Maurice Barrés

No, I didn’t just buy this biography of Maurice Barrés (1962-1927) because the cover is a pastel by Jacques-Emile Blanche done in 1890 and that I “discovered” at the Bibliothèque Nationale about 30 years ago! I am actually interested in this writer/politician but I am not going to learn anything about him I don’t know already from this enormous tome ! It is the usual problem I find with French biographies as opposed to ” anglo-saxon” ones: the actual facts of his life are lost in pages and pages of literary criticism and simple précis of his writing. So, for instance, we are supposed to guess how he met his friends such as Blanche ( I happen to know!). The author constantly quotes writers, critics, friends and enemies without attempting to introduce them to the reader at all ( is he trying to rub our noses in our ignorance, I wonder?). All I know is that it makes for a very boring and unrewarding read…PS if I read one more time that Blanche was a pupil of Manet, I think I will SCREAM!!!

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