For centuries France - especially Paris - has been the home of domestic and foreign writers, artists, musicians, and intellectuals of all stripes who have been at the forefront of nearly every major artistic and intellectual movement that has transformed mankind's view of itself.
The social ferment of the Industrial and the French Revolutions overlapped historically, and together combined to dethrone the royal and aristocratic classes that had ruled the country without serious opposition for generations. Although the Revolution was cut short by the despotism of Napoleon and the eventual dominance of the new bourgeoisie, from that time the intellectual and creative currents of the past were continually and dramatically challenged by a variety of radicals in the arts, humanities, and sciences.
By the end of the 19th century writers like Emile Zola and HonorT Balzac had made dramatic innovations in the traditional novel by focusing their sensibilities with an unrelenting realism on the social conditions of the industrializing French state. The Impressionists then had their day, followed in confusing profusion by a plethora of artistic movements from Cubism to Fauvism to Futurism to Dada to Surrealism.
The two World Wars devastated France and destroyed much of the erstwhile legitimacy of the authoritarian cultural establishment. Writers like Louis Ferdinand CTline
denounced the hypocrisy of a state that could allow the flower of its youth to be destroyed in a meaningless conflict that contradicted all the official values taught in the schools and which were purveyed by the cultural mouthpieces of the Establishment.
The French emerged from World War II as a shadow of their former self. The colonies were declaring their independence from France one by one, or fighting successful wars of national liberation against the European colonizer, like Vietnam and Algeria. The humiliating defeat by the Nazis, the liberation at ...