Saturday, July 07, 2007

Prosper Mérimée

Julian Barnes writes on Prosper Mérimée for The Guardian, 7 July 2006.

The Man Who Made France Old, two programmes about Prosper Mérimée presented by Julian Barnes and Hermione Lee, will be broadcast on Radio 4, July 12 and July 19 (11.30am -- 12.00pm).

Excerpt from the Essay:

"When we toured the chateaux of the Loire, I couldn't help noticing that many of these great palaces seemed remarkably empty of furniture, and was given to understand that it had all disappeared in the revolution. Into my mind came vague images -- perhaps culled from the film of A Tale of Two Cities -- of looting sans-culottes with wild eyes and bad shaves. The green Michelin guidebooks to which we referred for our facts were, I now realise, written and edited by a team diplomatically keen not to offend any strand of French opinion; so there was much elision, and a tactical unwillingness to take any controversial (or even discernible) side in France's long, internecine history. Nor did the books indicate how precarious had been the earlier life of this solid monumentality we dutifully visited. Still less did they mention, let alone salute, the man without whose decisive influence and actions what the French now call their patrimony would have been considerably diminished: Prosper Mérimée."

Read the full essay at The Guardian website.


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