The British school of historians, possibly the best in the world, lost one of its most charismatic members three years ago. John Julius Cooper, Second Viscount of Norwich (Oldham, September 15, 1929 – June 1, 2018) was one of those diplomats to whom no one had to teach history (that of the second half of the 20th century, it is understood ) because he lived it, and wrote it, personally. A student at Oxford, he entered the British Foreign Office, was posted to the embassies of Belgrade and Beirut and participated in the British delegation to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. Starting in 1964, he focused on his great career as a historian, which with 20 books made him one of the leading authors, especially in the Mediterranean world, with essential volumes on the Byzantine Empire, Venice, Sicily or the Popes..
Aware that it would be his last work, Norwich published a few months before his death ‘France. A story from Gaul to De Gaulle ‘, just published in Spain by the Ático de los Libros publishing house. And it doesn’t seem like it was a coincidence: France is the country that forever marked Norwich, since there he lived part of his childhood and adolescence at the hands of his father, British ambassador to Paris after World War II.
‘Francia’ is a work that will convince both the great connoisseurs of the country’s history, who will serve to refresh their knowledge, names and dates, as well as those who approach the vicissitudes of the ‘Hexagon’ for the first time. But in addition to its documentary value, the work becomes a delight thanks to its preface, in which the author tells anecdotes that make the reader unable to avoid smiling more than once.
For example, when he narrates his first encounter with De Gaulle, a great hero of the French Resistance. At a reception at the Embassy led by his father, the starving young Norwich, he approached the illustrious personage, who had just left the only plate of food left in the room. Excuse me, my general. Is he going to eat the apple pie? ”Asked the daring John Julius. Also striking is the friendship that the teenager established with the poet Louise de Vilmorin, his father’s lover and one of the best representatives of that cast of characters with whom Norwich discovered art, literature and travel.
The author does not say goodbye to the French. In the last line of the preface, he says goodbye, summarizing his love for the country: «This will surely be the last book I will write. I have enjoyed every moment that I have dedicated to it, and I see it as a kind of gratitude to France for all the happiness that this glorious country has given me. over the years.
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