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The Return of Martin Guerre

The Return of Martin Guerre

Paperback

By (author) Natalie Zemon Davis

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  • Publisher: HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS
  • Format: Paperback | 176 pages
  • Dimensions: 155mm x 235mm x 12mm | 254g
  • Publication date: 15 October 1984
  • Publication City/Country: Cambridge, Mass
  • ISBN 10: 0674766911
  • ISBN 13: 9780674766914
  • Edition statement: Reprint
  • Illustrations note: 9 halftones, 1 map
  • Sales rank: 107,143

Product description

The clever peasant Arnaud du Tilh had almost won his case, when a man with a wooden leg swaggered into the French courtroom, denounced du Tilh, and reestablished his claim to the identity, property, and wife of Martin Guerre. This book, by the noted historian who served as a consultant for the film, adds new dimensions to this famous legend.

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Author information

Natalie Zemon Davis is Henry Charles Lea Professor of History, Emerita, Princeton University.

Review quote

A fascinating reconstruction of a famous incident of impostorship and love in sixteenth-century rural France. Davis delicately deploys historical fact to suggest what is singular about the modern individual. -- Todd Gitlin The Nation In her intelligent and subtle analysis, the story gives an inside view of an otherwise little-known world, the private lives of peasants...Natalie Davis has also collaborated on an excellent film of the story (produced in France) as well as writing this book...About Martin Guerre, I would say, without hesitation, the movie was great, but Natalie Davis's book is even greater. -- Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie New York Review of Books Davis combines a veteran researcher's expertise with a lay reader's curiosity and an easygoing style. She draws on sophisticated...work in land tenure, legal rights, and demography to reinterpret a 'prodigious history' among the French peasantry...Davis's book combines ingredients essential to good social history--painstaking historical research and a vividly empathetic imagination. The result of this happy combination is that character emerges in context...Davis's book balances possibility and constraint, character and situation. It puts people back into history but doesn't take the social and political forces out of it. The universal is there in particular, and it makes you think not only about their choices then, but about ours now. -- Pat Aufderheide Voice Literary Supplement A fascinating anecdote, with enough colorful background, psychological complexity, and unsolved mysteries to delight any intelligent audience. Kirkus Reviews Natalie Zemon Davis...has scoured the legal and notarial records of south-western France to recreate for the reader not merely a highly entertaining story but a vivid picture of the world which fashioned its principal characters. Her observations on property rights, inheritance, customs, family relationships and the mechanisms of the law are welded together by a rare blend of historical craft and imagination...Professor Davis's ability to combine lively narrative, wit, historical reflection and psychological analysis will ensure for this book a wide audience. It is truly captivating story with which to pass a rainy weekend; it is also a brilliantly professional reconstruction of the rural world of sixteenth-century France, which will both stimulate and inform for many years to come. -- David Parker Times Literary Supplement The fullest account to date of this extraordinary tale. Davis has constructed a Fine piece of social history, a look into the lives of 16th-century peasants who left no records because they could neither read nor write. -- Jean Strouse Newsweek Davis combines a veteran researcher's expertise with a lay reader's curiosity and an easygoing style... Davis's book balances possibility and constraint, character and situation. It puts people back into history but doesn't take the social and political forces out of it -- Pat Aufderheide Village Voice

Editorial reviews

A scholarly speculative reconstruction of a celebrated episode from 16th-century Languedoc that shapes a mass of dusty archival records into a relaxed, fast-paced, and charming narrative. Davis is a Princeton historian who collaborated with scenarist Jean-Claude Carriere and director Daniel Vigne on the just-released Retour de Martin Guerre. That work in turn drove her to do the minute, exacting research that resulted in this fine little book. Martin Guerre was a peasant of Basque origins who married Bertrande de Vols in the village of Artigat in 1538. Both bride and groom were well-to-do and very young, perhaps 12 and 14 respectively. After more than eight years of impotence, Martin succeeded in consummating the marriage and begetting a son. Not long after that he fell out with his father (committing the unpardonable act, for a Basque, of stealing grain from the older man) and then suddenly disappeared. About eight years later a brilliant impostor named Arnaud du Tilh with a reasonable resemblance to Martin Guerre showed up in Artigat and was received by everyone (including Bertrande de Vols) with open arms. But after three or four years as a happy husband and respected citizen, Martin Arnaud was accused of being a fraud in a suit to which Bertrande was a party. He was on the verge of exoneration when the real Martin Guerre appeared on the scene and sealed his fate (death on a gibbet across from the Guerre house). Davis builds her story around the Arrest Memorable by Jean de Coras, the judge who condemned du Tilh. But unlike Coras and all other subsequent narrators (save for F. Gayot de Pitaval), she stresses what seems to the modern reader an obvious element: that Bertrande must have been in cahoots with her pseudo-husband until, for whatever reasons, she sided with his enemies. Many features of the affair (such as where du Tilh got all the information he needed to hoodwink the Guerres) will forever remain obscure, and to fill them in Davis has necessarily resorted to educated guessing. So this is not history in any strict sense - but it certainly is a fascinating anecdote, with enough colorful background, psychological complexity (Bertrande and Arnaud's testimony dovetailed to perfection, clearly by pre-arrangement), and unsolved mysteries to delight any intelligent audience. (Kirkus Reviews)

Table of contents

Introduction 1. From Hendaye to Artigat 2. The Discontented Peasant 3. The Honor of Bertrande de Rols 4. The Masks of Arnaud du Tilh 5. The Invented Marriage 6. Quarrels 7. The Trial at Rieux 8. The Trial at Toulouse 9. The Return of Martin Guerre 10. The Storyteller 11. Histoire prodigieuse, Histoire tragique 12. Of the Lame Epilogue Selected Bibliography of Writings on Martin Guerre Notes Index Illustrations First edition of Coras, Arrest Memorable (1561). Bibliotheque Nationale. First page of the Arrest Memorable (1561). Bibliotheque Mazarine. The routes of Martin Guerre. Whimsical soldiers, ca. 1545. Archives departementales de l'Ariege, 5E6220. Peasants dance. Bibliotheque Nationale, Cabinet des Estampes. A rural couple. Bibliotheque Nationale. Confrontation between accused and witness. Harvard Law School Library, Treasure Room. First pictorial representation of the case. Bibliotheque Mazarine, Paris. Jean de Coras. Bibliotheque Nationale, Cabinet des Estampes. A case of remarkable resemblance. University of Pennsylvania, Furness Memorial Library, Special Collections, Van Pelt Library. Punishment arrives on a wooden leg. Princeton University Library, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.