Posted by: gdevi | July 14, 2011

Bastille Day

I took my student L. and D. for ice-cream to Avenue 209 this morning. L. had done such a good job of taking care of my gardens when we were gone, taking care of the house, the mail, feeding the fish etc.  It is a lot of watering and lot of work and she took care of everything so well in our absence. And I knew that it was her birthday next week.  When we were in Assateague I found this book by Gallagher about the search for the ivory-billed woodpecker long thought to be extinct and I had got that for her. L. was one of the first students that I taught at LHU and over the years we have kept up a good friendship; she is a family friend now. I feel like a mother to her. So anyway we were at Avenue  209 and L. asked me if I would recommend some books she might like — family and friends are asking her what to get for her birthday next week, she said, and the only book I have so far asked for is A Tale of Two Cities, she said. What a coincidence, I told her, today is Bastille Day, July 14th the French Independence Day–today in 1789, the peasants and poor people of the Third Estate stormed the prison of Bastille, killed a whole bunch of royalists, including Luis VI and Marie Antoinette eventually, took arms and ammunition, took to the streets, and stoked the fires of the French Revolution, which paved the way for the modern “republic,” and to “democracy” via the Reign of Terror.  Goodbye kings, goodbye queens. It is an epochal day, and there aren’t many such days in history.  Today is when everything started–the modern world– a complete break with the social and political past of Europe and through European colonialism the rest of the world. It is appropriate that you should ask for Dickens’ fantastic novel set during the French Revolution.

Anyway, our discussion got me thinking of books and movies about the French Revolution.  These are the ones that immediately come to my mind; there are obviously others. Let us put Dickens and A Tale of Two Cities at the top since this novel is the face of the Revolution for most of us: Madame Dafarge with her knitting needles.

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Anatole France – The Gods are Athirst

Baroness Orzcy – The Scarlet Pimpernal franchise (my father’s mother used to tell us this story when we were little; I can still feel her telling us this story–what a fantastic story-teller she was!)

Rafael Sabatini – Scaramouche

James Tipton – Annette Vallon

Hilary Mantel – A Place of Greater Safety

Victor Hugo – Ninety Three


Andrzej Wajda – Danton

Peter Brooks – Marat/ Sade

Benoit Jacquot – Sade

Sofia Coppola – Marie Antoinette

The Death of Marat, the most famous painting of the Revolution:


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