The Discovery of France
Duff Cooper Prize
With an introduction by Colm Tóibín.
Ten years ago, I began to explore the country on which I was supposed to be an authority . . .
France is a country famous for its intellectuals, its philosophers and writers, its fashion, food and wine. And yet the notion of 'the French' as one nation is relatively recent and – historically speaking - quite misleading. In order to discover the 'real' past of France, Graham Robb realized it was not only necessary to go back in time, but also to go at a slower pace than modern life generally allows. The Discovery of France, illuminating, engrossing and full of surprises, is the result of Robb's 14,000 mile journey across France on a bicycle.
Winner of both the Duff Cooper and the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje prizes, The Discovery of France is a modern non-fiction classic, a literary exploration of a remarkable nation. From maps and migration to magic, language and landscape, it reveals a France few will recognize.
'An extraordinary journey of discovery' Daily Telegraph
'Robb's concise and fast-paced writing pedals along with never a dull paragraph . . . dazzling' Sunday Times
Exhilarating . . . With gloriously apposite facts and an abundance of quirky anecdotes and thumbnail sketches of people, places and customs, Robb, on brilliant form, takes us on a stunning journey through the historical landscape of France
This splendid history of France mixes the rambling charm of a traveller with a scholar's rigorous research . . . At once history, psychogeography, itinerary and cabinet of curiosities, The Discovery of France is an astute sociological catalogue of France's changing idea of itself . . . It's [also] an extraordinary journey of discovery that will delight even the most indolent armchair traveller
Robb's concise and fast-paced writing pedals along with never a dull paragraph, as facts, events, characters and quotations flash by . . . This book is an elegy to what has disappeared, a retrospective exploration of that lost world. But the British love affair with France makes this particular story special, and Robb, from his two-wheeled vantage point, has made a dazzling and moving contribution to a long tradition