John Weightman (1915–2004) was a critic and literary scholar. After working as a translator and announcer for the BBC French service, Weightman turned to the study of French literature. He taught at King’s College London and the University of London. His books include The Concept of the Avant-Gardeand The Cat Sat on the Mat: Language and the Absurd.

IN THE REVIEW

A Soft Spot for Napoleon

Napoleon and Berlin: The Franco-Prussian War in North Germany, 1813

by Michael V. Leggiere

Napoleon

by Paul Johnson
Given the depressing list of dictators who have plagued the world in recent times—Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, and tutti quanti, up to Milosevic and Mugabe—it is possible to have a soft spot for Napoleon. He began his career as a very young man, when it was a question of defending …

Molière Imaginaire

Molière: A Theatrical Life

Virginia Scott
I sometimes think it a blessing that we know next to nothing about Shakespeare, the man, and so are forced to concentrate almost entirely on the works, without getting involved in the difficult business of explaining the works by the life, or deducing the life from the works. Of course, …

Death on the Installment Plan

The Collaborator: The Trial and Execution of Robert Brasillach

by Alice Kaplan
The Collaborator is a well-researched and vivid account of a controversial trial which took place in 1945, at the end of the German occupation of Paris. I have, however, an initial quibble about the title. The definite article in The Collaborator gives Robert Brasillach too general an importance, as if …

Reconstructing the Colonel

Lieutenant-Colonel de Maumort

by Roger Martin du Gard, Translated from the French by Luc Brébion, Translated from the French by Timothy Crouse
The 1930s now seem so far away that many members of the younger generation outside France, and even in France, may never have come across the works of Roger Martin du Gard. Yet, in his day, he was famous enough to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, but even …

The Outsider

Albert Camus: A Life

by Olivier Todd, Translated from the French by Benjamin Ivry
It has to be said that this English version of Olivier Todd’s book is not altogether satisfactory. According to an introductory note, “Some material not of sufficient interest to the American general reader has been omitted to improve the narrative flow.” Actually, a volume some 800 pages long in French …

Cosmic Adventurer

Jules Verne: An Exploratory Biography

by Herbert R. Lottman

Paris in the Twentieth Century

the lost novel by Jules Verne, translated by Richard Howard
Jules Verne poses an unusual problem. He enjoys the unique distinction of being the most widely translated, and therefore in a sense the most genuinely world-famous, of all French writers, yet it is still debatable whether he belongs to serious literature at all. During his lifetime, his books were immensely …

The Book of Cohen

Belle du Seigneur: A Novel

by Albert Cohen, translated and with an introduction by David Coward
Translation, which, like the wind, bloweth where it listeth, has suddenly and for reasons unexplained presented the Anglo-American public with this remarkable book, some thirty years after its original publication in France. Albert Cohen (1895-1981) seems to be little known in the English-speaking world. If there have been previous English …