A Word from the Editor
Spring brings a bouquet of reviews in lieu of Easter eggs but equally colourful. We begin with historian Barbara Corrado Pope’s trilogy of Belle Époque mysteries. The first, revolves around Paul Cézanne and takes place in Aix; the second is set in Nancy in the midst of the Dreyfus Affair; the third, just published –and an “Oprah.com choice” to boot—moves to the strange goings-on in Parisian anarchist circles. As Charles Sowerwine explains, Pope uses her deep knowledge of the period to enrich her narratives, exploring questions of class, gender, and social justice through her investigating magistrate and his teacher spouse, staunchly republican members of the “nouvelle couche sociale.” While there are some inconsistencies between the first and last novel’s treatment of the “new woman,” this merely stirs our curiosity about the main characters and their –sometimes dramatic—career and life choices.
In the “Maybe Missed” feature Clare Crowston offers a masterly analysis of Andrew Miller’s prize-winning novel Pure, situated in Les Halles during the clearing of the Innocents Cemetery in the late 1780s. Miller obviously enjoys playing with the rather obvious metaphor for the crumbling regime, but in the process paints a memorable image of the neighbourhood and the mounds of cadavres whose smell drives some of the denizens crazy. We see Paris, Versailles, Valenciennes mines and Norman countryside through the eyes of his young and naive engineer hero, the hopes raised by science and technology, the stirrings of Revolution.
We are lucky in having our “Classics in the Classroom” presented by a specialist who knows both the Renaissance context and the modern Brazilian movie scene that yielded the little 1971 jewel How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman? As French historians, we rarely get the chance to discuss encounters between natives of the New World and Europeans except in New France. This film, set in Brazil in the 1550s, while deviating from the original narrative in ways that Michael Wintroub carefully delineates, addresses the multiple layers of misunderstanding that accompanied the “age of exploration.” The Tupinambá might not understand the French, Portuguese and Dutch with whom they interact, but the Europeans are duplicitous toward each other as well as toward the native population. We need to be wary of the versions we read and the versions we tell.
University at Buffalo