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I read this book last year, and thought that it was extremely well done, indeed. I had followed up my reading of that book by Jonathan Fenby's "France On the Brink : A Great Civilization Faces a New Century," the most biased and anti-French book - couched under a glossy, scholarly front - that I have ever read (Fenby is a Brit, this may explain it.)

One of my favorite books on France and the French remains Richard Bersntein's "Fragile Glory: A Portrait of France and the French" although, with a 1991 copyright, it's getting a bit dated. I also like Adam Gopnik's "Paris to the Moon." And, of course, I strongly suggest, if you have not done it yet, that you read Philippe Roger's "L'Ennemi Americain" (now available in English translation as well."

I am developing an online French Civilization course this Fall semester (to be taught in the Spring smester), and I am up for good suggestions for readings. I have noticed a couple of things on Amazon that I may want to get.


I've looked at this book in stores several times and chose not to get it because of the title. Looks like I'll have to change my mind and get it after all. Thanks for the great review.

LEYRAT François

As a French citizen, I find your blog well-informed, openminded and insightful. Congratulations!

I haven't read Barlow and Nadeau's book but I would like to share a few thoughts on globalisation and traditional "anglo saxon" wiews of France as backwards, resisting change, ...sometimes strangely completed, when change is indeed noted, by regrets that France is "losing its Frenchness", "getting americanised", etc.

I feel many view globalisation as an irresistible process leading humanity to an unescapable future, a certain state of things which would be the "end of history" (understood as the worldwide generalisation of US way of life and democratic institutions, with Starbucks at every street corner, SUVs in every garage, etc).

In my view, this perception lacks historical perpective. We know there have been early experiences of globalisation, for instance the Roman Empire, the trade domination of the Republic of Venice in the Mediterranean, followed by periods during which the world has "shrunk" again.

As far as I can appreciate things from Europe, I feel globalisation has not been too much of a controversial issue in the US as it is commonly seen as a mere geographic extension of America's "soft power".

For that reason, at the risk of being caricatural, my feeling is that many Americans (and others), consciously or unconsciously, traditionally view alien ways as temporary, albeit picturesque aberrations, which should soon give way to the blessings of (US) civilisation, except for those few who foolishly seem to suggest there are possibly other ways...I am not casting stones here, as European nations, including mine, were thinking along similar lines in a not too distant past...

However, I would suggest views on globalisation are changing in the US, as highlighted by reactions to the loss of American manufacturing jobs and outsourcing in low-wage countries, or to the attempts of a Chinese company to buy a US corporation... In itself, terrorism is a form of globalisation, using state-of-the art communication technology.

I do hope here readers will not misinterpret my feelings towards the United States, of which I try to keep an informed and healthy wiew. For all the good US dynamism has brought to the world,I view the remarkable experience of the United States, emerging as a world superpower as extraordinary, but noneless historically situated (a vast continent, an abundance of natural ressources, a constant influx of hopeful manpower, no archaic social structures to get rid of..) and hence not reproducible elsewhere in the same terms.

Those unique original conditions imply no particular determinism, however : to take the exemple of another nation of the New World, Argentina, blessed with comparable advantages, was one of the world's major economic powers in the nineteenth century, outweighting Germany. But history, in that case, has followed a different path.

Concerning the comparison with France, and the idea of "wiping the slate clean", I do not totally agree with Francofile, as the French revolution was precisely a tentative, sometimes naive and vain, sometimes successful, and in part bloody, to set up a new order and invent modernity, to found a new society, to throw away the old ways for a better future. "Le bonheur est une idée neuve en France" as one of the revolutionary figures said. However there cannot be a complete break from the past. For all the changes, so much of pre-revolutionary France has survived until the present day, while the sucessive waves of immigration to the New World have brought part of their original traditions.

Coming back to standard "anglo-saxon" views of France, I feel the irritation originates from the fact that "French ways" (for what it may mean, I am not sure even myself) are not entirely seen as pleasant exotic folklore, but as something vaguely challenging. In relation to the French-American love-hate relationship, much has been said about clashing visions of modernity (the individual versus the group, etc..) and conflicting universalisms, partly as a legacy of our respective revolutions. French arrogance and US arrogance have similar roots.

France changes, despite the claims to the contrary, as the US does. But neither France nor the US really knows where it is headed to. We do not know our future, despite the optimistic visions of globalisation.

Grumpy older nations (by the way, a few hundred years is not that old for an nation, think of China) have learned the hard way that "l'histoire est tragique" and there is definitely no "end of history".

François, Paris


Isn't not knowing the future the best part?

Kaylee cope

this sucks ass so bad

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