated with Maximilien Robespierre, with the French Revolution, jacobinism and the Terror. But Robespierre is also the name of his young brother Augustin, "Bonbon" for his close ones, a figure who is rarely mentioned in history books, except when it comes to the date of 28 July 1794, when the two brothers were condemned to death.
Augustin, however, played a significant role during the Revolution. Also a man of law, militant jacobin, deputy of the Montagne, Bonbon was first of all a man with practical experience, who travelled through Revolutionary France from North to South.
No doubt, by facing Terror directly, he understood that revolutionary violence needed to cease in order to preserve the achievements of the Revolution.
But, if he was convinced that the Revolution needed to come to an end to be preserved, if he dared to express some opposition to Maximilien, he showed, in the end, an exemplary courage in asking to be associated to his brother in the supplice of the scaffold.
Sorry for the bad translation: it's 1am and I should be in bed. -_-
The abstract provided by the author is extremely eloquent:
The French Revolution was the last great political event to take its inspiration, iconography and institutions primarily from classical antiquity. French revolutionaries depended heavily on Roman and Greek history for ideas, and for the courage to apply them. But even if their understanding of history had been accurate (it seldom was) French politicians could never settle which ancient model to follow. Classical antiquity provides innumerable conflicting moral and political examples and the French came close to having tried them all, running through the whole of Roman history in fifteen years. Eighteenth-century Frenchmen postured as Romans, Athenians and Spartans, without ever achieving liberty against arbitrary power, or any consistent rule of law. The French Revolution’s ostentatious classicism, comprehensive experimentation, and obvious failure, discredited Roman and Greek antiquity as practical models for political reform. Future revolutions would need new models, including the experience of France itself, and the transatlantic successes of the United States of America. The French Revolution discredited classical antiquity, by following it too capriciously, too blindly and to the bitter end.
Keywords: classical tradition, French Revolution, French republic, Roman republic, Sparta, Athens, neo-classicism, constitutionalism, liberty, rule of law, separation of powers, Rousseau, Constant, Robespierre
(I think this is all right under the advertising rules - if not, I will totally understand if the Mods want to delete it.)
Anyway! I'm here to mention that I have nominated Dantons Tod and The Danton Case for yuletide - A Place of Greater Safety had already been nominated, which is great because it's my all-time favourite.
So, lots and lots of potential for revolutionary goodness (or, indeed, badness...) at Christmas, and I thought I'd post about it here in case anyone else fancied signing up for yuletide and requesting/offering these fandoms. Or indeed other revolution-focused books or films: the film Danton; City of Darkness, City of Light - there are lots of other things that could be nominated. I chose my nominations based on level of slashiness between Camille and Danton, I must admit...
I'm definitely planning to request, and probably offer revolution!fic - last year I was given a wonderful Camille/Danton story, which was a pretty amazing thing to wake up to on Christmas day. :)
I am terribly craving for history books. And my mom also wants me to make a huge list of books, but I don't know what else to put there - I have so little, so far! And I really feel like reading, what, fifteen books from here to the end of summer!
I really want books that are related to the eras I like (and that this community has to do with). That is, Baroque, Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian eras, etc. I want books that are mostly about fashion and lifestyle of, but I also like good mystery, vampire, super-really-morbid and erotic novels that have to do with the eras I like. Since this community only has to do with the French revolution, I'd appreciate it if you recommended me any novel or book that has to do with it.
If you're knowledgeable in books and/or give me your input in this, I'd greatly appreciate it! Thank you so much!
Soon to be x-posted to a bazillion communities.
Any books about him, please? S'il te plait? xD
thanks anyhow ^^
I WOULD have posted some of the best bits - I mean, the descriptions of Robespierre and the comparisons between the two men are priceless - but it has been taken from my college library and rudely put on the New Books display in the Uper Reading Room of the Bodleian. So if you are anywhere near there, go and see it!
