Noone knows a city like the people who live there – so who better to relate the history of Paris than its inhabitants through the ages? Taking us from 1750 to the new millennium, Parisians introduces us to some of those inhabitants: we meet spies, soldiers, scientists and alchemists; police commissioners, photographers and philosophers; adulterers, murderers, prisoners and prostitutes. We encounter political and sexual intrigues, witness real and wouldbe revolutions, assassination attempts and several all too successful executions; we visit underground caverns and catacombs, enjoy the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower, are there for the opening of the Metro, accompany Hitler on a flying visit to the French capital – and much more besides. Entertaining and illuminating, and written with Graham Robb’s customary attention to detail – and, indeed, the unusual – Parisians is both history and travel guide, yet also part memoir, part mystery. A book unlike any other, it is at once a book to read from cover to cover, to lose yourself in, to dip in and out of at leisure, and a book to return to again and again – rather like the city itself, in fact. Praise for The Discovery of France: 'An extraordinary journey of discovery that will delight even the most indolent armchair traveller' Daily Telegraph 'A superior historical guidebook for the unhurried traveller, and altogether a book to savour' Independent
« Ce livre est le résultat de 22 500 kilomètres à vélo et quatre années en bibliothèque. C'est le guide historique que j'aurais voulu lire lorsque je me suis lancé à la découverte de la France. »
Dans le sillage de Graham Robb, historien et cycliste chevronné, le lecteur découvrira un pays dont il ne soupçonnait pas l'existence. Il apprendra le sort tragique de l'homme qui cartographia le premier le mont Gerbier-de-Jonc ; l'issue cocasse de la bataille de Roquecézière, qui déchira en 1884 deux villages voisins de l'Aveyron ; ou encore les déboires linguistiques du grand Racine, qui eut toutes les peines du monde, lors d'un voyage en Provence, à se faire comprendre...
Dans son petit village près d'Oxford, Graham Robb trouve un jour au fond de son jardin une broche datant de l'âge du fer. Au fil d'une quête passionnée, il découvre une cartographie rigoureuse, orchestrée par la science des druides autour de la mythique « voie héracléenne ».
Croisant sources antiques et outils modernes, l'auteur lève le voile sur la civilisation celtique, hautement raffinée et injustement éclipsée par son successeur romain. Ni ésotérique ni académique, il privilégie le plaisir de la narration : calculs et tracés savants côtoient amphores découvertes en plantant des endives, machines astronomiques dormant au fond de l'eau et vieilles cartes jamais décodées...
« Les aventures qui figurent dans ce livre ont été écrites comme une histoire de Paris racontée par de nombreuses voix différentes. Elles débutent à l'aube de la Révolution française et s'achèvent à l'époque actuelle, s'autorisant parfois quelques incursions dans le passé médiéval et préhistorique. Par cette entreprise, je me proposais de composer une mini Comédie humaine de Paris, dans laquelle l'histoire de la ville serait éclairée par l'expérience vécue de ses habitants. Rien n'a été artificiellement ajouté et personne ? mis à part le baron Haussmann, Adolf Hitler et quelques présidents de la République ? ne disserte sur l'évolution du système d'égouts ou du réseau de transports. » Au lecteur, amoureux de Paris ou curieux d'Histoire, de se délecter de ce merveilleux livre, pour y rencontrer une foule de personnages inconnus ou illustres : le tout jeune lieutenant Buonaparte, en goguette au Palais-Royal ; l'architecte Guillaumot, l'homme qui sauva Paris, dont aucune rue de la capitale ne porte le nom aujourd'hui ; Marie Antoinette, reine en détresse, perdue un certain jour de 1791 aux abords du palais des Tuileries ; le grand Vidocq, qui pouvait se changer à loisir en botte de foin ; mais aussi Proust, Charles de Gaulle, Juliette Gréco, et tant d'autres...
En couverture : Illustration Éric Doxat © Flammarion
'Robb has written a great biography - scholarly, humane and above all marvelously entertaining' Guardian Graham Robb's brilliant biography moves Rimbaud on from his perpetual adolescence where our imaginations have held him to show the extent of his transformations. From phenomenally precocious schoolboy he became Europe's most shocking and exhilarating poet, author of poems that range from the exquisite to the obscene. But this brief, five-year period as the enfant-terible of French literature is only one small side of Rimbaud's story. Robb takes us on a biographical journey through three continents and many different identities. Rimbaud emerges from this stunning work of biographical scholarship and historical imagination as an even more complex, ambiguous and fascinating figure than ever before.
