The Discovery of FrancePaperback
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- Publisher: PICADOR
- Format: Paperback | 454 pages
- Dimensions: 130mm x 194mm x 34mm | 340g
- Publication date: 4 July 2008
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 033042761X
- ISBN 13: 9780330427616
- Illustrations note: Illustrations (some col.)
- Sales rank: 12,507
Illuminating, engrossing and full of surprises, The Discovery of France is a literary exploration of a country few will recognize; from maps and migration to magic, language and landscape, it's a book that reveals the 'real' past of France to tell the whole story -- and history -- of this remarkable nation. 'With gloriously apposite facts and an abundance of quirky anecdotes and thumbnail sketches of people, places and customs, Robb, on brilliant form, takes us on a stunning journey through the historical landscape of France' Independent 'Certain books strain the patience of those close to you. How many times can you demand: "Look at this! Can you imagine? Did you know that?" without actually handing over the volume? This is such a book' Mail on Sunday 'An extraordinary journey of discovery that will delight even the most indolent armchair traveller' Daily Telegraph
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Graham Robb was born in Manchester in 1958 and is a former Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford. He has published widely in nineteenth-century French literature, including biographies of Balzac, Victor Hugo (winner of the Royal Society of Literature Heinemann and Whitbread Biography awards) and Rimbaud (shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize). He lives in Oxford.
By Mark Thwaite 10 Dec 2008
In a nutshell, Graham Robb's historical geography of France from the time of the French Revolution up until the First World War tells us that prior to the Great War France wasn't really a united nation state at all. The rulers ruled in Paris, but much of the rest of the country was filled with peasants who didn't give a fig for Paris and whom Paris cared for even less in return. It took the awful, needless slaughter of the 14-18 War to forge France into nation we know today.
The result of 14,000 miles criss crossing the backwaters of the pays by bicycle (and four years spent researching in the library), Graham Robb's excellent book is an astonishing achievement. Part travelogue, part iconoclastic history, The Discovery of France is a wonderfully subversive social history of the French peasantry. This is popular academic writing at its best: well researched, but with a captivating new story to tell. You'll never think about France (or nationhood) in the same way ever again.