Discovery of France: A Historical Geography (英語) ペーパーバック – 2008/10/5
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A narrative of explorationfull of strange landscapes and even stranger inhabitantsthat explains the enduring fascination of France. While Gustave Eiffel was changing the skyline of Paris, large parts of France were still terra incognita. Even in the age of railways and newspapers, France was a land of ancient tribal divisions, prehistoric communication networks, and pre-Christian beliefs. French itself was a minority language.Graham Robb describes that unknown world in arresting narrative detail. He recounts the epic journeys of mapmakers, scientists, soldiers, administrators, and intrepid tourists, of itinerant workers, pilgrims, and herdsmen with their millions of migratory domestic animals. We learn how France was explored, charted, and colonized, and how the imperial influence of Paris was gradually extended throughout a kingdom of isolated towns and villages.The Discovery of France explains how the modern nation came to be and how poorly understood that nation still is today. Above all, it shows how much of Francepast and presentremains to be discovered.A New York Times Notable Book, Publishers Weekly Best Book, Slate Best Book, and Booklist Editor's Choice.
Brilliant. Robb, who writes beautifully...has accomplished quite a feat. He has reintroduced France to itself.--William Grimes
Scintillating and resourceful.
A wonderful adventurous book, ride, walk, and just encounter the hinterlands of France and the adventure of becoming a country, united by a language. It was not easy, nor was the unification of a country and it's language. All roads led to Paris, and thus the unification began. A story of the turmoil of becoming, well fed with fodder, tidbits, and appetizers to keep you interested as you journey through a huge country separated by peaks and valleys that were dividing the locals as well as the country.
I could not help but think of the parallels of the United States becoming a country of many States during the same period of time, as also the unification of Italy. It was a time when unification made sense, so people could be accounted for and the State could grow and be responsible .
Crossing the Alps was an adventure and although the Grand Tour may or may not have been mentioned it was easily alluded to in the crossing of the Alps. The horses could not make some of the steep inclines, so a donkey was brought along. The coach would be taken apart, and the donkey would haul it on a travois over the top of the incline, where it would be reassembled for the harrowing ride down the mountain. Robert Louis Stevenson and others took the Grand Tour in this manner, across the Alps to Italy, and back.
Superstition and lack of communication led to the death of one of Cassini's map makers. Spas grew up where people came to take the waters and fed by towns anxious for income more business grew up around the spas. Gossip could travel faster than man, one wondered how that could happen?
Today we think that everyone needs what civilization has to offer, but one is startled back to a one room cottage, with firepit, outside accommodations and uncleanliness. This was life for many of us before the advent of industrialization
Finally, I learned about the start of the Tour de France and I learned why, when I was in Paris in the 1950's the French would seem rude when they barked at me, "Speak French!" I did struggle to speak French, and wondered why they were so rude, after all I was only a "kid", struggling to make myself understood,( as though I could just spout out French)
The railroads, the coach roads, the many people that walked from the outlying areas, all came together in the glittering city of Paris, uniting the languages, the cultures and the ideals, until, we had ...Vive La France!
An interesting journey, worth the time for armchair travelers, that like to accumulate knowledge about the world and its people. Graham Robb is one to follow.
If you combine it with a history of France for dummies and Robb's biography of Victor Hugo, you will have become both immensely knowledgeable about France, more so than nearly all French people, but you will also have, without intending it, become profoundly francophile.
When the French get something wrong, they do it all the way. For this reason, they are a difficult problem, both for themselves and for others. But there is so much right and what is wrong can (usually) be forgiven that they are worth it.