Why did I love this book?
As a scholar of nineteenth-century French history and literature, I had always been fascinated by a paradox: France was the first modern European country to grant the Jews full civil rights (in 1790-91) but it was also the country where modern antisemitism first took shape. I’ve explored that paradox in a series of books, including most recently The Betrayal of the Duchess. Since 2011, I’ve also directed the Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism. Many people don’t realize that France today has the third-largest population of Jews in the world, after Israel and the United States. And it continues to be ground-zero for antisemitic attacks. So studying this history is more important than ever.
By Maurice Samuels,
The year was 1832 and the French royal family was in exile, driven out by yet another revolution. From a drafty Scottish castle, the duchesse de Berry hatched a plot to restore the Bourbon dynasty. For months, she commanded a guerilla army and evaded capture by disguising herself as a man. But soon she was betrayed by her trusted advisor, Simon Deutz, the son of France's Chief Rabbi. The betrayal became a cause célèbre for Bourbon loyalists and ignited a firestorm of hate against France's Jews. By blaming an entire people for the actions of a single man, the duchess's supporters set the terms for the century of antisemitism that followed.
Brimming with intrigue and lush detail, The Betrayal of the Duchess is the riveting true story of a high-spirited woman, the charming but volatile young man who double-crossed her, and the birth of one of the modern world's most deadly forms of hatred.
By Marcel Proust, CK Scott Moncrieff (translator),
By Vincent Duclert,
This is the best history of the Dreyfus Affair and I wish it were available in English. Whereas most histories of the Affair cast Dreyfus as a hapless victim or as a patriotic automaton, who might not have even been a Dreyfusard had he not been Dreyfus, Duclert shows him to have been a true hero, whose super-human resolve and fortitude eventually allowed justice to prevail. Dreyfus emerges not as a martyr to antisemitism but as the first example of the resistance hero, the model for the struggle against authoritarianism and state terror in the twentieth century.
This is a book about a group of fabulously wealthy Jewish families (the Cahen D’Anvers, the Reinachs, the Rothschilds, and others) who amassed first-class art collections and left them to the French state only to see the state turn on them during the German Occupation. With great sensitivity, McAuley explores the lives of these very elite Jews, many of whom were related through ties of friendship and marriage, painting a rich portrait of their gilded but “fragile” world. He shows the complicated motivations behind their collections—the drive to belong and to express that belonging through art. This is certainly a snapshot of a very particular class, but it reveals something profound about the nature of the French-Jewish experience.
By Helene Berr, David Bellos (translator),
Hélène Berr was the French Anne Frank: a university student during the German Occupation, she kept a journal of her experience, which her family kept private until 2008, when it became a publishing sensation. The journal covers the period from 1942, when Jews were forced to wear the yellow star, until her arrest in 1944. Gifted with a literary sensibility, Hélène observes the world around her as the walls began to close in, but still manages to grasp moments of love and joy amid the suffering. A precious record of day-to-day life in Occupied France, the journal also provides that rarest of Holocaust narratives: the voice of someone who did not survive.
By Patrick Modiano, Frank Wynne (translator),
This is the first novel by Modiano, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2014. It has been translated into English but with a French title, which contains a pun that can’t be translated (referring both to a location in Paris and to the infamous badge imposed by the Nazis). A darkly comic and shocking send-up of French antisemitic literature, the novel features a clownish protagonist named Raphaël Schlemilovitch who embraces every antisemitic stereotype imaginable, becoming in turn, a cosmopolitan, a traitor, a collaborator, and a pimp before winding up on the couch of Sigmund Freud begging to be put out of his misery. Modiano wrote this novel to exorcise the demons of French literature and it helped him carve out a place as a distinctly Jewish voice in the French literary pantheon.
We think you will like A Moveable Feast, Midnight in Cairo, and Silence of the Sea / Le Silence de la Mer if you like this list.
By Ernest Hemingway,
From the list on completely transforming your life.
I’ve known I was “special” since I was a child. I saw, felt, and heard things that others did not. Eventually I embraced my clairaudient mediumship gifts and turned it into a thriving business, allowing me to live a life of purpose: helping others find their passions and live their most joyful lives. But the journey never ends; I am always on a mission to transform. Consistently, literature has been where I turn when I am seeking wisdom on becoming the best version of myself. I also pursued certification as a Book Therapist - the first thing I’ll recommend to friends, family, or clients is the best book for their dilemma!
Discover why each book is one of Claudia's favorite books.
A Moveable Feast is life-changing, with its introspective and evocative exploration of Hemingway’s early years as a struggling writer in the 1920s. It heavily inspired me to make my own move and pursue my authorship journey in Paris!
Through vivid and poetic prose, Hemingway captures the bohemian atmosphere of the era. The book delves into themes of creativity, love, loss, and pursuing one's artistic vision. Hemingway's raw and honest reflections on his own experiences and struggles offer profound insights into the nature of art, resilience, and the pursuit of a meaningful life.
This book inspired me to uncover my passions, live the life of my dreams, embrace the beauty of the world around me, and, most importantly, savor every moment.
By Raphael Cormack,
From the list on rediscovered women's history with badass book covers.
My name is Susan Blumberg-Kason and I write books about strong women who have a strong sense of place. I think we are all partly defined by where we live and I enjoy examining how our environment informs our choices. My first book centers around someone I know very well—me! My memoir, Good Chinese Wife, takes place in my favorite city—Hong Kong—the place where I came of age and married for the first time, as well as China and a few cities in the US. I’m also a sucker for a good cover and I absolutely love my Good Chinese Wife cover!
Discover why each book is one of Susan's favorite books.
I have to say that I do sometimes judge a book by its cover and this one blew me away. I could already tell it would be a fun account of women in 1920s Cairo. I loved learning about the positions in society these divas held at a time when women around the world were just starting to get some rights—maybe.
By James W. Brown (editor), Lawrence D. Stokes (editor), Cyril Connelly (translator)
From the list on the French Resistance.
My grandfather joined the French Resistance in his early twenties in 1942. He told me his story when I was a teenager, which has had a lasting effect on me. I have since taught college students about the French Resistance and published on the way it has been depicted in films, TV series, novels, and comics since 1942. My book Revisiting the French Resistance will appeal to those interested in the relationship between history and fiction, and/or who enjoy stories of ordinary, yet exemplary individuals who at some point of history have felt compelled to say “no” to a situation deemed unacceptable.
Discover why each book is one of Christophe's favorite books.
An iconic Resistance novel today, The Silence of the Sea was written at a time when the French Resistance was yet to be invented, and was published clandestinely in 1942. The first work of fiction ever written about the Resistance, and one of the most beautiful, without a doubt. The story of a forbidden love between a German officer and a French woman who was forced to house him, Vercors’ story was meant to entice his fellow citizens to refuse a situation deemed unacceptable. There is no sabotage, explosions, or as traditionally understood acts of heroism, only an invitation to save whatever could be saved. A story of honor and dignity, universal and timeless.
Topics are things like World War 1, dinosaurs, grief, or jazz. We will add genres in 2022.