Category Archives: France

Barbara remembered

From my albums of the year list: classical pianist Alexandre Tharaud’s ethereal homage to the singer-pianist known simply as Barbara. This year marks the twentieth anniversary of her death. Hindi Zahra, Rokia Traoré, Jane Birkin, Vanessa Paradis and Juliette Binoche … Continue reading

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By 1815, memories of the 1790s were fragmented and confused, varying greatly according to the divergent memories of individuals, families and regions. Some of the most famous mythical symbols of the Revolution had yet to be propagated. Building barricades – … Continue reading

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The term “national socialism” seems to have been invented by the French nationalist author Maurice Barrès, who described the aristocratic adventurer the Marquis de Morès in 1896 as “the first national socialist”. Morès, after failing as a cattle rancher in … Continue reading

Posted in Europe, France, History, Notebook, Uncategorized, World War 2 | Tagged , , , ,

Bastille Day

The birth of a national legend? Simon Schama describes the myth-making  in “Citizens”: No one wanted to be in the Bastille. But once there, life for the more privileged could be made bearable. Alcohol and tobacco were allowed, and under … Continue reading

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There had been almost no French military defence of Paris, so there had been no excuse for the Wehrmacht to hesitate in driving right into the prize. But an awkward lull had briefly prevailed. Waiting outside the city on June … Continue reading

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Well, any biography of Guy Burgess, spy and man about town, is bound to have some good captions, isn’t it?

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Musée d’Orsay

A Sunday morning visit, June 2015.

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The defining feature of the GIA’s [Groupe Islamiste Armé] war was its ultra-violent methods. The terrorists did not simply kill people but turned the murders into a form of performance or ritual. As in the original War of Independence, throats … Continue reading

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Cute Carla, bawdy Brassens

  A song for Bastille Day. It’s not really the alternative that it jokingly claims to be. Great fun though. I just never thought I’d hear a woman sing it…

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Grand Palais, 1916

“The Great Nave: Wounded Soldiers Performing Arms Drill at the End of Their Medical Treatment.” [@metmuseum via @RPanh]

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