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Realms of Memory: Rethinking the French Past, Vol. 1 - Conflicts and Divisions Hardcover – August 1, 1996

ISBN-13: 978-0231084048 ISBN-10: 0231084048

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Realms of Memory: Rethinking the French Past, Vol. 1 - Conflicts and Divisions + Realms of Memory: The Construction of  the French Past, Vol. 2- Traditions + Realms of Memory:The Construction of the French Past, Vol. 3, Symbols
Price for all three: $166.46

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 642 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (August 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231084048
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231084048
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 7.5 x 10.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,364,957 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


This is an indispensable guide to understanding France and the French. As usual, Arthur Goldhammer's translation is superb.

(Foreign Affairs)

This unusual book deals fascinatingly with everything from the creation of the rousing anthem "La Marseillaise" to the changing role of Joan of Arc in France's collective memory. Even the Eiffel Tower shines forth in surprising new facets.

(Chicago Tribune)

Provides arresting genealogies of a number of the major cleavages in French history, with chapters on the embattled relationship of Jews to the French republic, the peculiar affinities of Gaulism and Communism, and... Paris' haughty condescension toward la province.... Without resorting to polemics, the volume reminds us that the image of the French past is confected as much out of amnesia as out of memory.

(Lingua Franca)

A magisterial attempt to define what it is to be French.

(Times Literary Supplement)

A magnificent achievement.... [The essays included] are the high-carat jewels of the project.

(The New Republic)

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ray TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This acclaimed work of the 1980's and 1990's, which took over a decade to assemble and is composed of contributions by scores of expert authors, sets out to describe how the French people have "constructed" their history through symbols, allusions, and associations, and then have subsequently shifted that constructed memory into the public consciousness. The series, which took up seven volumes in the original French, has been described as "monumental," and there can be little doubt that this description is completely correct due to its size, scope, and coverage. But it is not just its size and scope that make the work "monumental." This is a set that is also superbly written by authors who have uniquely and expert knowledge of the subject matter, and the choice of topics, and the depth into which each is examined, easily makes this a de-facto standard work for anyone today wishing to have a true understanding of how the French themselves define what it means to be "French." It is certainly Pierre Nora's magnum opus, and if you possess anything more than a passing interest in French history, "Frenchness," and French semiotics, you will not want to pass on this work.

The current English translation here is, unfortunately, taken from a subset of the original seven volumes, reduced to three large volumes. Nora defends the reduction as maintaining the spirit of the original, in spite of the collection's selection list from the larger original. He may be right. But it is nevertheless unfortunate that the complete set was not translated into English. But, on the bright side--and indeed, it is bright--the translation here by Arthur Goldhammer is absolutely superb, with virtually no trace of the grammatical oddity that can occur when translating between French and English, and vice-versa.
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