Appearing in English translation in the first half of 2016, some four years after their publication in the original French, both Ivan Jablonka’s A History of the Grandparents I Never Had and Henry Rousso’s The Latest Catastrophe reflect on the foundations of history and historiography. Why do we study the past and how? In answering those essential questions, both Rousso and Jablonka tell a story, the story of history, while at the same time adumbrating the “morals” of history in terms of epistemology, historiography, and narration. Following rigorous methods and rules of evidence, contemporary history strives to be a science, yet on several levels remains a matter of conscience that is an eminently human, if at times all-too-human, endeavor.
Nathan Bracher is Professor of French at Texas A & M University. His After the Fall: War and Occupation in Irène Némirovsky’s Suite française, appeared in 2010. Recent articles include “L’Histoire hors sujet ou Écrire le passé ‘comme Elstir peignait la mer’: le cas de l’Histoire des grands-parents que je n’ai pas eus d’Ivan Jablonka,” published in 2015 in Modern & Contemporary France, and “Pour une histoire à l’imparfait du présent: La Dernière Catastrophe d’Henry Rousso,” published in 2015 in French Cultural Studies. His François Mauriac on Race, War, Politics, and Religion was published in December 2015. He currently focuses on intersections of history and literature.