Voltaire’s was a long and amazing life.
Where to begin? Graham Robb, like all dedicated Francophiles, begins early, when his enlightened parents made him a present of a trip to Paris and sent him off with a map and a voucher for a free gift at the Galeries Lafayette.
‘I never knew peaceful times’, Irène Némirovsky once said, ‘I’ve always lived in anxiety and often in danger’.
This is a long book, but its argument can be shortly stated.
After an unremarkable year for fiction the Prix Goncourt was awarded to Marie Ndiaye for a novel — actually three novellas — which must have beguiled the judges by the sheer unfamiliarity of its contents.
‘The Axis powers and France,’ declared Marshall Pétain and Hitler at Montoire in October 1940, ‘have a common interest in the defeat of England as soon as possible.’ Why this should have been so is one of the many interesting questions to which this book offers no satisfactory answer.
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: the complexities of Jewish life in eastern Europe and France in the first part of the 20th century.
The Chalk Circle Man, by Fred Vargas, translated
Madame de la Tour du Pin’s Journal d’une Femme de Cinquante Ans, with its vivid descriptions of her experiences during…
The British in France: Visitors and Residents since the Revolution, by Peter Thorold