Jules Michelet

Jules Michelet (French: [ʒyl miʃ.lɛ]; 21 August 1798 – 9 February 1874) was a French historian. He was born in Paris to a family with Huguenot traditions.

In his 1855 work, Histoire de France (History of France),[1] Jules Michelet was the first historian to use and define[2] the word Renaissance ('Re-birth' in French), as a period in Europe's cultural history that represented a drastic break from the Middle Ages (which he loathed),[3] creating a modern understanding of humanity and its place in the world. Historian François Furet wrote that his History of the French Revolution (1847) remains "the cornerstone of all revolutionary historiography and is also a literary monument".[4] His aphoristic style emphasized his anti-clerical republicanism.

Jules Michelet
Portrait of Jules Michelet by Thomas Couture
Portrait of Jules Michelet by Thomas Couture
Born21 August 1798
Paris, France
Died9 February 1874 (aged 75)
Hyères, France
  • Historian
  • writer
  • philosopher
  • teacher
Alma materUniversity of Paris
GenreFrench history

Early life

His father was a master printer, not very prosperous, and Jules assisted him in the actual work of the press. A place was offered him in the imperial printing office, but his father was able to send him to the famous Collège or Lycée Charlemagne, where he distinguished himself. He passed the university examination in 1821, and was soon appointed to a professorship of history in the Collège Rollin.

Soon after this, in 1824, he married. This was one of the most favourable periods ever for scholars and men of letters in France, and Michelet had powerful patrons in Abel-François Villemain and Victor Cousin, among others. Although he was an ardent politician (having from his childhood embraced republicanism and a peculiar variety of romantic free-thought), he was above all a man of letters and an inquirer into the history of the past. His earliest works were school textbooks.

Between 1825 and 1827 he produced diverse sketches, chronological tables etc., of modern history. His précis of the subject, published in 1827, is a sound and careful book, far better than anything that had appeared before it, and written in a sober yet interesting style. In the same year he was appointed maître de conférences at the École normale supérieure.

Four years later, in 1831, the Introduction à l'histoire universelle showed a very different style, exhibiting the idiosyncrasy and literary power of the writer to greater advantage but also displaying, according to the Encyclopædia Britannica (Eleventh Edition), "the peculiar visionary qualities which made Michelet the most stimulating, but the most untrustworthy (not in facts, which he never consciously falsifies, but in suggestion) of all historians".

Record Office

The events of 1830 had placed him in a better position for study by obtaining him a place in the Record Office, and a deputy-professorship under Guizot in the literary faculty of the university. Soon afterwards he began his chief and monumental work, the Histoire de France that would take 30 years to complete. But he accompanied this with numerous other books, chiefly of erudition, such as the Œuvres choisies de Vico, the Mémoires de Luther écrits par lui-même, the Origines du droit français, and somewhat later the le Procès des Templiers.

1838 was a year of great importance in Michelet's life. He was in the fullness of his powers, his studies had fed his natural aversion to the principles of authority and ecclesiasticism, and at a moment when the revived activity of the Jesuits caused some pretended alarm, he was appointed to the chair of history at the Collège de France. Assisted by his friend Edgar Quinet, he began a violent polemic against the unpopular order and the principles which it represented, a polemic which made their lectures, and especially Michelet's, one of the most popular resorts of the day.

He published, in 1839, his Histoire romaine, but this was in his graver and earlier manner. The results of his lectures appeared in the volumes Du prêtre, de la femme et de la famille and Le peuple. These books do not display the apocalyptic style which, partly borrowed from Lamennais, characterizes Michelet's later works, but they contain in miniature almost the whole of his curious ethicopolitico-theological creed—a mixture of sentimentalism, communism, and anti-sacerdotalism, supported by the most eccentric arguments, but urged with a great deal of eloquence.

