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The Embrace of Unreason: France, 1914-1940

de Frederick Brown

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622333,180 (3.64)No n'hi ha cap
"From acclaimed biographer and cultural historian, author of For the Soul of France ("Masterful history...hard to put down."-Henry Kissinger); Zola ("Magnificent." --The New Yorker); andFlaubert ("Impeccable."-James Wood, cover, The New York Times Book Review)-a brilliant reconsideration of the events and the political, social, and religious movements that led to France's embrace of Fascism and anti-Semitism. Frederick Brown explores the tumultuous forces unleashed by the Dreyfus Affair, and examines how the clashing ideologies and the blood-soaked political scandals and artistic movements following the horror of World War I resulted in the country's era of militant authoritarianism; and how rioting, violent racism, and nationalistic fervor overtook France's sense of reason, sealed its fate, and led to the rise of the Vichy government. We see how the French intelligentsia turned away from the humanistic traditions and rationalistic ideals of the Enlightenment in favor of submission to authority that stressed patriotism, militarism, and xenophobia; how French conservatives attempted to rebuild and reshape the country's collective identity as the German threat loomed, as mistrust of the parliamentary Republic increased (a result of its illegal financial mismanagement of the building of the Panama Canal, and nostalgia for a monarchial government and the glories of wartime martyrdom); how the generation that came of age in the trenches, under fire, offered a new vision, and saw salvation in the surrender of reason to instinct. Brown masterfully brings to life Europe's-and France's-darkest modern years"--… (més)
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Es mostren totes 2
French political history is, to me, much more interesting than American or British politics, because the gap between the players is so much larger. However much Americans or the British may disagree on policy, there's general constitutional agreement — acceptance that republican democracy on the one hand, or parliamentary monarchy on the other, is the way to organize society. Not so in France, as Frederick Brown demonstrates in this intellectual history of the French right in the decades leading up to Vichy. Brown's primary tool is a series of multi-chapter biographies of prominent French intellectuals of the Third Republic, thinkers who came to reject liberalism, democracy and Jews as cancers on the nation. The biographical sketches can get over-long and distract from the book's broader themes, but they help illustrate through examples the ideology that helped tear the French Republic apart. (Brown is also critical, though much more briefly, of the Far Left during this same time, who similarly embraced totalitarianism as an improvement on a parliamentary Republic. To the degree he has sympathies, it's with the comparatively moderate Socialists of Léon Blum, who are shown to reject totalitarianism and anti-Semitism without reaching the fecklessness of the largely contemptuous latter-day Radicals, "who were radical in name only.") I personally preferred Brown's previous work, "For the Soul of France," as a more engaging work less caught up in the private lives of writers, but "The Embrace of Unreason" is still enlightening. ( )
  dhmontgomery | Dec 13, 2020 |
Rather a let-down after Brown's look at the Dreyfus era; this one is much less focused, is nowhere near as good on contextualizing and stringing together a narrative, and has an unfortunate case of the 'fair and balanceds,' so that everyone has to be equally unreasonable--as though rampant anti-semitism and fascism are no better and no worse than someone like Gide hoping for a moment that the grotesqueries of the first half of the twentieth century might be overcome by communism. I mean, he was wrong in that moment, but he wasn't literally murdering politicians in the street for being Jewish, so you might want to throw in some sense of proportion. ( )
  stillatim | Oct 23, 2020 |
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"From acclaimed biographer and cultural historian, author of For the Soul of France ("Masterful history...hard to put down."-Henry Kissinger); Zola ("Magnificent." --The New Yorker); andFlaubert ("Impeccable."-James Wood, cover, The New York Times Book Review)-a brilliant reconsideration of the events and the political, social, and religious movements that led to France's embrace of Fascism and anti-Semitism. Frederick Brown explores the tumultuous forces unleashed by the Dreyfus Affair, and examines how the clashing ideologies and the blood-soaked political scandals and artistic movements following the horror of World War I resulted in the country's era of militant authoritarianism; and how rioting, violent racism, and nationalistic fervor overtook France's sense of reason, sealed its fate, and led to the rise of the Vichy government. We see how the French intelligentsia turned away from the humanistic traditions and rationalistic ideals of the Enlightenment in favor of submission to authority that stressed patriotism, militarism, and xenophobia; how French conservatives attempted to rebuild and reshape the country's collective identity as the German threat loomed, as mistrust of the parliamentary Republic increased (a result of its illegal financial mismanagement of the building of the Panama Canal, and nostalgia for a monarchial government and the glories of wartime martyrdom); how the generation that came of age in the trenches, under fire, offered a new vision, and saw salvation in the surrender of reason to instinct. Brown masterfully brings to life Europe's-and France's-darkest modern years"--

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