- I finished Sophie Wahnich's La liberté ou la mort : essai sur la Terreur et le terrorisme - admittedly, not a very impressive feat, since it's scarcely more than a hundred pages, though she does manage to pack more into them than most authors do in five hundred - and I highly recommend it. Her thesis on Revolutionary violence and legitimacy is one of the better ones I've read: that is, one of the few that have made any sense and taken all facts into account. I can't wait to read her more recently published La longue patience du peuple. In the meanwhile, I'm keeping busy enough with Vovelle's Combats pour la Révolution française, Martin's Violence et Révolution, and the third volume of Margerit's series of novels, La Révolution : Un vent d'acier. More on those when I finish them, though don't expect reviews, properly speaking.
- This weekend I saw Puccini's "Tosca," which I liked, but not unequivocally. Quite frankly, it confused me. Obviously not in the main plot points: you'd have to be really quite daft to support sadistic reactionary police chiefs against heroic Italian Revolutionaries.
That said, I was somewhat surprised to learn that the original play "La Tosca" was by Victorien Sardou. You know, the one who once met Babet Le Bas and later attempted to discredit her memoirs by saying that sentiment must have distorted her view of Maxime. And other less than shiny things like that. >__< I had definitely had him chalked down for a reactionary, considering he also wrote a play on Thermidor that was so virulently counterrevolutionary that it was shut down by popular demand after two performances.
Which is why I can't say I understand how he could have written "La Tosca"--unless I have it all wrong and we're supposed to be cheering for the authoritarian police chief who has no problem with torturing, manipulating, and killing people...?
Unless Puccini turned it around. But that seems unlikely somehow, since Puccini pretty much tried to take the politics of the original play out of the opera as much as possible. For Puccini the politics is really a pretext for the emotional drama in any case... Well, you can see why I found it confusing at least, I trust. -___-;
- In other opera-related news. I got Méhul's "L'Irato ou l'emporté." It's unfortunately one of his later operas (1800), so it's not quite as nice to listen to as say, "Stratonice" (1792), although that's perhaps an unfair comparison, since "Stratonice" is supposed to be his best work overall (not counting his Revolutionary hymns, of course :P). In any case, the particular thing about this opera I though was worth mentioning is that it keeps making horrible suicide jokes. I'm really not sure why--I suppose it might be one more thing we can blame on the Thermidorians though. Seriously, there's a whole aria in which one of the characters contemplates suicide because, after all, that's "what one does in such situations." *headdesk* And of course the music to said aria is very nice and catchy. -__-;;
- Another thing: I have found one of the most odious books in existence: it's called "50 Reasons to Hate the French" and I don't remember who it's by, exactly, though, suffice it to say, both authors are from the Perfidious Albion. Basically (and I'm not exaggerating in the slightest here) their argument amounts to: "Hate the French because [insert an entire book full of lies, distortions, and insalubrious smugness] and they've always hate the English." It's dedicated to a certain fictional character by the name of "Percy Blakeney"--that is to say, to the Scarlet Pimpernel. As you can guess, it's filled with all the usual garbage concerning the Revolution and all those involved in it, the Marseillaise, and, in a long series of essays, each more worthless than the last, everything that makes France French. Just. Kill me. Now. D:!
- Perhaps more seriously - since I would hope no one really takes the above seriously - another book I found. You, in particular, are bound to love this one, maelicia. It's called The Pursuit of Glory: The Five Revolutoins that Made Modern Europe: 1648-1815 and, unsurprisingly, it's by another "historian" from the Perfidious Albion, by the name of Tim Blanning. The reason that this one is more unfortunate is this: it receives highest praise from every English-language newspaper (the New York Times calls it "History writing at its glorious best") and worse still, it made the New York Times bestseller list, which means, if people aren't reading it, they're at least buying it.
And now for the reason that should be considered a Very. Bad. Thing. Here are some quotes from the book:
Page 345: "[...] Back in Paris, the regime was busy eliminating opponents on both right and left. Although its leaders, most notably Robespierre, presented their terrorist* laws in the language of reason, humanity and liberty, this was essentially a criminal exercise. Only when the rule of law had been suspended could psychopaths such as the public prosecutor Fouquier-Tinville, or Robespierre's most glamourous and dangerous henchman Saint-Just, emerge to inflict their dark fantasies on their fellow human beings."
Or this gem, which seems to use the same logic as the above mentioned book, as well as neatly twisting the facts (and Maxime's words) around 180 degrees, to portray Maxime as an imperialist: Page 650: "[...] Robespierre was not alone in thinking that the French people had outstripped the rest of the human race by two millennia and now constituted what amounted to a different species. This kind of arrogance [emphasis mine], which also expressed itself in a rigourously Francophone policy [One hardly imagines that he would denigrate a "rigourously Anglophone policy in a similar context] towards the occupied territories, naturally provoked a strong reaction. [...]"
*You might recall that the word terroriste was coined by the Thermidorians after the fact. Talk about uncritically appropriating the partisan vocabulary of historical figures!
And he goes on, of course, but it's not really worth your time to read any more, or mine to type it. The other really enraging thing about it, is he took this beautiful Revolutionary frame with the allegories and the republican martyrs and the eye of the Supreme Being and all of that for his cover. Just to completely trash everything represented by it. So. Not. Fucking. Okay. D:<
- One more thing: you might be amused to know, in a sick fashion, admittedly, that the Robert Olen Butler, the author of that charming book on the thoughts of severed heads, now has another book out, on the same model, only this time, his subject is the interior monologues of famous couples having sex. The amusing thing to note is that while, of course Capet and Antoinette are in both books, revolutionaries are only worth mentioning when they get beheaded. Besides, Everyone Knows, Revolutionaries Don't Have Sex. Not that I'm complaining: far from it, since the portraits of those portrayed in either book could hardly be imagined in a less flattering fashion (the highlight of the book - or lowlight, depending on your perspective - is the thought's of Joséphine's dog on its mistress in bed with Bonaparte. I must say ,as far as that goes, I wasn't quite sure whether to be revolted or amused - perhaps a combination of the two is most appropriate).
...I think next time I'll just post more from That Book About Le Bas. >.> In the meantime, I really should have put this behind a cut, but I post rarely enough that you can deal with some spam from time to time, am I right? :P