Sunday, October 9, 2011

Jean-Vincent Blanchard

Jean-Vincent Blanchard is Associate Professor of French Studies at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania. Born in Canada and raised in Europe, he earned his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1997. He is a specialist on pre-revolutionary France, with particular emphasis on the seventeenth century, and has published on a broad range of subjects in politics, history, religion, philosophy, and the arts.

Éminence: Cardinal Richelieu and the Rise of France is his first book in English.

Recently I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I visited Naples and the Amalfi coast this summer, and I was struck by the extraordinary beauty and culture of the region. I also realized that many writers, from Goethe to Michael Holroyd (A Book of Secrets), have found inspiration there. Upon my return, I quickly compiled a list of all the books that would make me travel again to this land blessed by the gods. Goethe and Holroyd had to wait a bit: I chose to read first the travel journal of Anna Potocka, a quirky Polish countess who wrote in the 1800s. All the while, I kept near me the poems of Gérard de Nerval titled Les Chimères. It seems to me that Nerval communicates perfectly how this coast of southern Italy echoes with the myths of the Greeks and the Romans. My favorite poem is “Delfica.” The poet calls upon a woman, Dafné, to remember the wiser times of the ancient civilization:

Reconnais-tu le temple, au péristyle immense,

Et les citrons amers où s’imprimaient tes dents?

(Do you recognize the temple with its vast peristyle?

The bitter lemons on which your teeth left their mark?)

Now, I’ve just picked up an eighteenth-century novel called Fragoletta, by Henri de Latouche. The action is set in Naples and it features an intriguing androgynous character.
Learn more about Jean-Vincent Blanchard's Éminence at the publisher's website and the book's Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue