Thursday, January 06, 2011

French Culture and Literature

Something to Declare: Essays on France and French Culture
Something to Declare: Essays on France 
and French Culture 

“I think a great book—leaving aside other qualities such as narrative power, characterization, style, and so on—is a book that describes the world in a way that has not been done before; and that is recognized by those who read it as telling new truths—about society or the way in which emotional lives are led, or both—such truths having not been previously available, certainly not from official records or government documents, or from journalism or television.”  ― Julian Barnes

This is France through the senses and sensibility of Julian Barnes. From the Tour de France to French cooking you get a British perspective of the country. In these essays Barnes is a student of the language and literature and he "spent the academic year of 1966-7 working as a lecteur d'anglais " (the slightly posher term for assistant) in Rennes; he has remained the leading exponent of what might be called assistantialism. He is a novelist of ideas, in other words, who relies on "simplicities that are merely camouflaged as fiendish complexities".  The book includes this and more with several essays on Flaubert - well-written and fun to read.

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