The principles of the outbreak of 1848 were in the air, and Michelet was one of many who condensed and propagated them: his original lectures were of so incendiary a kind that the course had to be interdicted. However, when the revolution broke out, Michelet, unlike many other men of letters, did not attempt to enter active political life, and merely devoted himself more strenuously to his literary work. Besides continuing the great history, he undertook and carried out, during the years between the downfall of Louis Philippe and the final establishment of Napoleon III, an enthusiastic Histoire de la Révolution française.

Minor books

After Napoleon III's coup d'état, Michelet lost his position in the Record Office when he refused to take the oaths to the empire. The new régime kindled afresh his republican zeal, further stimulated by his second marriage to Athénaïs (née Mialaret), a lady of some literary capacity and republican sympathies. While his great work of history was still his main pursuit, a crowd of extraordinary little books accompanied and diversified it. Sometimes they were expanded versions of its episodes, sometimes what may be called commentaries or companion volumes.The first of these was Les Femmes de la Révolution (1854), in which Michelet's natural and inimitable faculty of dithyrambic too often gives way to tedious and not very conclusive argument and preaching. In the next, L'Oiseau (1856), a new and most successful vein was struck: The subject of natural history, a new subject with Michelet to which his wife introduced him, was treated, not from the point of view of mere science, nor from that of sentiment, but from that of the author's fervent pantheism.

Vincent van Gogh - Sorrow
Van Gogh inscribed Sorrow with the words "Comment se fait-il qu'il y ait sur la terre une femme seule?", which translates to How can there be on earth a woman alone, abandoned? from "La Femme"

L'Insecte followed. It was succeeded by L'Amour (1859), one of the author's most popular books. These remarkable works, half pamphlets half moral treatises, succeeded each other as a rule at the twelve months' interval, and the succession was almost unbroken for five or six years. L'Amour was followed by La Femme (1860), a book on which a whole critique of French literature and French character might be founded. Vincent van Gogh used a quote from La Femme on his drawing Sorrow.

Then came La Mer (1861), a return to the natural history class, which, considering the powers of the writer and the attraction of the subject, is perhaps a little disappointing. The next year (1862) the most striking of all Michelet's minor works, La Sorcière, made its appearance. Developed out of an episode of the history, it has all its author's peculiarities in the strongest degree. It is a nightmare and nothing more, but a nightmare of the most extraordinary verisimilitude and poetical power.

This remarkable series, every volume of which was a work at once of imagination and of research, was not even yet finished, but the later volumes exhibit a certain falling off. The ambitious Bible de l'humanité (1864), a historical sketch of religions, has little merit. In La Montagne (1868), the last of the natural history series, the tricks of staccato style are pushed even farther than by Victor Hugo in his less inspired moments, though—as is inevitable, in the hands of such a master of language as Michelet—the effect is frequently grandiose if not grand. Nos fils (1869), the last of the string of smaller books published during the author's life, is a tractate on education, written with ample knowledge of the facts and with all Michelet's usual sweep, and range of view, if with visibly declining powers of expression. But in a book published posthumously, Le Banquet, these powers reappear at their fullest. The picture of the industrious and famishing populations of the Riviera is (whether true to fact or not) one of the best things that Michelet has done. To complete the list of his miscellaneous works, two collections of pieces, written and partly published at different times, may be mentioned. These are Les Soldats de la révolution and Legendes démocratiques du nord.

Michelet's Origines du droit français, cherchées dans les symboles et les formules du droit universel was edited by Émile Faguet in 1890 and went into a second edition in 1900.

The publication of this series of books, and the completion of his history, occupied Michelet during both decades of the empire. He lived partly in France, partly in Italy, and was accustomed to spend the winter on the Riviera, chiefly at Hyères.


Jules Michelet portrait older
Jules Michelet, later in his career.

At last, in 1867, the great work of his life, Histoire de France, was finished. In the usual edition it fills nineteen volumes. The first of these deals with the early history up to the death of Charlemagne, the second with the flourishing time of feudal France, the third with the 13th century, the fourth, fifth, and sixth with the Hundred Years' War, the seventh and eighth with the establishment of the royal power under Charles VII and Louis XI. The 16th and 17th centuries have four volumes apiece, much of which is very distantly connected with French history proper, especially in the two volumes entitled Renaissance and Reforme. The last three volumes carry on the history of the 18th century to the outbreak of the Revolution.

