Patrick Marnham rss

Members of the Maquis study the mechanism and maintenance of weapons dropped by parachute in the Haute-Loire

The facts behind France’s most potent modern myth

29 August 2015
Fighters in the Shadows: A New History of the French Resistance Robert Gildea

Faber, pp.593, £20, ISBN: 9780571280346

In Marianne in Chains, his last book on Occupied France, Robert Gildea offered an original view of life in that country between 1940 and 1944, arguing that outside the cities… Read more

Kamal Daoud (Photo: Getty)

The Outsider — from the viewpoint of the victim’s family

11 July 2015
The Meursault Investigation Kamel Daoud

One World Publications, pp.160, £8.99, ISBN: 9781780748399

In 1975 the Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe, in a lecture at the University of Massachusetts, identified Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness as the work of a racist. Achebe objected to… Read more


Is Nicolas Sarkozy headed back to the Elysée – or to jail?

29 November 2014

In his more hyperactive moods Nicolas Sarkozy, former president of France, has been known to compare himself to Charles de Gaulle. Following defeat in the 2012 presidential elections ‘Sarko’ made… Read more

French and Colonial prisoners of war captured by German soldiers Photo: Getty

Némirovsky's love letter to the France that spurned her and killed her

15 November 2014
The Fires of Autumn Irène Némirovsky (translated by Sandra Smith)

Chatto, pp.240, £16.99, ISBN: 9780701186609

By 1940 Irène Némirovsky, who had arrived in France at the age of 16 as a refugee from Kiev, had become a prominent and successful novelist. In March of that… Read more

Georges Simenon aged 30 (left) and Jean Gabin (right) in the 1958 film Maigret Tend un Piège — to be shown as part of a season of Maigret films at the Barbican, London (4–26 October). For details visit

A salute to Georges Simenon

20 September 2014

One hundred years ago an 11-year-old boy called Georges Simenon was getting accustomed to the presence of the German army in Liège. Together with his mother and his younger brother… Read more


France's political system is crumbling. What's coming next looks scary

7 June 2014

Last week President François Hollande, following his party’s humiliation in the European parliamentary elections (his Socialists won roughly half as many seats as the National Front), decided to cheer himself… Read more

Silvia Pinal in Buñuel’s Viridiana

There was good art under Franco

12 April 2014
Franco’s Crypt: Spanish Culture and Memory Since 1936 Jeremy Treglown

Chatto and Windus, pp.320, £25, ISBN: 9780701180621

Everyone knows about the Spanish civil war, first battlefield in the struggle that broke out in 1936 and ended nine years later in the ruins of Berlin. It has been… Read more

Test launch of Minuteman II ICBM at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California,  18 August 1965

When we dropped the Bomb by mistake

14 December 2013
Command and Control Eric Schlosser

Allen Lane, pp.532, £25, ISBN: 9781846141485

In January 1976 New York’s late-lamented National Lampoon produced a bicentennial calendar as a contribution to the general rejoicing. For every day of that year a selection of disastrous news… Read more


Hollande runs into the sand

2 February 2013

Will President François Hollande’s decision to send French troops into battle against the insurgent fundamentalists in Mali prove a turning point for his faltering presidency? Not for the first time,… Read more


Making the bomb

17 November 2012
Inside the Centre: The Life of J. Robert Oppenheimer Ray Monk

Cape, pp.802, £30, ISBN: 9780224062626

Of the making of many books about J. Robert Oppenheimer there is apparently no end. There have been 23 previous lives, seven of them published since 2004. This situation, which… Read more


French farce

21 April 2012

The first round of the French presidential election is a national carnival that seldom disappoints. If Sunday’s vote follows the opinion polls, only President Nicolas Sarkozy with 28 per cent… Read more

Sarkozy springs forward

31 March 2012

There’s nothing like a crisis to rescue an ailing candidate Yes, he’s back. Just when the French Socialists thought that they were jogging into the Elysée Palace for the first… Read more


Funny old world

17 December 2011
Private Eye: The First 50 Years Adam MacQueen

Private Eye Productions, pp.312, 25

The most remarkable thing about this book is that it should have been published at all. No one could have imagined in 1961 that Private Eye — a blotchy reproduction… Read more


14 May 2011

Kisangani, capital of the province of Orientale, Democratic Republic of the Congo, once Zaire, is the setting for A Bend in the River, V.S. Naipaul’s grim masterpiece, published in 1979,… Read more


Amid the encircling gloom

4 September 2010
The Masque of Africa: Glimpses of African Belief V. S. Naipaul

Picador, pp.325, 20

Africa is the setting for several of V. S. Naipaul’s finest fictional stories — In a Free State, A Bend in the River, Half a Life. Africa is the setting… Read more


Kin, but less than kind

28 August 2010
Shades of Greene: One Generation of an English Family Jeremy Lewis

Cape, pp.580, 25

About 100 years ago two brothers settled in the same small English town and raised 12 children. Charles Greene was a scholar, destined for the Bar, who blundered into schoolmastering… Read more

Because she’s worth it

31 July 2010

The scandal over Liliane Bettencourt’s L’Oréal fortune is exposing the way French high society operates, says Patrick Marnham. And it is harming President Sarkozy in the polls It all started… Read more


Is it all over for Sarko?

12 May 2010

The French president’s chances of re-election look bleak. But the problem is not his politics, says Patrick Marnham, so much as his embarrassing personal life Gordon Brown is not the… Read more


The reality behind the novels

10 March 2010
The Life of Irène Némirovsky: 1903-1942 Oliver Philipponnat and Patrick Lienhardt, translated by Euan Cameron

Chatto, pp.466, 25

‘I never knew peaceful times’, Irène Némirovsky once said, ‘I’ve always lived in anxiety and often in danger’. ‘I never knew peaceful times’, Irène Némirovsky once said, ‘I’ve always lived… Read more

Disastrous twilight

14 December 2009
The Dogs and the Wolves Irène Némirovsky, translated by Sandra Smith

Chatto, pp.216, 16.99

With the opening paragraph of The Dogs and the Wolves (first serialised in France in 1939 and never previously translated) Irène Némirovsky takes us to the heart of her story:… Read more

Populist preaching

19 August 2009

Patrick Marnham visits Brazil’s annual festival of literature Many years ago a wild-eyed Englishman hacked his way into the Amazon rain forest and disappeared, never to be seen again. Since… Read more


Not for the faint-hearted

4 March 2009
The Kindly Ones Jonathan Littell, translated from French by Charlotte Mandell

Chatto & Windus, pp.965, 20

‘You might be wondering how I end- ed up in the lace business . . . ’, so the hero of The Kindly Ones, a doctor of law and former… Read more


12 December 2008
Photopoetry Manuel Alvarez Bravo

Thames & Hudson, pp.336, 42

Photopoetry, by Manuel Alvarez Bravo Manuel Alvarez Bravo, born in 1902, lived to be 100 and worked as a photographer in Mexico for eight decades. He was destined to spend… Read more

They do things differently there

29 October 2008
Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles Richard Dowden

Portobello, pp.576, 25

Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles, by Richard Dowden Out of Africa always something new in armchair solutions, with the eternal certainty that none will work. Colonialism? Bad. Decolonisation? Disastrous. Neo-colonialism?… Read more

A radical, pantheistic nationalist

16 April 2008
Diego Rivera: The Complete Murals Edited by Luis-Martin Lozano and Juan Rafael Coronel Rivera

Taschen, pp.672, 120

In 1932 a young English art historian recently returned from his travels sent an enthusiastic article to The Spectator about a series of brand new murals he had seen in… Read more