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2022.06.07 七本书来了解现代法国

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Economist Reads | France
Our Paris bureau chief picks seven books to make sense of modern France
A readers’ guide to understanding the paradoxical country at the heart of Europe
PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 27: A man looks at books outside a bookstore on April 27, 2022 in Paris, France. (Photo by Pierre Crom/Getty Images)
Jun 7th 2022 (Updated Jun 22nd 2022) | PARIS


This article is part of our Summer reads series. Visit our collection to discover “The Economist reads” guides, guest essays and more seasonal distractions.

By re-electing Emmanuel Macron as their president in April, French voters once again defied populism and preferred a centrist leader to the political extremes. Yet if the democratic centre held at the ballot box in 2022, the country at large remains fractured and restless, prone to self-doubt and periodic uprising.

This paradox makes France a complex place to govern, and to understand: at once conservative and rebellious, unified and splintered, comfortable and discontented. Below is a selection of books, a mix of non-fiction and fiction, all published in recent years and available in English (or soon to be), which look at the forces shaping contemporary France.

De Gaulle. By Julian Jackson. Belknap Press; 928 pages; $39.95. Published in Britain as “A Certain Idea of France: The Life of Charles de Gaulle”; Allen Lane; £35

To understand France today, consider the figure whose shadow looms over the country half a century after he left office: Charles de Gaulle. The founder of the Fifth Republic has over 3,600 roads or avenues in France named after him, as well as the main Paris airport and the national aircraft carrier. One of the best guides to the general is “De Gaulle” by Julian Jackson, a British historian. Published in 2018, at over 900 pages it is a doorstop of a biography ill-suited to beach-reading. But it rewards the effort. Mr Jackson deftly blends meticulous first-hand research with historical narrative to unpick the vision, flair and flaws of the leader who “exhorted the French to believe in themselves as a ‘great’ nation”. This is our review of the book from 2018.

More Summer reads
• Our Bartleby columnist explains how to avoid the most overused words in business
• What’s at stake in Ukraine is the direction of human history, writes Yuval Noah Harari
• The pandemic has given economists a new lease of life
• Flashman, Victorian England’s foremost rotter, would have made a great journalist
•Six guides to biology as seen at different scales

Left Bank: Art, Passion and the Rebirth of Paris, 1940-1950. By Agnès Poirier. Henry Holt; 352 pages; $30. Bloomsbury Publishing; £25

A rather different phenomenon to emerge after the second world war was the radical philosophy, intellectual effervescence and anti-bourgeois style that took hold on the Paris rive gauche. It too shaped today’s France, or at least the country’s high-brow sense of itself. “Left Bank” is a geo-literary gem published in 2018 by Agnès Poirier, a French author, and centred on the streets and boulevards around the Café de Flore, where aspiring writers and thinkers shared views, cigarettes and beds. The French still treat their public intellectuals as national treasures. This anatomy of the post-war generation, and the intertwined lives they led in a narrow stretch of Paris, is a useful reminder of where that fashion began. We referred to the book in this essay on French public intellectuals.

Returning to Reims. By Didier Eribon. Translated by Michael Lucey. Semiotext(e)/Foreign Agents; 256 pages; $17.99. Allen Lane; £9.99

For a change of tone, Didier Eribon’s memoir, “Returning to Reims”, is a short, sobering account of the French sociologist’s return to his working-class roots after the death of his father. A first-person insight into the darker political forces at work in France today, it was picked up by a big English-language publisher in 2018, several years after it came out in French. The tale is partly a personal reckoning: the young Mr Eribon walked out on his abusive homophobic father to make a life as a gay man in the intellectual circles of Paris. But it is also an exploration of why the social milieu he grew up in, with its dead-end jobs and violent masculinity, turned its back on the hard left and communism, and looked for salvation to the far right instead. His is a personal account that speaks of the disarray, disillusion and anger behind the vote for the extremes today.

