France: The Merrie Tales of Jacques Tournebroche

Coming soon: Anatole France’s The Merrie Tales of Jacques Tournebroche

Commencing soon and continuing week-about with Archibald Clavering Gunter’s Baron Montez of Panama and Paris, we present an introduction to the work of the great Nobel Prize winning poet and novelist, Anatole France (1844-1924). For The Merrie Tales of Jacques Tournebroche (1908), France cast back into historical mists at once factual and imagined, for a collection of what might loosely be called ‘moral tales’.

‘The Greatest Living Frenchman’ (1909). Jean Baptiste Guth for Vanity Fair

But that would be in little more than appearance. Gems of wisdom, the tales are steeped in a skepticism that, powered with acute insight, subtle wit, and wicked humour, gnaws at the root of the human self-conception. “Man,” wrote Giambattista Vico, “makes himself the measure  of all things.” We gain a similar sense from The Merrie Tales, that the lights to which we human beings turn for guidance are already richly tinted with our own sins and foibles. Naturally, for we have created them ourselves.

France’s laughter is tempered with compassion and affection for human beings in their somehow noble frailty. Moreover, his stories seem to be aware of a certain mysterious power inherent in the story itself, in re-enacting this perpetual human comedy.

Exhilarating writer Oliver Raven will introduce each of Jacques Tournebroche’s tales with his own inimitable take.

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