How the French Think: An Affectionate Portrait of an Intellectual People


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$29.99  $27.89
Basic Books
Publish Date
5.9 X 1.2 X 9.3 inches | 1.15 pounds
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About the Author

Sudhir Hazareesingh is a Fellow in Politics at Balliol College, Oxford, a Fellow of the British Academy, and author of the prize-winning books The Legend of Napoleon and In the Shadow of the General. He divides his time between Paris and Oxford.


"A stimulating contribution.... In this work [Hazareesingh] displays not only a deep familiarity with French society, but a rare sense for a foreigner of what really matters in French intellectual life once you dig below the surface. He is an excellent teller of tales with a good eye for the revealing anecdote."--New York Review of Books
"Focusing with great intelligence and subtlety on distinctively French conceptions of history, nationhood, democratic participation, existentialism, and the creative tension between order and imagination.... Anyone who loves, loathes, or is just perplexed by self-styled French intellectuals--that is, most educated French people--should read this book.--Foreign Affairs
"Hazareesingh has a gift for distilling mounds of information into clear, engrossing prose. This is above all a convivial book, true to its subtitle though not without a finely tuned bullshit detector.... What one comes away with is the unshakable sense that however they do it, the French really do think differently than we do--and this is what we love about them."--New Republic
"Scholarly, penetrating and sometimes very funny.... This is a marvellous, and marvellously readable book: by turns illuminating, affectionate and exasperated."--Independent (UK)
"[An] engaging, accessible book.... Hazareesingh's superbly researched work traces the history of this spirit, from Descartes, Rousseau and Voltaire to latter-day politicians who talk of France's 'great destiny'. Read this excellent book and next time you witness vigorous finger-pointing in a bistrot, you'll know why the subject being debated is likely to be very lofty indeed!"--France Today
"An impressive study."--Economist
"A thoughtful, stimulating and witty historical survey of French thought."--Financial Times
"Superb.... Hazareesingh has done more than anyone writing in English to unravel what the sociologist Emmanuel Todd recently called the 'le mystere francais.'"--Prospect (UK)
"Few historians would have the courage to write a book with a title like How the French Think. But few historians know France, and the French, better than Sudhir Hazareesingh. He has brought his formidable knowledge and experience of the country to bear in a book that is consistently engaging and thought-provoking, and written with a light touch that makes it a delight to read."--David Bell, author of The First Total War: Napoleon's Europe and the Birth of Warfare as We Know It
"It is unusual to laugh aloud when reading a history of ideas, but I did so more than once while reading How the French Think. Its sweep is thrilling and its expositions lucid, but it carries its learning lightly and is written with an astringent wit. Everyone interested in France and the French will enjoy and learn from this book."--Robert Tombs, professor of French history at Cambridge University
"Stendhal wrote that a novel was 'un miroir qu'on promene le long d'un chemin.' And no better mirror on the wandering path of French culture of yesterday and today could be found than this wise and gentle book, as learned as it is engaging. Peguy was worried about what God would have to think about if the French were not there to amuse and inform him. Now we know why this might still be so."--Patrice Higonnet, professor of French history at Harvard University