Colin Nettelbeck

Colin Nettelbeck is an Emeritus Professor at the University of Melbourne, where he held the A.R. Chisholm Chair of French. He taught previously at the University of California (Berkeley) and Monash University. He has written extensively about twentieth-century and contemporary French literature, cinema, and cultural history, with special focus on the French experience of World War II. His most recent book is Dancing with de Beauvoir: Jazz and the French, published by Melbourne University Press in 2004. His essay ‘Kneecapper: a Trip to Happiness’ (published in the Autumn 2011 Meanjin Quarterly) was shortlisted for the 2010 Calibre Prize for an Outstanding Essay. He was awarded second prize in the 2012 Calibre Prize for ‘Now They’ve Gone’.

Colin Nettelbeck reviews: 'Google and the Myth of Universal Knowledge' by Jean-Noël Jeanneney (tran. Teresa Lavender Fagan)

March 2007, no. 289 01 March 2007
France’s hypersensitivity about its culture is not infrequently derided, but it produces a salutary vigilance for which we can all be grateful. Such has been the case with the French-led defence of cultural specificities in the various ‘free trade’ meetings (GATT and WTO) of the past two decades. And such is this book by Jean-Noël Jeanneney. Deceptively slight in size – Jeanneney himself ... (read more)

Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'David Golder' by Irène Némirovsky and 'Irène Némirovsky: Her life and works' by Jonathan Weiss

June 2007, no. 292 01 June 2007
Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'David Golder' by Irène Némirovsky and 'Irène Némirovsky: Her life and works' by Jonathan Weiss
When Irène Némirovsky’s Suite Française was first published in France in 2004, it created extraordinary interest for at least three reasons. Firstly, there was the story of the survival of the manuscript, preserved in an unopened suitcase for almost sixty years by Némirovsky’s daughters, Elisabeth and Denise, who had assumed that the papers in their possession were personal notes that woul ... (read more)

Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'Australian Journal of French Studies, Vol. XLVII, NO. 2: Jacques Rivette' edited by Brian Nelson

October 2010, no. 325 01 October 2010
Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'Australian Journal of French Studies, Vol. XLVII, NO. 2: Jacques Rivette' edited by Brian Nelson
The Australian Journal of French Studies special number on Jacques Rivette continues the journal’s tradition of ground-breaking scholarship. Rivette has long been acknowledged as both an important and enigmatic film director – in some respects even more challenging than his New Wave colleague, Jean-Luc Godard. Rivette’s work is notoriously difficult of access. Almost all his films are unconv ... (read more)

Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'Human Rights In Crisis: The sacred and the secular in contemporary French thought' by Geneviève Souillac

October 2006, no. 285 01 October 2006
Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'Human Rights In Crisis: The sacred and the secular in contemporary French thought' by Geneviève Souillac
It is hard to imagine that any reader of the text of the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights would be unmoved by the nobility of its aspirations. Born of the determination that human beings would never again have to suffer the oppressions and indignities that reached so hideous a climax in the events of World War II, it promises a world in which all people can enjoy a range o ... (read more)

Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'Chis: The life and work of Alan Rowland Chisholm (1888–1981)' by Stanley John Scott

March 2020, no. 419 24 February 2020
Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'Chis: The life and work of Alan Rowland Chisholm (1888–1981)' by Stanley John Scott
In his lifetime, Alan Rowland Chisholm was widely regarded as an Australian national treasure, and the new biography by Stanley John Scott is compelling evidence that he deserves to remain recognised as one today. This is a book that might have languished as an unpublished typescript, or indeed simply disappeared. Its author died in 2014, having twice withheld it from publication. The first time ... (read more)

Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'Tête-À-Tête: The lives and loves of Simone De Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre' by Hazel Rowley

February 2006, no. 278 01 February 2006
Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'Tête-À-Tête: The lives and loves of Simone De Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre' by Hazel Rowley
Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir are both mythical figures. They are also a mythical couple, a symbol of lifelong intellectual and personal commitment to each other and to commonly espoused causes. Of the two, Beauvoir is probably the more widely read today, because of her foundational role in the development of feminism, and the relative accessibility of her writing. In comparison, Sartre ... (read more)

Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'A History of Modern French Literature: From the sixteenth century to the twentieth century' edited by Christopher Prendergast

September 2017, no. 394 30 August 2017
Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'A History of Modern French Literature: From the sixteenth century to the twentieth century' edited by Christopher Prendergast
On the acknowledgments page of this vast compendium, Christopher Prendergast describes the creation of the work as an ‘arduous task’ and the book itself as an ‘unwieldy vessel’. One can sympathise with the difficulty of presenting as a history of five centuries of French literature what would more accurately be described as a chronological anthology of essays by more than thirty different ... (read more)

Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'The Némirovsky Question: The life, death and legacy of a Jewish writer in 20th century France' by Susan Rubin Suleiman

May 2017, no. 391 27 April 2017
Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'The Némirovsky Question: The life, death and legacy of a Jewish writer in 20th century France' by Susan Rubin Suleiman
When Irène Némirovsky’s Suite Française appeared in 2004, it was a huge success, in France and throughout the English-speaking world as well. Its account of France’s collapse at the beginning of World War II, and its portrayal of the early part of the German Occupation, are now acknowledged as profoundly insightful and of an epic scope matched by few other writers. In addition, the story of ... (read more)

Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'Les Parisiennes: How the women of Paris lived, loved, and died in the 1940s' by Anne Sebba

April 2017, no. 390 30 March 2017
Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'Les Parisiennes: How the women of Paris lived, loved, and died in the 1940s' by Anne Sebba
The eminent French historian Annette Wieviorka, in The Era of the Witness (1998, English version in 2006), analyses the difficulties arising, in writing historical narratives about recent times, from the exponential growth in the number of people wanting their stories to be heard. Wieviorka, whose field of specialisation is the Shoah, traces the trend of what she calls the ‘democratisation’ of ... (read more)

'Letter from Paris' by Colin Nettelbeck

June–July 2016, no. 382 23 May 2016
After the horrific massacres in Paris and the ensuing ones in Belgium that were purportedly intended for France, the French were spontaneously drawn together in a defiant affirmation of their fundamental values. In the weeks following the killings, they marched, they ate at restaurants, they took the métro, they gathered in museums, galleries, and cinemas. They were not, in short, going to be imm ... (read more)
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