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When the World Spoke French
by Marc Fumaroli and Richard Howard


Overview -

A New York Review Books Original

During the eighteenth century, from the death of Louis XIV until the Revolution, French culture set the standard for all of Europe. In Sweden, Austria, Italy, Spain, England, Russia, and Germany, among kings and queens, diplomats, military leaders, writers, aristocrats, and artists, French was the universal language of politics and intellectual life.  Read more...


 
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More About When the World Spoke French by Marc Fumaroli; Richard Howard
 
 
 
Overview

A New York Review Books Original

During the eighteenth century, from the death of Louis XIV until the Revolution, French culture set the standard for all of Europe. In Sweden, Austria, Italy, Spain, England, Russia, and Germany, among kings and queens, diplomats, military leaders, writers, aristocrats, and artists, French was the universal language of politics and intellectual life. In When the World Spoke French, Marc Fumaroli presents a gallery of portraits of Europeans and Americans who conversed and corresponded in French, along with excerpts from their letters or other writings.

These men and women, despite their differences, were all irresistibly attracted to the ideal of human happiness inspired by the Enlightenment, whose capital was Paris and whose king was Voltaire. Whether they were in Paris or far away, speaking French connected them in spirit with all those who desired to emulate Parisian tastes, style of life, and social pleasures. Their stories are testaments to the appeal of that famous "sweetness of life" nourished by France and its language.


 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781590173756
  • ISBN-10: 1590173759
  • Publisher: New York Review of Books
  • Publish Date: June 2011
  • Page Count: 519
  • Dimensions: 8 x 5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.25 pounds


Related Categories

Books > History > Europe - General

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2011-04-04
  • Reviewer: Staff

In the 18th century, French was the language of culture and diplomacy, uniquely suited to express the wit and style of mainly European political, social, and literary luminaries, according to veteran French scholar Fumaroli. Letters and memoirs composed in French from major figures like Frederick II of Prussia and Catherine the Great of Russia, along with relative unknowns like Neapolitan Abbé Galiani or American Gouverneur Morris, map a trail from the enlightened salons of Paris to the partition of Poland by Prussia, Russia, and Austria in the 18th century. In a convulsed Poland, its king deposed, asserts Fumaroli, "the age's much-prized diplomacy, sensibility, and philosophy dropped the mask and revealed its underpinnings of realpolitik, cynicism, and sycophancy." The smooth translation by Pulitzer winner Howard facilitates appreciation of the witty writers, although obscure words such as "aulic" and "bedizenment" crop up in Fumaroli's biographical and historical backgrounds. Whether randomly selecting a chapter or treating the book as a saga sweeping inexorably toward the Polish debacle and the French Reign of Terror, readers cannot fail to find their own enlightenment in these gems. (June)

 
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