Michelet abhorred the Middle Ages, and celebrated their end as a radical transformation. He tried to explain how a dynamic Renaissance could emerge from fossilized medieval culture.[5][6]


Michelet has several themes running throughout his works, these included the following three categories: Maleficent, Beneficent, and Paired. Within each of the three themes there are subsets of ideas that occur throughout Michelet's various works. One of these themes was the idea of Paired Themes, for example in many of his works he writes on Grace and Justice, Grace being the Woman or Feminine and Justice being more of a Masculine idea. Michelet, additionally, used Union and Unity in his discussions about National History, and Natural History. In terms of the Maleficent themes, there were subcategories these were: Themes of the Dry, which included concepts such as: The Machine, The Jesuits, Scribes, The Electric, Irony (Goethe), The Scholastics, Public Safety, fatalism (Hobbes, Molinos, Spinoza, Hegel). Themes of the Empty and the Turgid, which included the Middle Ages, the imitation, tedium, the novel, narcotics, Alexander, plethoric (engorged blood). Michelet also touches on Themes of the Indeterminate such as The Honnete-Hommes, Conde', Chantilly Sade, Gambling, Phantasmorgia, Italian Comedy, White Blood, Sealed blood.[7]

Academic reception

Michelet was perhaps the first historian to devote himself to anything like a picturesque history of the Middle Ages, and his account is still one of the most vivid that exists. His inquiry into manuscript and printed authorities was most laborious, but his lively imagination, and his strong religious and political prejudices, made him regard all things from a singularly personal point of view. There is an unevenness of treatment of historical incidents. However, Michelet's insistence that history should concentrate on "the people, and not only its leaders or its institutions" clearly drew inspiration from the French Revolution. Michelet was one of the first historians to apply these liberal principles to historical scholarship.

Political life

Uncompromisingly hostile as Michelet was to the empire, its downfall in 1870 in the midst of France's defeat by Prussia and the rise and fall of the Paris Commune during the following year once more stimulated him to activity. Not only did he write letters and pamphlets during the struggle, but when it was over he set himself to complete the vast task which his two great histories had almost covered by a Histoire du XIXe siècle. He did not, however, live to carry it farther than the Battle of Waterloo, and the best criticism of it is perhaps contained in the opening words of the introduction to the last volume—"l'âge me presse" ("age hurries me"). The new republic was not altogether a restoration for Michelet, and his professorship at the Collège de France, of which he always contended he had been unjustly deprived, was not given back to him. He was also a supporter of the Romanian National Awakening movements.


Upon his death from a heart attack at Hyères on 9 February 1874. Jules Michelet was interred there. At his widow's request, a Paris court granted permission for his body to be exhumed on 13 May 1876. On 16 May, his coffin arrived for reburial at Le Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Michelet's monument there, designed by architect Jean-Louis Pascal, was erected in 1893 through public subscription.[8]


His second wife, Athénaïs Michelet, who survived him, had been a teacher in St. Petersburg. She opened a correspondence with him arising from her ardent admiration of his ideas, and they became engaged before they had seen each other. She assisted him in his labors and was preparing a new work, La nature, at the time of his death.[9]