'One of the best biographies I have read, ever' Selina Hastings 'Mr Robb has written an enthralling book - one of the great biographies of our time. He contrives not to be dwarfed by his subject, which is some contrivance. He makes of Hugo's life a story as exciting to read as it was extraordinary to have lived. He has a matchless gift for narrative. His style is epigrammatic and compelling. His judgements seem fair - not something Hugo was used to in life. Every Place Victor Hugo should now have a Café-Bar Graham Robb. He deserves, and will probably get, the Légion d'honneur' Allan Massie, Daily Telegraph 'Robb achieves the goal of all good literary biographies by making us long to regain, or savour for the first time, Hugo's company as a writer. Surely no chronicler of his life or analyst of his work has ever looked this prodigy of nature so unflinchingly in the eye' Jonathan Keates, Literary Review 'Graham Robb's exuberant biography of the French writer blows the cobwebs away from a neglected hero and sets him before us in lurid and quite unforgettable shape. Robb's jaunty, self-confident style is gloriously appropriate to his subject . . . Robb's enthusiasm is hugely exhilarating and his biography is a fascinating study in the making of a celebrity' Miranda Seymour, Sunday Times, Books of the Year 'The best life of the writer available in English (and likely to remain so for some time) . . . His fascinating, totally readable Life will introduce Hugo to many readers who know him only as a name' Robin Buss, Independent on Sunday
Award-winning author Graham Robb explores the story - and history -of male and female homosexuality in the UK and US, uncovering elements from legislature, literature, medicine and day-to-day life that point to a particularly self-aware and sophisticated culture of Victorian homosexuality. Drawing on famous cases such as the Wilde trials, as well as a wide variety of previously neglected sources, Robb recreates this era with great insight, humour and aplomb, exploding modern myths and restoring the real and vibrant truth of homosexual love to today's readers: Strangers tells a tale that is in part familiar, and in part extremely surprising - a story of oppression and secrecy, but also of unexpected tolerance and familiarity.
The Debatable Land was an independent territory which used to exist between Scotland and England. At the height of its notoriety, it was the bloodiest region in Great Britain, fought over by Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and James V. After the Union of the Crowns, most of its population was slaughtered or deported and it became the last part of the country to be brought under the control of the state. Today, its history has been forgotten or ignored.When Graham Robb moved to a lonely house on the very edge of England, he discovered that the river which almost surrounded his new home had once marked the Debatable Land's southern boundary. Under the powerful spell of curiosity, Robb began a journey - on foot, by bicycle and into the past - that would uncover lost towns and roads, reveal the truth about this maligned patch of land and result in more than one discovery of major historical significance.Rich in detail and epic in scope, The Debatable Land takes us from a time when neither England nor Scotland could be imagined to the present day, when contemporary nationalism and political turmoil threaten to unsettle the cross-border community once more. Writing with his customary charm, wit and literary grace, Graham Robb proves the Debatable Land to be a crucial, missing piece in the puzzle of British history.Includes a 16-page colour plate section.
Graham Robb has produced a masterpiece of literary biography in which Balzac bursts into life on every page. The living manifestation of the colourful and varied world he described, yet at the same time its most astonishing exception, Balzac is the perfect subject for biography. Robb skilfully interweaves the life with the work to paint an indelible and brilliantly compelling portrait of one of the great tragicomic heroes of the nineteenth century, a man whose influence both in and outside his native France has been and is still immense. 'Graham Robb does a superb job in bringing Balzac to life in all his preposterousness, while still letting us appreciate his genius' Sunday Independent 'Robb's Balzac is a fine achievement: an impressive work of scholarship and an enormously enjoyable read. In a well-paced narrative, he blends solid evidence with amusing anecdote, patient evaluation with witty aside' Guardian
A col is the lowest point on the saddle between two mountains. Graham Robb has spent years uncovering and cataloguing the 2,002 cols and 105 passes scattered across the British Isles.Some of these obscure and magical sites are virgin cols that have never been crossed. Dozens were lost by the Ordnance Survey and are recorded only in ballads or monastic charters. The eleven cols of Hadrian's Wall are practically unknown and have never been properly identified. These underappreciated slices of natural beauty provide a new way of looking at British history, and a challenge for cyclists and walkers.