For the Soul of France

For the Soul of France

Culture Wars in the Age of Dreyfus

Book - 2010
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The author of acclaimed biographies of Emile Zola and Flaubert now offers an ambitious, far-reaching portrait of fin-de-siecle France
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, c2010
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780307266316
0307266311
Branch Call Number: 944.081 Brow
Characteristics: xxv, 304 p. : ill. ; 25 cm

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EvanSchoenfeld
Aug 27, 2017

I skimmed over some of the early parts where so much detail about political changes after 1870 got mind-boggling. However, the author was setting the stage for the fin de siècle conflicts between the French Left and Right, and by the time we get to ‘Boulangerism’ it’s pretty interesting. Historians usually take care to show how one event leads to another, and there’s a bonus when they give you a vivid sense of the past that feels like understanding . . . even if it makes you shudder. I get the impression that France at the end of the nineteenth century was in the same collective mind set that characterized Germany after WWI—the retreat into irrationality and xenophobia, the yearning for dictatorship. Good sense brought France back from the brink. One regrets that the wonderful original painting of the period wasn’t covered, but you can’t have everything.

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