See also


  1. ^ Michelet, Jules. History of France, trans. G. H. Smith (New York: D. Appleton, 1847)
  2. ^ Murray, P. and Murray, L. (1963) The Art of the Renaissance. London: Thames & Hudson (World of Art), p. 9. ISBN 978-0-500-20008-7
  3. ^ Brotton, Jerry (2002). The Renaissance Bazaar. Oxford University Press. pp. 21–22.
  4. ^ François Furet, Revolutionary France 1770–1880 (1992), p. 571
  5. ^ Jo Tollebeek, "'Renaissance' and 'fossilization': Michelet, Burckhardt, and Huizinga," Renaissance Studies (2001) 15#3 pp 354–366.
  6. ^ Wallace K. Ferguson, The Renaissance in historical thought: five centuries of interpretation (1948)
  7. ^ Barthes, Roland. Michelet, University of California Press; First Edition 8 January 1992
  8. ^ Kippur, Steven (1981) Jules Michelet (State U. of New York Press, Albany), pp. 222–3.
  9. ^ Wikisource Ripley, George; Dana, Charles A., eds. (1879). "Michelet, Jules" . The American Cyclopædia.


Further reading

  • Roland Barthes. Michelet (1978);English translation by Richard Howard (1992).
  • Burrows, Toby. "Michelet in English." Bulletin (Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand) 16.1 (1992): 23+. online; reviews all the translations into English.
  • François Furet; Mona Ozouf (1989). A Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution. Harvard UP. pp. 981–90.
  • Lionel Gossman. "Jules Michelet and Romantic Historiography" in Scribner's European Writers, eds. Jacques Barzun and George Stade (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1985), vol. 5, 571–606
  • Lionel Gossman. "Michelet and Natural History: The Alibi of Nature" in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 145 (2001), 283–333
  • Haac, Oscar A. Jules Michelet (G.K. Hall, 1982).
  • Johnson, Douglas. Michelet and the French Revolution (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990).
  • Kippur, Stephen A. Jules Michelet: A Study of Mind and Sensibility (State University of New York Press, 1981).
  • Rigney, Ann. The Rhetoric of Historical Representation: Three Narrative Histories of the French Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2002) covers Alphonse de Lamartine, Jules Michelet and Louis Blanc.
  • Edmund Wilson. To The Finland Station (1940) (Chapter 3)

External links

Athénaïs Michelet

Athénaïs Michelet (1826–1899), née Athénaïs Mialaret, was a French natural history writer and memoirist.

Aïn El Hammam

Aïn El Hammam is a town and commune in Tizi Ouzou Province in northern Algeria.

Bailey–Michelet House

The Bailey–Michelet House is a historic Italianate residence on Sheridan Road in Wilmette, Illinois. Originally built in Evanston, it was home to meatpacking businessman William Roberts Bailey and his wife Nancy. In 1896, the house was moved to Wilmette when it was sold to lawyer Charles Jules Michelet. Several generations of Michelet lived in the house. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Black Mass

A Black Mass is a ritual characterized by the inversion of the Traditional Latin Mass celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church.

In the 19th century the Black Mass became popularized in French literature, in books such as Satanism and Witchcraft, by Jules Michelet, and Là-bas, by Joris-Karl Huysmans.

Modern revivals began with H. T. F. Rhodes' book, The Satanic Mass published in London in 1954, and there is now a range of modern versions of the Black Mass performed by various groups.

Charles-Louis Chassin

Charles-Louis Chassin (1831 – 1901) was a French historian who edited the definitive documentary collection on the War in the Vendée.Chassin viewed the French Revolution favourably, declaring that the Revolution's centenary demonstrated "the legitimacy of the demands of our fathers".Upon hearing the news of Abraham Lincoln's assassination, Chassin wrote a letter to the Phare de la Loire raising the idea of a memorial medal in Lincoln's honour, which would be sent to Mary Todd Lincoln. This was to be funded by a subscription of ten centimes and it eventually amassed 40,000 signatures (including those of Victor Hugo, Jules Michelet and Louis Blanc).

Eugène Spuller

Eugène Spuller (8 December 1835 – 23 July 1896) was a French politician and writer.

He was born at Seurre (Côte-d'Or), his father being a German who had married and settled in France. After studying law at Dijon, he went to Paris, where he was called to the bar, and became close to Léon Gambetta, collaborating with him in 1868 in the foundation of the Revue politique. He had helped Emile Ollivier in his electoral campaign in Paris in 1863, but when in 1869 Ollivier was preparing to "rally" to the empire, Spuller supported the republican candidate. During the siege of Paris he escaped from the city with Gambetta, becoming his energetic lieutenant in the provinces.

