Monday, November 28, 2016

Quelle Histoire! A New History of France

Quelle Histoire! A New History of France
By CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL NOV. 25, 2016
FRANCE A Modern History From the Revolution to the War With Terror
By Jonathan Fenby
Illustrated. 536 pp. St. Martin’s Press. $29.99.


Excerpt:
Oddly, Philippe Pétain, who led the French government that collaborated with the Nazis in World War II, made a statement for the official obituary of the resistance leader and president Charles de Gaulle. Pétain’s assessment that de Gaulle, while alive, had been “an incomparable officer in all respects” is true enough. What makes it odd is that, by the time de Gaulle died in 1970, Pétain had been dead for decades.
The obituary appeared in error in 1916. De Gaulle — bayoneted, gassed and captured during Germany’s relentless attack on Verdun — was assumed to be among the hundreds of thousands dead. General Pétain, who helped repel the German offensive, was called a savior of his nation. By the time of de Gaulle’s actual death, things had changed: Pétain was infamous for the dishonorable peace he had concluded. De Gaulle held the role of national savior for having resisted him.
Jonathan Fenby, who has been a correspondent in Paris for The Economist and other publications, tells this story midway through his chatty new book, “France: A Modern History From the Revolution to the War With Terror.”

According to Jonathan Fenby’s “France,” modern France is still shaped by the heritage of its revolution.
NYTIMES.COM|BY CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL

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