THE AMERICAN ENEMY: The History of French Anti-Americanism

Philippe Roger, Author, Sharon Bowman, Translator , trans. from the French by Sharon Bowman. Univ. of Chicago $35 (536p) ISBN 978-0-226-72368-6

The surface flippancy of some references to the "freedom fries" kerfuffle during the debate over the war in Iraq masked the long history of antagonism between the U.S. and France. In this fascinating history, noted French historian and cultural critic Roger wittily documents French anti-Americanism from the Enlightenment through McDonald's invasion of French cuisine. Part of Roger's analytic technique is uncovering obscure but intriguing historical information—e.g., early anti-American sentiments were based on the supposedly scientific argument that the Americas were filled with poisonous substances and sickly animals. While such tidbits are entertaining, the book quickly demonstrates how, during the 20th century, France's anti-American attitudes deepened as the U.S. become a world power, overshadowing the traditional European empires. This shift helped create a cultural container for all anti-American feelings including mistrust of Ford's assembly line, moral abhorrence of a growing world economy controlled by the U.S. and distaste for American customs and personalities. The translation is very readable, and though Roger's source texts are often unknown in this country, his arguments are persuasive. The book falters at times because the author is so quick to take exception to all examples of French anti-Americanism that the reader suspects the author dislikes his own country. In spite of this, the book is an important addition to international cultural and political history. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/28/2005
Release date: 05/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 536 pages - 978-0-226-72369-3
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