After the peace he edited his chief's Parisian organ, the République française, until in 1876 he entered the Chamber of Deputies for the department of the Seine. He was minister of foreign affairs during the brief Gambetta administration, and subsequently one of the vice-presidents of the chamber, serving on the budget commission and on a special industrial and agricultural inquiry. His Parisian constituents thought him too moderate on the clerical question, and he had to seek election in 1885 in the Côte d'Or, which in later years he represented in the Senate.

He was minister of education, religion and the fine arts in Maurice Rouvier's cabinet of 1887; minister of foreign affairs under Pierre Tirard (1889–1890), and minister of education in 1894 in the Casimir-Perier cabinet. His published works include some volumes of speeches and well-known studies of Ignatius of Loyola (1876) and of Jules Michelet (1876).

French Renaissance

The French Renaissance was the cultural and artistic movement in France between the 15th and early 17th centuries. The period is associated with the pan-European Renaissance, a word first used by the French historian Jules Michelet to define the artistic and cultural "rebirth" of Europe.

Notable developments during the French Renaissance include the spread of humanism, early exploration of the "New World" (as New France by Giovanni da Verrazzano and Jacques Cartier); the development of new techniques and artistic forms in the fields of printing, architecture, painting, sculpture, music, the sciences and literature; and the elaboration of new codes of sociability, etiquette and discourse.

The French Renaissance traditionally extends from (roughly) the French invasion of Italy in 1494 during the reign of Charles VIII until the death of Henry IV in 1610. This chronology notwithstanding, certain artistic, technological or literary developments associated with the Renaissance arrived in France earlier (for example, by way of the Burgundy court or the Papal court in Avignon); however, the Black Death of the 14th century and the Hundred Years' War kept France economically and politically weak until the late 15th century.

The reigns of Francis I of France (from 1515 to 1547) and his son Henry II (from 1547 to 1559) are generally considered the apex of the French Renaissance.

French cruiser Jules Michelet

Jules Michelet was an armoured cruiser of the French Navy, laid down in 1904 and completed in 1908. It was a development of the Léon Gambetta class of armoured cruisers, and was the sole representative of its type. It served during the First World War being eventually sunk as a target in 1937.


Gaullism (French: Gaullisme) is a French political stance based on the thought and action of World War II French Resistance leader General Charles de Gaulle, who would become the founding President of the Fifth French Republic.Serge Berstein writes that Gaullism is "neither a doctrine nor a political ideology" and cannot be considered either left or right. Rather, "considering its historical progression, it is a pragmatic exercise of power that is neither free from contradictions nor of concessions to momentary necessity, even if the imperious word of the general gives to the practice of Gaullism the allure of a program that seems profound and fully realized." Gaullism is "a peculiarly French phenomenon, without doubt the quintessential French political phenomenon of the twentieth century."Lawrence D. Kritzman writes that Gaullism may be seen as a form of French patriotism in the tradition of Jules Michelet. He writes: "Aligned on the political spectrum with the Right, Gaullism was committed nevertheless to the republican values of the Revolution, and so distanced itself from the particularist ambitions of the traditional Right and its xenophobic causes, Gaullism saw as its mission the affirmation of national sovereignty and unity, which was diametrically opposed to the divisiveness created by the leftist commitment to class struggle."

Henri Martin (historian)

Henri Martin (a.k.a. Bon Louis Henri Martin) (20 February 1810 in Saint-Quentin, Aisne – 14 December 1883 in Paris) was a French historian, who was celebrated in his own day but whose modern reputation has been eclipsed by the greater literary and interpretive powers of his contemporary, the equally passionate patriot Jules Michelet, whose works have often been reprinted. After publishing a few novels, Martin devoted his life to the study of the history of France, writing Histoire de France, a formidable work in 13 volumes (1833-1836). He later brought the history down to 1789 in the 4th edition (19 vols., 1865), and received from the Institut de France 20,000 francs as a prize in 1869. The Avenue Henri-Martin in Paris is named after him.

