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The Return of Martin Guerre by Natalie Zemon…
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The Return of Martin Guerre (original 1982; edition 1984)

by Natalie Zemon Davis

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921179,508 (3.72)22
Member:leonardr
Title:The Return of Martin Guerre
Authors:Natalie Zemon Davis
Info:Harvard University Press (1984), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 176 pages
Collections:Your library
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The Return of Martin Guerre by Natalie Zemon Davis (1982)

  1. 00
    The Wife of Martin Guerre by Janet Lewis (juglicerr)
    juglicerr: The Wife of Martin Guerre by Janet Lewis is a biographical novel about Bertrande de Rols. The Return of Martin Guerre by Natalie Zemon Davis is a nonfiction account of the case.
  2. 00
    The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: Both books feature the problems of late sixteenth century Protestantism in France.
  3. 00
    Giovanni and Lusanna: Love and Marriage in Renaissance Florence by Gene A. Brucker (jcbrunner)
    jcbrunner: While Giovanni and Lusanna never approach Martin Guerre's judicial and marital problems, both are short and sweet micro histories.
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» See also 22 mentions

English (15)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  All (17)
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
Like many before me have written this is a magnificent example of micro history, but a very controversial book as well, because the story apart from the court documents has been constructed by means of historical fiction. Many claimed that historical fiction does not have any value for the actual research of history, sparking a big debate for and against. ( )
  Kindnist85 | May 25, 2016 |
I rate this as one of my favourite books. I love the ambiguity of the outcome. There is no black and white here, but the law can't see in shades of grey. It raises many questions about identity, and how to prove some one is who he says he is.. no less relevent now when we are being threatened with identity cards than it was in medieval France. I read this after seeing the film (which also rates as a favourite) so it always seems to me as a companion to the film, the text of the background research. ( )
  dylkit | Feb 3, 2014 |
Excellent, brief study of a famous impersonation. The author's main additions to the original story is to fill in the Basque background of the Guerres, the influence of the Reformation in the village, and the unlikeliness of the wife having really been deceived. ( )
  Coach_of_Alva | Jan 8, 2014 |
Short and relatively shallow but interesting enough. ( )
  Michael.Xolotl | Mar 5, 2013 |
Reading this micro-history narrative over 25 years from its original publication is more of an exercise in redundancy than unique historical insights. Our "post-post modern revising revisionist" perspectives leave this wonderful, yet brief work in a matrix of has-been biography or sensationalist epic. Still, Davis' work is a fantastic snapshot of a world that is so bathed in cliches that its topic, Renaissance France, is usually passed over as a bland zombie-esque masquerade of nameless faces and and dates. What Davis does is bring a name to a place that is surpassing normal yet exotically framed, choosing to meticulously divulge a family that had been caught in the misfortunes of their bad decisions. The real gift of the narrative is that, as 21st century dwellers, we can equate our fears, passions, desires, and decisions with those of Martin Guerre and his scorned wife Bertrande. The complexity of the human condition is displayed with such deftness it's hard to decipher where our stereotypes dissolve into a common identification with the protagonists. Obviously, this is a wonderfully researched "long article," including a variety of sources that are pulled from some of the best archives in France. Davis does err on brevity, and as such loses the reader is a vague discussion of her sources, namely Coras. Certainly, he is a player in the story of the Guerres, but his inclusion at the end of the narrative is distracting from the power of the story. A fantastic but at this point outdated work of revisionist working class history.

74 Commendable ( )
1 vote mattchisholm | Aug 21, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Natalie Zemon Davisprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ginzburg, CarloAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lombardini, SandroTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0674766911, Paperback)

The Inventive Peasant Arnaud du Tilh had almost persuaded the learned judges at the Parlement of Toulouse, when on a summer's day in 1560 a man swaggered into the court on a wooden leg, denounced Arnaud, and reestablished his claim to the identity, property, and wife of Martin Guerre. The astonishing case captured the imagination of the Continent. Told and retold over the centuries, the story of Martin Guerre became a legend, still remembered in the Pyrenean village where the impostor was executed more than 400 years ago.

Now a noted historian, who served as consultant for a new French film on Martin Guerre, has searched archives and lawbooks to add new dimensions to a tale already abundant in mysteries: we are led to ponder how a common man could become an impostor in the sixteenth century, why Bertrande de Rols, an honorable peasant woman, would accept such a man as her husband, and why lawyers, poets, and men of letters like Montaigne became so fascinated with the episode.

Natalie Zemon Davis reconstructs the lives of ordinary people, in a sparkling way that reveals the hidden attachments and sensibilities of nonliterate sixteenth-century villagers. Here we see men and women trying to fashion their identities within a world of traditional ideas about property and family and of changing ideas about religion. We learn what happens when common people get involved in the workings of the criminal courts in the ancien régime, and how judges struggle to decide who a man was in the days before fingerprints and photographs. We sense the secret affinity between the eloquent men of law and the honey-tongued village impostor, a rare identification across class lines.

Deftly written to please both the general public and specialists, The Return of Martin Guerre will interest those who want to know more about ordinary families and especially women of the past, and about the creation of literary legends. It is also a remarkable psychological narrative about where self-fashioning stops and lying begins.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:52 -0400)

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Includes bibliography and index

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