Essentials of the World's Most Civilised Nation
Reasons far France. By John Brangwyn. (Bodley Head, 125. 6d.) Catalan France. By tkeell Collier. (Dent, les.) ' Reviewed by GERALD WYNNE RUSHTON
S/ MEONE once said every I. ivilised man has two countries — his own. and France. That being the case one would have thought that fact alone was ample reason for France; since civilised people realise the truth of it, and the uncivilised rest just don't matter. But Mr John Brangwyn, with that apostolic zeal I hat, will not suffer anyone to remain ill the outer darkness, decided one could never have. enough reasons for France—but let him tell the story in his own words.
The question I was to put to each ens (town) was, with slight variations, How do you account for the fact that, although all the reasons for your medieval existence have vanished, you are still alive? 146 a town with solid success behind you in the days of river traffic, and Guilds, of rising cathedrals and royal interest, how do you explain your survival in this day of railways, rationalised commerce and industry, of steel structures and reinforced concrete, in. which cathedrals are only considered as monuments of the past and the municipal council looks not to the king but to the recently appointed prefect of your quite recently created department?'" A VERY comprehensive and pro
foundly important question which has resulted in a very comprehensive and profoundly important book. It is Important because it deals with the essentials of the most civilised nation in the world in a way that has not been attempted heretofore by any writer on this great country. It is important because it gives us, in beautifully lucid prose, reasons for the indestructibility of that civilisation. It is important because it gives us hopeful facts at. a time when our Press rs full to overflowing with the tatistics of despair, e.g., the number of guns and tanks and bombers we possess for purposes of destruction.
He takes us to places like Oyonnax
and shows us how the manufacture of " celluloid articles," which is practically the monopoly of that town, can trace its descent to a son of Dagobert in the eighth century. If you and I wear spectacles the odds are the frames came from Morez-in-the-Jura, since " st(ne-tenth.s of all the eyeglass frames made in Prance for a poor sighted world are made, here"; and that fact has a line of descent direct to the sixteenth century.
We wander from the Market Gardens round Paris to the promenades of the Cate d'Azur and discover that the former have been a going concern since the ninth century. " The marvel is that the earth here iss not exhausted. Its continued fertility has Indeed awakened curiosity, and last year (19.481 an official body of Americans came to France to discover, if possible, the secret of such, productivity after a millenium, when, as one of them said, • an American farmer wears out. three farms during his lifetime.'" But one could go on for ever quoting from this fascinating book—my advice is buy It, read and re-read it.
k AR COLLIER has written an IVi extremely interesting, extremely documente book, which, I fancy, will be, for some considerable time to come, the authoritative work on Catalan France. The chapters on local customs and celebrations present a fascinating picture of undiluted " Golden Bough." It ie, too, no small tribute to the art with which Mr collier writes that he brings vividly alive the hardworking, dour, independent, pagan peoples of this unknown corner of France.
And over and through it all, Influencing everything from food to literature, architecture and art. looms Catalonia, the unresolved riddle of Spain, which is the mother-race of these peoples of the Ronselflou and the Cerdagne.
The book is illustrated by drawings by Helen Kapp. I am not certain that I like them, yet I have to admit that in a queer, primitive way they give a good deal of the quality of this queer, primitive country,