Hermiona Asachi

Hermiona Asachi (December 16, 1821 – December 9, 1900) was a Romanian writer and translator.

The daughter of Gheorghe Asachi and Elena Tauber, she was born in Vienna. In 1840, she published a collection of stories from the Bible Istoria sfântă pentru tinerimea moldo-română. She translated texts by Silvio Pellico and Benjamin Franklin into Romanian for the publication Albina Românească. She moved to France in 1845, where she published Mémoires d’exile (1868) and Cinquante ans d’amitié: Michelet-Quinet under the name Hermiona Quimet. Asachi corresponded with various French intellectuals such as Victor Hugo, Jules Michelet and Louis Blanc.She was first married to Alexandru D. Moruzi. In 1852, she married the French historian Edgar Quinet. She edited some of Quinet's texts for publication.Asachi died in Paris at the age of 78.

Jenny d'Héricourt

Jenny d'Hericourt (1809–1875), also Jenny P. d'Hericourt was a feminist activist, writer, and a physician-midwife.

She was born Jeanne-Marie-Fabienne Poinsard, in Besançon, France, to Protestant parents. After running a private girls' school, she married Gabriel Marie. However they soon separated (divorce did not exist under French law at that time). D'Hericourt wrote her first novel, Le fils du reprouve (1844), under the pseudonym Félix Lamb. She was an enthusiastic supporter of Étienne Cabet, the French socialist, and took part in the Revolution of 1848. She studied medicine privately in Paris in the 1850s, and later practiced midwifery in Paris and Chicago. She lived in the United States from 1863 to 1873 and was active in the feminist movement there also.

D'Hericourt helped develop an unofficial international network of feminists during the first half of the 19th century. They provided each other with moral support and exchanged ideas. She also wrote an influential rebuttal to the sexist essays of the anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and historian Jules Michelet.

La Sorcière

La Sorcière may refer to:

Satanism and Witchcraft, a book by Jules Michelet

La Sorcière (film), a 1956 drama film directed by André Michel

Belladonna of Sadness, a 1970s anime film

The Witches' Sabbath, a 1988 drama film directed by Marco Bellocchio

"La Sorcière", an episode of the series Ciné si and film Princes et Princesses

Longue durée

The longue durée (French pronunciation: ​[lɔ̃ɡ dyʁe]; English: the long term) is an expression used by the French Annales School of historical writing to designate their approach to the study of history. It gives priority to long-term historical structures over what François Simiand called histoire événementielle ("evental history", the short-term time-scale that is the domain of the chronicler and the journalist), concentrating instead on all-but-permanent or slowly evolving structures, and substitutes for elite biographies the broader syntheses of prosopography. The crux of the idea is to examine extended periods of time and draw conclusions from historical trends and patterns.The longue durée is part of a tripartite system that includes short-term événements and medium-term conjunctures (periods of decades or centuries when more profound cultural changes such as the industrial revolution can take place).

The approach, which incorporates social scientific methods such as the recently evolved field of economic history into general history, was pioneered by Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre in the Interwar period. The approach was carried on by Fernand Braudel, who published his views after becoming the editor of Annales in 1956. In the second part of the century, Braudel took stock of the current status of social studies in crisis, foundering under the weight of their own successes, in an article in 1958, "Histoire et sciences sociales: La longue durée". Among the works which Braudel remarked on as examples of the longue durée was Alphonse Dupront's study of the long-standing idea in Western Europe of a crusade, which extended across diverse European societies far beyond the last days of the actual crusades, and among spheres of thought with a long life he noted Aristotelian science. In the longue durée of economic history, beyond, or beneath, the cycles and structural crises, lie "old attitudes of thought and action, resistant frameworks dying hard, at times against all logic." In this sense the history of the longue durée that informs Braudel's two masterworks offers a contrast to the archives-directed history that arose at the end of the 19th century and a return to the broader views of the earlier generation of Jules Michelet, Leopold von Ranke, Jacob Burckhardt or Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges.Averil Cameron, in examining the Mediterranean world in late antiquity concluded that "consideration of the longue durée is more helpful than the appeal to immediate causal factors." Sergio Villalobos also expressly took the long view in his Historia del pueblo chileno.