The Familia Grande: A Memoir. By Camille Kouchner. Translated by Adriana Hunter. Other Press; 224 pages; $24 and £20
Consent: A Memoir. By Vanessa Springora. Translated by Natasha Lehrer. HarperVia; 208 pages; $27.99 and £9.99

A chilling indictment of the close-knit contemporary version of the Paris left-bank circle can be found in two books that expose its dark underside. Neither makes for easy reading. Camille Kouchner’s “The Familia Grande”, published in English in May 2022, touches the paralysing guilt that grips the victims of incest, in this case her twin brother, set against a backdrop of indifference and celebrated sexual liberation. The powerful psychology of a predatory liaison is also at the centre of Vanessa Springora’s memoir, published in English in 2021. Her account is of a sexual relationship that began when she was 14 years old, willingly—or so she thought at the time—with a well-known literary figure who was nearly 50. Each tale is damning: for children, the law offers little protection in the face of shame and silence. This is our review of the two books.

Discretion. By Faïza Guène. Translated by Sarah Ardizzone. Saqi Books; 240 pages; £12.99

Paris is not only the capital’s chic left bank. Faïza Guène is a young French novelist who has a fine eye for the contradictions, agonies and delights of life at the intersection of Algeria, contemporary Paris, and its banlieue. “Discretion”, published in French in 2020 and out in English later this year, follows Yamina Taleb, an Algerian woman who grew up with a garden and fig tree in a small Berber village. She suffers a double exile: first to Morocco during the Algerian war, then to Seine-Saint-Denis north of Paris after an arranged marriage. A tale told through the eyes of her four French-born adult children, it takes in dispossession, belonging, memory and the intergenerational conflict over silence and discretion in the face of pain or injustice. A short bitter-sweet read with a light touch, Ms Guène captures many of the tensions that tug at second-generation immigrant families in France today with honesty, humour and warmth.

Anéantir. By Michel Houellebecq. Flammarion; 736 pages; €26 . To be published in America by Farrar Straus & Giroux and in Britain by Picador.

No guide to understanding France is complete without a novel by Michel Houellebecq, the country’s literary enfant terrible. “Anéantir”, which means annihilate or reduce to nothing, came out in French in January 2022 and will be published in English later this year. Mr Houellebecq’s eighth and latest novel touches on the novelist’s signature complaints, including ageing, sexual dissatisfaction, emotional dysfunction and existential self-doubt. Set at the end of the second term of a fictional Emmanuel Macron, it also turned out to be prescient, published three months before the president was re-elected. Yet for a writer better known for déprimisme Mr Houellebecq this time offers an unusually tender story, amid the requisite bleakness, of benevolence and love. We reviewed the novel when it came out in French.■

Our Paris bureau chief is the author of a biography of Emmanuel Macron:

Revolution Française: Emmanuel Macron and the Quest to Reinvent a Nation. By Sophie Pedder. Bloomsbury; 297 pages; $28 and £25

A close-up biography of an odds-defying president by our Paris bureau chief. “A terrific first draft of a history with significance far beyond the borders of France,” said the Wall Street Journal.

Do you have your own recommendations? Send them to with the subject line “France” and your name, city and country. We will publish a selection of readers’ suggestions.

法国巴黎--4月27日:2022年4月27日,在法国巴黎,一名男子在一家书店外看书。(Photo by Pierre Crom/Getty Images)

这篇文章是我们夏季阅读系列的一部分。请访问我们的收藏,以发现 "经济学人读物 "指南、特邀文章和更多季节性的分心。




要了解今天的法国,请考虑一下在他离任半个世纪后阴影笼罩着这个国家的那个人物。夏尔-戴高乐。第五共和国的创始人在法国有3600多条道路或大道以他的名字命名,还有巴黎的主要机场和国家航空母舰。关于这位将军的最佳指南之一是英国历史学家朱利安-杰克逊的《戴高乐》。该书出版于2018年,有900多页,是一本不适合在海滩上阅读的门禁传记。但它对努力的回报是。杰克逊先生巧妙地将细致的第一手研究与历史叙事相结合,解读了这位 "劝说法国人相信自己是一个'伟大'国家 "的领导人的远见、天赋和缺陷。这是我们在2018年对该书的评论。

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左岸。艺术、激情和巴黎的重生,1940-1950。作者:Agnès Poirier。Henry Holt;352页;30美元。布鲁姆斯伯里出版社;25英镑

