THE FRENCH: Portrait of a People by Sanche de Gramont

THE FRENCH: Portrait of a People

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As a man with two countries--after fifteen years in France and twenty in the U.S. he claims to suffer from both a French liver and American blood pressure--Sanche de Gramont has both native feel and foreign perspective to assist him in ""isolating the compound called Frenchness."" This metaphor is less aptly chosen than the many others Which enliven his pages, for de Gramont's style is jaunty journalistic rather than cool scientific, punctuated with colorful conversations both authentic and apocryphal. The first half of the book is devoted to a dissection of the delightful but deluded French-eye view of history. (Most Frenchmen suffer from Gallocentric nombrilisme, the conviction that France is the navel of the world, but much of ""French"" history is simply Parisian history presented as a fait accompli to the provinces.) De Gramont packs in a considerable amount of information, and he is acutely aware that the epic glorification of the past is ""an antidote to the traumas that humiliate and divide the nation."" The rest of the book deals with such diverse phenomena as speaking French (with a ""Little Anthology of Random Remarks""), thinking French, art styles (""the Fifth Republic feels, as did the monarchy, that culture is too important to be left to the artists""), wine, women, and tax evasion. More history than in Francois Nourissier's cultural composite The French (1968) and it can stand the comparison since it is also entertaining reading.

Pub Date: Aug. 25th, 1969
Publisher: Putnam