Léon Gambetta-class cruiser

The Léon Gambetta-class cruisers were a group of three armored cruisers built for the French Navy during the first decade of the 20th century.

Satanism and Witchcraft (book)

Satanism and Witchcraft (originally La Sorcière) is a book by Jules Michelet on the history of witchcraft that was published originally in French in 1862.

The Discovery of Slowness

The Discovery of Slowness (original German title: Die Entdeckung der Langsamkeit) is a novel by Sten Nadolny, written under a double conceit: first, as a novelization of the life of British Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin, and second as a hymn of praise to "slowness," a quality which Nadolny's fictional Franklin possesses in abundance. Published in Germany in 1983, its fame spread through the English translation by Ralph Freedman, first published in the United States by Viking Penguin in 1987; in Nadolny's native Germany it has also been the subject of television programs, experimental films, and even an opera composed by Giorgio Battistelli.

"Slowness" — in German, "Langsamkeit" — had, before Nadolny's novel been primarily associated with mental retardation. In Nadolny's world, however, this seeming disability is in fact a powerful asset; the possessor of "slowness" can afford to wait, because he must wait. As a result, he attains victories unimaginable to the more "hurried" multitude. Nadolny's choice of a hero is apt in this regard; certainly the historical Sir John Franklin was never known for his mental alacrity, but beyond that, his "slowness" is more of a post-modern conceit. In a manner reminiscent of Roland Barthes' "autobiography" of Jules Michelet, Nadolny's Franklin is completely consistent with the known facts, all impeccably researched. Yet interwoven with the truth there is an entirely fictitious construction of Franklin as "slow," ranging from an imaginary ball-game in which the hapless John always arrives several seconds after the ball has departed to a fictitious re-creation of Franklin's efforts, at the height of Admiral Horatio Nelson's naval battles, to find and shoot a sniper from atop the masts of an enemy warship. By waiting, without panic, and carefully noting the angle at which the sniper's shots have been discharged, Franklin pinpoints his location and takes him down with a single shot.

Nadolny's choice of hero becomes more problematic later in the narrative, where it seems that Franklin's sort of slowness was decidedly not what was wanted in the Barren Lands of the Arctic, where Franklin loses more than three-quarters of his expedition to starvation, murder, and exposure. Alas for both the historical Franklin and Nadolny's oddly endearing counterfeit, Franklin's death on his final Arctic expedition of 1845 leaves unresolved the ultimate merits of his slow and steady disposition. Despite this, Nadolny's novel spurred tremendous interest in Germany, most notably in the business world, where seminars for executives on how to follow the philosophy of slowness became, for a time, de rigueur.

Nadolny wrote the foreword to an important non-fiction work on the 1845 Franklin Expedition, Der eisige Schlaf, published as Frozen In Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition in the original English.

Urbain Grandier

Urbain Grandier (born in 1590 in Bouère, Mayenne – died on 18 August 1634 in Loudun) was a French Catholic priest who was burned at the stake after being convicted of witchcraft, following the events of the so-called "Loudun Possessions". The circumstances of Father Grandier's trial and execution have attracted the attention of writers Alexandre Dumas père, Aldous Huxley and the playwright John Whiting, composers like Krzysztof Penderecki and Peter Maxwell Davies, as well as historian Jules Michelet and various scholars of European witchcraft. Most modern commentators have concluded that Grandier was the victim of a politically motivated persecution led by the powerful Cardinal Richelieu.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.