French literature is the lode star of all modern movements or doctrines, and anyone who follows its path will have commerce with all the isms, from romanticism to naturalism, realism to surrealism, primitivism to symbolism, neo-classicism to dadaism. Beginning with Rousseau, no other nation has had such an array of literary giants. In any history of the novel, who could leave out Stendhal, Hugo, Balzac, Flaubert, Zola, or Proust? If you study poetry, Baudelaire, Verlaine, Rimbaud, Mallarme, and Valery are are always key figures. And even in criticism, there are those two immovable objects, Sainte-Beuve and Taine. One would almost think there was something magical about these continuing configurations. The late Albert Thibaudet's survey (originally published in France during the Thirties) is a stunningly inclusive work, tremendously aware of the subtleties involved, and with a firm grasp on all pertinent matters, whether aesthetic, social, or biographical. The style of writing, and the mind behind it, are not the sort, however, which lend themselves easily to English translation, and it is unlikely that so rich and minutely intellectual a book will find many readers. The cultural compressions, elegant phrases and erudition are rarely encountered (or in fashion) these days.