In the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71, a defeated and humiliated France split into cultural factions that ranged from those who embraced modernity to those who championed the restoration of throne and altar. This polarization—to which such iconic monuments as the Sacre-Coeur and the Eiffel Tower bear witness—intensified with a succession of grave events over the following decades: the crash of an investment bank founded to advance Catholic interests; the failure of the Panama Canal Company; the fraudulent charge of treason brought against a Jewish officer, Alfred Dreyfus, which resulted in a civil war between his zealous supporters and fanatical antagonists.In this brilliant reconsideration of what fostered the rise of fascism and anti-Semitism in twentieth-century Europe, Frederick Brown chronicles the intense struggle for the soul of a nation, and shows how France’s deep fractures led to its surrender to Hitler’s armies in 1940.
“Vivacious and fluid. . . . Visitors to the City of Light, and Parisians themselves, may never look at the Eiffel Tower and the Sacré-CÅ“ur quite the same way again. . . . Brown’s storytelling is vivacious and fluid, but he also keeps a firm hand on his chronicle, bringing order and perspective to these often chaotic times. . . . For the Soul of France offers a great deal of instruction and many narrative pleasures (even for a French reader).”
–The Wall Street Journal
Frederick Brown is the author of Flaubert, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in biography, and Zola, named an Editor’s Choice by The New York Times Book Review as one of the best books of the year. Brown has twice been the recipient of both Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships. He lives in New York City.
“A wonderful book. . . . Learned. . . . Vivid. . . . Consistently instructive.”
–The New Republic
“Brown has the rare ability to write reliable and well-researched history for a broad nonspecialized public. Francophiles, in particular, will love this book.”
–The New York Times Book Review
“A lucid, piercing portrait. . . . These events still resonate, and Brown shows they stand as powerfully as any structure in iron or stone.”
“Terrific. . . . A brilliant study.”
–The Boston Globe
“For the Soul of France is masterful history, brilliantly researched, and hard to put down.”
-Henry A. Kissinger
Lunch Lit: For the Soul of France by Frederick Brown