“Lots of Romanians, in my day, dreamed of France; not many got there,” writes the author in his introduction. “Fortuitousness, contingency, and sheer good luck made me fall into France, just as one falls into love.” Fifty years after reaching France, by way of school in England, Eugen Weber presents a series of illuminations on the country he loves, and whose civilization he has made the center of his life's work as an interpreter of European history, subspecialty France.
My France focuses on some of the most intriguing aspects of French life: polities, myths, personalities, public problems, actions, conflicts. The topics Weber treats range from sports to religion, and include comments on folklore, peasant politicization, national socialism, the nature of the French right, antisemitism, and famous Frenchmen such as Pierre de Coubertin, Maurice Barres, and Marc Bloch. In every chapter he questions established assumptions, asks if things are quite as they are taken to be, and points out links between apparently unrelated doings (literature and private income, religion and superstition, fairy tales and everyday life). Every essay reflects his unique insight and is enlivened by his witty and graceful style, making My France irresistible not only to students of modern European history, but also to Francophiles and pundits of Europe everywhere.
A passionate, scholarly collection of essays on French politics, culture, and myths from mid-19th to mid-20th century… My France is pervaded by Weber’s enthusiasm: it’s like a favorite-moments selection from a long and distinguished career. No doubt Weber is un fou de la France, but his love is deep, not blind.
If you’re interested in France but haven’t read much serious analysis of the country’s history and culture, My France should become your France.
Where other historians seek out patterns, categories, generalities and change, [Weber] champions accident, detail, continuity and the particular… Despite widely disparate subject matter [of these essays]—ranging from an investigation of the origins of the ‘Marseillaise’ to an essay on political taxonomy—they form a remarkably coherent whole, united by a consistent set of concerns and a distinctive, highly personal style… Offcuts from a lifetime of happy labor, these essays reveal an artisan at work, carefully crafting products in the quality tradition of articles de Paris. No wonder the French like him.
This book of essays is witness to the range of [Weber’s] curiosity and his ability to turn France into a window on the European world and larger historical processes… The essays have an allusive, elusive, thought-provoking quality. The reader comes away thinking, if not agreeing. There are good phrases, keen, often mordant, observations… [An] imaginative, intellectually rewarding book.
- 424 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
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