Colin Nettelbeck

Outside academia, Patrick Modiano was virtually unknown in the English-speaking world before the announcement of his Nobel Prize in October 2014. Since then, no fewer than seven different US publishers have joined the race to bring out Modiano t ...

Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'Chasing Lost Time' by Jean Findlay

Colin Nettelbeck
Thursday, 30 April 2015

Jean Findlay had access to an impressive array of sources when writing this biography of her great-great uncle. She does not always make the best choices in navigating the mass of material: too many pages are cluttered with unsifted detail, and the family history genre often interferes with the biographical project of a significant public figure. However, the multip ...

Colin Nettelbeck on 'Josephine Baker and the Rainbow Tribe'

Colin Nettelbeck
Thursday, 25 September 2014

When Josephine Baker died in Paris in April 1975, it was almost fifty years since her sensational triumph in that city in 1925 as the star of La Revue Nègre. Her legendary status in France today remains linked to her emblematic role in the extraordinary unleashing of emotion and sensuality that came with the French Jazz Age and its upheaval of tradition. But ...

Colin Nettelbeck reviews the 'Australian Journal of French Studies'

Colin Nettelbeck
Thursday, 31 October 2013

This number of the Australian Journal of French Studies has been superbly guest-edited by Sydney University’s Margaret Sankey, a world authority on French voyages of discovery in the southern hemisphere. In addition to her own work, there are contributions by several French and New Zealand colleagues.

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Colin Nettelbeck on 'Silences and Secrets'

Colin Nettelbeck
Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Kay Dreyfus was inspired to write about the Weintraubs Syncopators after seeing a German documentary at the Melbourne Jewish Film Festival in 2000. The film recounted the story of this interwar dance and variety band, which had earned fame in Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel (1930), and later used a European tour to escape from Hitler’s jazz- an ...

On 13 May 1958 a French military junta seized power in Algiers. Choreographed by Jacques Soustelle, the French governor-general of Algeria, in a deliberate plan to bring down the French government, the putsch led to the return to power of Charles de Gaulle, the collapse of the Fourth Republic, and, after four more years of anguish and prolific bloodshed, the end of ...

Now They've Gone

Colin Nettelbeck
Wednesday, 24 October 2012
An imperfectly remembered life is a useless treachery.
Barbara Kingsolver, The Lacuna

When my American mother-in-law died, the world financial markets went into a tail-spin. Melba was her name; her own mother, who migrated from Italy to New England in the late nineteenth century, was an oper ...

Colin Nettelbeck on 'The Patagonian Hare: A Memoir'

Colin Nettelbeck
Tuesday, 25 September 2012

As the maker of the nine-and-a-half hour film Shoah (1985), Claude Lanzmann created a work of major and enduring historical importance. Through its electrifyingly tense interviews with victims and perpetrators, it opens an indispensable, if harrowing, dimension to our understanding of Hitler’s Final Solution. A work that unrelentingly has as its subject dea ...

Practitioners of real (or royal) tennis have with their game the special relationship that comes with being a small group of initiates. There are probably fewer than ten thousand of them in the world, gathered in the four countries where the ancient sport survives on no more than fifty active courts. Individually and collectively, they appear to feel, beyond the pas ...

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 would be too painful for them to read. Secondly, there was the documentation, provided in Myriam Anissimov’s preface and in a rich appendix, about Némirovsky’s life as an identified foreign Jew under Nazi occupation. Arrested in July 1942, interned in the Pithiviers camp, and deported almost immediately to Auschwitz, she died barely a month after her arrest, even as her husband and friends, ignorant of her fate, tried frenetically to save her. Finally, there was the novel itself, or rather, the two completed sections of what was intended to be a five-part epic narrative: a brilliantly rendered fresco of the French collapse in 1940 and the first years of German occupation, which earned Némirovsky, posthumously, the unparalleled honour of the prestigious Renaudot prize. With the English translation of the novel in 2006, she became an international celebrity. A Némirovsky biography, therefore, could hardly be more timely.

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