Fragile Glory: A Portrait of France and the French

Richard Bernstein, Author Alfred A. Knopf $25 (349p) ISBN 978-0-394-58340-2
Although the French are reputed to be supercilious, superior, smug and unfriendly, Bernstein, former New York Times Paris bureau chief, maintains that they are shy and formal, tend to keep their homes gloomy and manage to be pro-American without seeming so. They are also anarchic, devoted to pleasure, elegant but not at all preoccupied with style--dress for them is an insignia, a statement--and don't have better or worse taste than anybody else. Aware of their commonality and ``solidarity,'' yet quarrelsome like a family, they have lost their very goal of national grandeur because of their chronic fragmentation. By the time of the 1986 election, however, when a Socialist president had to name a Conservative prime minister, ``an underlying consensus had come to rob French political life of its previous endemic nastiness.'' This well-rounded portrait of France today is a spirited introduction to a prosperous, complacent, Americanized people whom modernity has ``leached out of their particularity.'' BOMC alternate. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/29/1990
Release date: 09/01/1990
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-452-26678-0
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