二战后出现的一个相当不同的现象是激进的哲学、知识分子的热情和反资产阶级的风格,在巴黎的大街上占据了一席之地。它也塑造了今天的法国,或者至少是这个国家对自己的高尚意识。"左岸 "是法国作家阿涅斯-普瓦里耶(Agnès Poirier)于2018年出版的一部地缘文学作品,以花神咖啡馆周围的街道和林荫道为中心,有抱负的作家和思想家在这里分享观点、香烟和床铺。法国人仍然把他们的公共知识分子视为国宝。这部对战后一代人的剖析,以及他们在巴黎狭长地带所过的交织在一起的生活,是对这种时尚开始的地方的一个有益提醒。我们在这篇关于法国公共知识分子的文章中提到了这本书。

回到兰斯。作者:Didier Eribon。译者:迈克尔-卢西。Semiotext(e)/Foreign Agents;256页;17.99美元。Allen Lane;9.99英镑



两本书揭露了当代巴黎左翼圈子的阴暗面,对其进行了令人不寒而栗的控诉。这两本书都不容易阅读。卡米尔-库什内尔(Camille Kouchner)的《大家庭》(The Familia Grande)于2022年5月以英文出版,在冷漠和庆祝性解放的背景下,触及了困扰乱伦受害者的瘫痪性内疚,在本案中,她的双胞胎兄弟。掠夺性联络的强大心理学也是瓦妮莎-斯普林戈拉(Vanessa Springora)回忆录的中心内容,该书于2021年以英文出版。她讲述的是她14岁时开始的性关系,她是自愿的--或者说她当时是这样认为的--与一位年近50岁的知名文学家发生的关系。每个故事都是令人震惊的:对于儿童来说,面对羞耻和沉默,法律提供的保护很少。这是我们对这两本书的评论。

谨慎。作者:Faïza Guène。翻译:萨拉-阿迪佐尼。Saqi Books;240页;12.99英镑

巴黎不仅是首都别致的左岸。Faïza Guène是一位年轻的法国小说家,她对阿尔及利亚、当代巴黎和巴黎街区之间的生活矛盾、痛苦和乐趣有着独到的见解。"2020年以法语出版、今年晚些时候以英语出版的《谨慎》,讲述了Yamina Taleb,一个在柏柏尔小村庄的花园和无花果树下长大的阿尔及利亚妇女。她遭受了双重流亡:先是在阿尔及利亚战争期间流亡到摩洛哥,然后在一次包办婚姻后流亡到巴黎北部的塞纳-圣丹尼。这个故事通过她四个在法国出生的成年子女的眼睛来讲述,它涉及到剥夺、归属、记忆以及面对痛苦或不公正时的沉默和谨慎的代际冲突。Guène女士以诚实、幽默和温暖的笔触,捕捉到了当今法国第二代移民家庭所面临的许多紧张关系,是一部苦中有乐的短篇读物。

Anéantir. Michel Houellebecq著。Flammarion;736页;26欧元。在美国将由Farrar Straus & Giroux出版,在英国将由Picador出版。

没有米歇尔-韦勒贝克的小说,了解法国的指南就不完整,他是法国的文学天才。"Anéantir "的意思是消灭或化为乌有,于2022年1月以法语出版,今年晚些时候将以英语出版。韦勒贝克先生的第八部也是最新一部小说触及了这位小说家的标志性抱怨,包括衰老、性不满、情感障碍和存在性自我怀疑。小说以虚构的埃马纽埃尔-马克龙(Emmanuel Macron)第二任期结束时为背景,在总统连任前三个月出版,也被证明是有预见性的。然而,对于一个以谴责著称的作家来说,韦勒贝克先生这次提供了一个异常温柔的故事,在必要的暗淡中,仁慈和爱。我们在这部小说的法文版面世时对其进行了评论。


Revolution Française: Emmanuel Macron and the Quest to Reinvent a Nation. 作者:Sophie Pedder。Bloomsbury;297页;28美元和25英镑


您有自己的推荐书目吗?请将它们发送到,并注明 "法国 "以及您的姓名、城市和国家。我们将公布部分读者的建议。
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