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 unconventionally long; the longest, Out 1 – Noli me tangere (1970), runs for almost thirteen hours. In all of them, narrative lines are deliberately unresolved and complicated, and made the more disorienting by the director’s improvisational filming methods; only exceptionally, such as with Céline et Julie vont en bateau (1974) or Va savoir (2001), have they attracted sizeable mainstream audiences.... (read more)
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 of fundamental freedoms in peace and harmony. To observe that the promise has not been kept is a patent under-statement. Even in the most advanced democracies, where notions of universal human rights are foundational, there is a sense of crisis. Here in Australia, as the Victorian government moves to institute a bill of rights, people of responsibility and integrity are forced to confront what appears to be a systemic disregard for human rights by the federal government in its treatment of asylum seekers.... (read more)
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 This is a book that might have languished as an unpublished typescript, or indeed simply disappeared.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.... (read more)
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 essay ...
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 ...... (read more)
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 wh ...
After the horrific massacres in Paris and the ensuing ones in Belgium that were purportedly intended for France, the French were spontaneously drawn together ...... (read more)
In early 1960s Paris, an eighteen-year-old who is keeping up his student enrolment to delay compulsory military service is questioned by the police because his name has been found in an address book. At the same time, a slightly older young woman is also being interrogated. The boy contrives to meet her afterwards in a café. Thus begins a story which is part romanc ...
Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'How the French Think: An Affectionate Portrait of an Intellectual People' by Sudhir Hazareesingh
Have the French thought themselves to death? This is the question that Sudhir Hazareesingh poses in this erudite and stimulating book. His concluding chapter is a piece of diplomatic fence-sitting, but, notwithstanding the claim of the subtitle's affection, much of the analysis points to a national culture in terminal decline, inward-looking, nostalgic for past glor ...
'It is hard to imagine a more challenging scholarly task than composing, in under three hundred pages, an introduction to a field as vast and variegated as French literature. From the fabliaux, mystery plays and chansons de geste of medieval times to such figures as the present-day Nobel Prize-winning novelists Le Clézio and Modiano, it embraces n ...