Tag Archives: France

After an Election Victory, Emmanuel Macron’s Foreign Outlook Is Hardening

Emmanuel Macron has a difficult task ahead of him.

The new French president is stellar in many ways. Continue reading

Enemies of the People, Past and Present

‘The revolutionary government owes to the good citizen all the protection of the nation; it owes nothing to the Enemies of the People but death.’ So declared Maximilien Robespierre in a speech delivered to the French National Convention on Christmas Day, 1793. Continue reading

Of Tyranny and Violence

The people disappeared in Syria’s military prisons do not have graves, but they do have names. They may not have been accorded funeral rites, but they have faces and stories and their families have memories of their presence. The war which has destroyed much of Syria can be localised: to a family, to a single person, to a face. And within the wider war lurk stories of cruelty and barbarism which affect individuals but whose effects spiral outwards. These specific instances of savagery become institutionalised. Continue reading

Assad and Legitimacy Without Victory

The Assad regime has been in peril since the beginning of the Syrian revolution.

Cities, towns and entire governorates have been free of its authority for more than half a decade. It has lost control of great tracts of the country. And many people in areas no longer within its compass would do everything they could to avoid being ruled over by the regime ever again. They would fight back. Their recapture may be impossible, or at the very least inordinately costly. Continue reading

An Afterword to the Cameron Era

This last week has felt terribly strange. It was – at least in domestic terms – the first time in my politically aware life that things have seemed tremendously, dreadfully significant. I have lived through many wars and revolutions in foreign countries (and I have followed many of them with interest), but the current chaos overtaking Britain’s political system seems different again; it is both less severe and in a way worse, not least because it is entirely self-inflicted. Ministers have resigned; shadow ministers have been fired; and every political party (with a few exceptions) now faces real internal turmoil. This is not the stuff of stable government; it is not the ideal breeding ground for a generation of sensible, pragmatic leaders and statesmen. Continue reading

Martin Guerre and the End of the Individual

The story of Martin Guerre is one of the most fascinating in early modern history. Perhaps that is why it is so well documented, both in chronicles and legal writing at the time and more recently, where it has served as the subject of films in French, German and English, and books, including one by Natalie Zemon Davis, which I recently had the pleasure to read. Continue reading

An Enemy of Promise

Review – Any Human Heart by William Boyd

I approached this novel with some trepidation. It had been reviewed well enough; and those of my friends and relatives who had read it all agreed that it was excellent. I suppose my reluctance stemmed from a sense that the journal format is a fairly tired and stale one, and that it can make good novelists produce frankly inferior stuff for no other reason, it seems to me, than the pursuit of narrative ease. It’s tough to be original if the events of every day are conveyed in under 250 words and always begin with ‘Dear diary’. Continue reading