Girin_Review
Reviews

Royalism and Reaction

After publishing highly acclaimed biographies of Zola and Flaubert, the New York City-based Frederick Brown established himself as an expert on French cultural and intellectual life with his magnificent book For the Soul of France, a saga of the struggle between the militant secularists and the royalist reactionaries between the fall of Napoleon III and the outbreak of World War I.  Brown used the Eiffel Tower and the Sacré Cœur Basilica as symbols of the opposing camps, devoting some of the earlier book’s best passages to the construction and criticism of both edifices.  For all of Brown’s pro-secularist bias, For the Soul of France was deservedly praised by both John Lukacs and Henry Kissinger.

Brown’s newest book, The Embrace of Unreason, is its sequel, an attempt to formulate a political and cultural history of interwar France by describing the lives and works of several prominent reactionaries.  But trouble starts at the beginning, with the choice of Frederick Brown’s antiheroes.  The author concentrates on Maurice Barrès, Charles Maurras, and Pierre Drieu La Rochelle.

While an important presence in the anti-Dreyfusard, right-wing intellectual milieu, Barrès died only several years after the end of World War I, and by then his influence was on the wane.  Yet while emphasizing Barrès, Brown devotes unpardonably...

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