Nostalgia in its classic form—a longing for home—has commonly welled up among Parisians living far from their city. That kind of nostalgia famously afflicted soldiers called to battle, notably during the drawn-out “Great War.” It also struck civilian Parisians unable to return to their hometown during the Occupation. A more common and widespread form of Parisian nostalgia is the bittersweet remembrance of a time in the past, especially following a bout of charm-destroying changes or urbanist operations, such as those of the Second Empire and the Fifth Republic. Cultural memory has imbued one particular era with the greatest nostalgia: the so-called Belle Époque. More generally, Parisian nostalgia has focused on a memory of the disappearing petit peuple and a handful of picturesque sites, such as pre-1914 Montmartre and, in the late twentieth century, the old central Halles, Belleville, and the Rue de Lappe.
The Charms of Paris ... Yesterday
Imperial Nostalgia; Colonial Nostalgia
Differences of Theory, Similarities of Practice?
Patricia M. E. Lorcin
The concept of nostalgia in relation to empire is usually analyzed as a longing for former imperial and colonial glory, thus eliding the full spectrum of hegemonic practices that are associated with empire. Focusing on the postindependence narratives and practices of France and Britain, this article distinguishes between imperial nostalgia and colonial nostalgia, arguing that the former is associated with the loss of empire—that is, the decline of national grandeur and the international power politics connected to economic and political hegemony—and the latter with the loss of sociocultural standing or, more precisely, the colonial lifestyle.
Legends of a Revolutionary
Nostalgia in the Imagined Lives of Auguste Blanqui
Patrick H. Hutton
Louis-Auguste Blanqui ranks among the most famous apostles of the nineteenth-century French Revolutionary tradition. His commitment to that cause was bound up with his longing to tap once more the energy that had inspired the popular uprisings of the French Revolution. Such nostalgia came to define not only his tactics but also his way of life. In the process he fashioned a legend of his role as insurrectionary activist, and its nostalgic underpinnings would intrigue his twentieth-century biographers. Here I examine the way four among them draw out varied and conflicting meanings from a life powerfully invested in a conception of the future deeply embedded in the past.
Nostalgia and the Myth of the Belle Époque in Franco-Russian Literature (1920s-1960s)
In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution of 1917, many Russian writers including Ivan Bunin (1870–1953) and Nadezhda Teffi (1872–1952) immigrated to France. Their works were imbued with longing for the bygone epoch and for their lost motherland. In Russian émigré literature, this nostalgic outlook produced the mythology of the Belle Époque as the period of prosperity and social harmony. This romanticized view of the past became integrated in the political and intellectual discourses of two influential French writers, Romain Gary (1914–1980) and Elsa Triolet (1896–1970). The article addresses how Russian nostalgia for a pre-1917 period paved the way for the rise of the myth of the Belle Époque, a myth that became increasingly influential in twentieth-century French history.
Passions and Purposes
Acting Faith and Nostalgia in New Caledonia
Matt K. Matsuda
As developed since the seventeenth century, the concept and experience of nostalgia has been linked to individuals or groups displaced from, and longing for, a distant site they consider to be “home.” Colonial historians have also noted that indigenous peoples, such as Australian Aborigines or the Kanak in New Caledonia, may suffer from “solastalgia,” that is, homesickness while “still at home” because they have been subjects with restricted rights on what was once their own territory. The thoughts and writings of Kanak seminarian and anticolonial activist Jean-Marie Tjibaou are analyzed to demonstrate the ways that Kanak communities have shaped locally rooted identities through traditions of genealogy to assert continuities in their own history. Special focus is given here to Tjibaou's seminary training and his appropriation of Biblical stories and teachings to make points about suffering, charity, nobility, and challenges to authority, both in staged passion plays and in Kanak versions of the Christian Word.
Reconsiderations of the Idea of Nostalgia in Contemporary Historical Writing
Patrick H. Hutton
Scholarly interest in the topic of nostalgia has come late to discussions of the workings of memory, a popular topic in contemporary historiography, but its moment may at last have arrived, bringing with it perspectives unappreciated a generation ago. As an emotional response to time’s passage, nostalgia has long been viewed with suspicion. From the dawn of the modern age, critics have explained that it plays into life’s illusions, drifting into sentimental idealization of a past on the fast track to obsolescence. From the earliest critical commentaries on its nature in the late seventeenth century, nostalgia has been equated with homesickness, futile longing for lost places, lost times, and lost causes. For the most part, it was diagnosed as a psychological disorder that immobilized individuals susceptible to the tug of its emotions. It was in this guise that discussion of its nature entered the lexicon of medical discourse during the nineteenth century. The impairments of those who suffered from its sadness were real. The remedy was to awaken them to life’s present realities, and so to teach them to adapt with vigor to their own times.
The Tragic Nostalgia of Albert Camus
Algeria is never far from the center of Albert Camus's life and work—no further, in effect, than Ithaka is from the center of Odysseus's thoughts. In fact, Camus tended to see his native country through his readings of ancient Greek myth and tragedy. This article traces the ways in which Camus, with materials provided by ancient Greece, not only represented his native land, but also elaborated a “Mediterranean” school of thought—la pensée du Midi—that emphasizes the role of moderation or “measure.” There is an undeniable aspect of nostalgia to Camus's rendering of his country and its past, but this does not undermine its validity. By making use of Svetlana Boym's fruitful distinction between reflective and restorative forms of nostalgia, I suggest that the combination of the two categories lies at the heart of Camus's “philosophy of limits.”
Fatal Homesickness in French Algeria
People once died of nostalgia. This article traces the remarkable trajectory of “la nostalgie africaine” from its original understanding as a clinical form of homesickness to the wistful, but wholly benign, feeling we are familiar with today. It does so by looking at French attempts at colonizing Algeria in the nineteenth century against the backdrop of changing medico-scientific theories of human acclimatization to warm climates. I argue that the latter provoked a positive reevaluation of homesickness and led to the development of a “nostalgic simulacra”: a replica French environment capable of sustaining the sepia-tainted illusion of an “Algérie française.”
German Displaced Persons Camps (1945-1948)
Orthodox Jewish Responses to the Holocaust
Orthodox Jews in postwar German Displaced Persons camps experienced the Holocaust's rupture of God's covenantal relationship with history and the eclipse of sacred reality. They sought to recapture that reality, even though the continuity of tradition that held it had been shattered. This was done by voluntarily reviving tradition, as if by doing so the sacred could be invoked. Following momentary suspension, they sought to restore ethnic-generational purity and traditional ritual. They invested holiday celebration with Holocaust meaning. On the level of thought they expanded Israel's metahistory to include the unprecedented tragedy and intensified their own contributions of Torah and Teshuvah to the higher drama, and recommitted their trust that divine light was implicit to reality's darkness.
Guilt and Accountability in the Postwar Courtroom
The Holocaust in Czortków and Buczacz, East Galicia, as Seen in West German Legal Discourse
This article examines the way in which West German courts confronted the case of low-level, former Nazi perpetrators who conducted mass killings of Jews in isolated towns in Eastern Europe. Using the example of the towns of Czortków and Buczacz in eastern Galicia, the article argues that such trials, conducted in the late 1950s and 1960s, sought both to recreate the historical reality of genocide on the local level, where killers and victims often knew each other by name, and to identify a type of perpetrator who differed essentially from "ordinary" Germans, even as he was himself invariably defined as a "victim of the circumstances of that time."