I mean.. I don't know how the author knows half of the stuff... I think - my theory is - he secretly discovered Danton's private diary! but he doesn't want anyone else to know he has it, so whenever he uses information from THE TOP SECRET DIARY OF GEORGES DANTON AGED 34 1/4 he just doesn't site any references at all, and leaves us all open mouthed - like for instance, when he tells us exactly what wine Danton and Camille Desmoulins ordered from their favourite café on a particular day, and that Robespierre turned it down for a glass of milk instead. He had previously written about Robespierre had a "feline" look about him (and "joyless eyes" - [here he did site a source, the lovely Michelet]) which partially explains the milk but other than that...
I mean, you have to see this. This guy has discovered something big, I'm sure. He's just not telling us about it.
Here is a review by a respected person on the French Revolution scene here in England: http://www.literaryreview.co.uk/
P.S. Sozzalicious to anyone I sort of intentionally annoyed. I am just like a lowly deputy of the Plain. Nobody up there on the Mountain need listen to anything I say
P.P.S. But do read this book because you will not be able to put it down (without hurling it across the room and foaming slightly at the mouth)(in amazement)!
If you've ever been to Paris, you're inevitably walked by those used ("rare") bookstands that line the streets, proffering all kinds of literature from histories to popular magazines. Ok, they seem to be mainly for tourists, but I think it's fun to browse a little! Anyway, the last time I was in Paris (this past fall, it feels too long already), I was just walking along the Seine--shivering, poorly dressed for the weather--when I passed one of these bookstands and happened to cast an eye over its wares. I was immediately struck, not by a title, but rather by a front cover design--I saw an image very familiar and dear to me, the David painting of Camille, Lucile, and Horace! Of course, I slowed for closer inspection. "L'enfant et la vie familiale sous l'Ancien Régime" par Philippe Ariès. I grabbed the book immediately and shelled out the 4 euro it cost--much to the amusement of the Frenchwoman who was overseeing the stand (I think she asked me twice if it was "Ce livre?" I wanted, which must have been due either to my obvious Americanness or the silly smile on my face).
But anyway--does anyone else find it sad how the Desmoulins family ended up on the cover of a book about family when their own experience as a family was so short-lived and tragic? Not to mention the fact that they're technically not an Old Regime family? I suppose the publisher, or at least the cover design people, must have been so charmed by the painting that they chose to overlook its famous Revolutionary subjects and their story? I can only guess it was an artistic decision, not a historical one. Hmm. In any case, there they are. I haven't examined it too closely--it's more of a shameless souvenir--but I'm pretty sure the Desmoulins aren't in the actual text (correct me if I'm wrong).
Does anyone know anything about Bernard Lerat or his book (published around the time of the Bicentennial) Le terrorisme révolutionnaire? I know this book exists because I've come across several copies for sale on-line, but oddly, not a one of my books on the Revolution, whether in French or in English, mention him in their bibliographies. I can't fathom why.
I've tried to think of reasons, but none of them seem to make sense. Is it perhaps a vulgarisation rather than a work of serious scholarship? Surely then, at least, my books of historiography or on the portrayal of the Revolution ought to mention it. Does it make laughable assertions? So does Gueniffey, but people cite him all the time. Could the sites selling this book have made a typo in his name? But multiple sites making the same typo? Seems rather unlikely. And it's not as if any of my books cite anyone with a similar name. Is it just a book of so little importance that no one finds it worth mentioning? Is there really any book quite *that* insignificant?
...It's a puzzle to me, truly. So does anyone have any thoughts on the matter? Better still, has anyone actually read the book? Please, share any information you might have!
Personally i love the 12 who ruled by R.R Palmer. Maybe because it's the first book that actually talks about the CPS in such great detail. I like lug it around with me. It's practically falling apart. xD
And of course..
what is your least or worst favorite book?
I'm not sure. I have to read a bit more....
Thanks in advance!