Gregor Dallas

A Rose-Tinted History

La Vie en bleu: France and the French since 1900

By

Allen Lane The Penguin Press 704pp £25 order from our bookshop

Rod Kedward has spent a long academic career writing books about the French Resistance during the Second World War, with a special focus on the developments in the South. This has made him sensitive to the great complexity of France, a central theme in this, his latest book, obviously designed to be his magnum opus: a history of the entire nation over the previous century and a bit. ‘Narratives which overlap or compete are the substance of this book,’ he states in one his several introductions. Indeed the whole book is crammed with symbols, representations, discourses, conjunctures, meanings, remembered festivals, carnivals and rituals that make it read like a translation of a contemporary piece of French ethnology. What is it that makes British faculty historians such chameleons? The French specialists among them become French, German specialists undergo the same magical metamorphosis into Germans, while the Russian specialists become perceptibly Russian, to the point of adopting old Soviet explanations for their awful behaviour. Being a foreign observer carries definite advantages; becoming a foreigner distorts interpretation – as we shall see in a moment.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Whom did Picasso label a 'bristly pig'? Read Rosalind P Blakesley's review of The Collector by Natalya Semenova to… ,
    • Alexandra Gajda on Anna Beer's new biography, Patriot or Traitor: The Life and Death of Sir Walter Ralegh ,
    • Mark Lawson reviews @jonathancoe's Middle England - The Rotters' Club for our Brexit age. ,
    • 'Behind every book that is published lies ... a haunted landscape, populated by the ghosts of things written and ex… ,
    • 'We once more live in a great age of dragon invention' Here's Tom Shippey on Martin Arnold's The Dragon ,
    • RT : Man at the q&a part of the book panel: Don't say it Don't say it Don't say it Don't say it Don't say it Don't s… ,
    • Here's @epkaufm's Whiteshift, reviewed in this month's magazine by ,