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Description - The Return of Martin Guerre by Natalie Zemon Davis

The clever peasant Arnaud du Tilh had almost won his case, when a man with a wooden leg swaggered into the French courtroom, denounced du Tilh, and reestablished his claim to the identity, property, and wife of Martin Guerre. This book, by the noted historian who served as a consultant for the film, adds new dimensions to this famous legend.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780674766914
ISBN-10: 0674766911
Format: Paperback
(235mm x 155mm x 12mm)
Pages: 176
Imprint: Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publish Date: 1-Jul-1984
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions - The Return of Martin Guerre by Natalie Zemon Davis

Book Reviews - The Return of Martin Guerre by Natalie Zemon Davis

UK Kirkus Review » In The Return of Martin Guerre, Natalie Davis takes a strange story from 16th-century France - the trial of Arnauld du Tilh, accused of taking on the identity of one Martin Guerre who had left his village and abandoned his family. Martin's wife, Bernadette de Rols, accepted de Tilh as her husband and bore him several children - did she, or did she not, know Arnauld was an impostor? (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » A scholarly speculative reconstruction of a celebrated episode from 16th-century Languedoc that shapes a mass of dusty archival records into a relaxed, fast-paced, and charming narrative. Davis is a Princeton historian who collaborated with scenarist Jean-Claude Carriere and director Daniel Vigne on the just-released Retour de Martin Guerre. That work in turn drove her to do the minute, exacting research that resulted in this fine little book. Martin Guerre was a peasant of Basque origins who married Bertrande de Vols in the village of Artigat in 1538. Both bride and groom were well-to-do and very young, perhaps 12 and 14 respectively. After more than eight years of impotence, Martin succeeded in consummating the marriage and begetting a son. Not long after that he fell out with his father (committing the unpardonable act, for a Basque, of stealing grain from the older man) and then suddenly disappeared. About eight years later a brilliant impostor named Arnaud du Tilh with a reasonable resemblance to Martin Guerre showed up in Artigat and was received by everyone (including Bertrande de Vols) with open arms. But after three or four years as a happy husband and respected citizen, Martin Arnaud was accused of being a fraud in a suit to which Bertrande was a party. He was on the verge of exoneration when the real Martin Guerre appeared on the scene and sealed his fate (death on a gibbet across from the Guerre house). Davis builds her story around the Arrest Memorable by Jean de Coras, the judge who condemned du Tilh. But unlike Coras and all other subsequent narrators (save for F. Gayot de Pitaval), she stresses what seems to the modern reader an obvious element: that Bertrande must have been in cahoots with her pseudo-husband until, for whatever reasons, she sided with his enemies. Many features of the affair (such as where du Tilh got all the information he needed to hoodwink the Guerres) will forever remain obscure, and to fill them in Davis has necessarily resorted to educated guessing. So this is not history in any strict sense - but it certainly is a fascinating anecdote, with enough colorful background, psychological complexity (Bertrande and Arnaud's testimony dovetailed to perfection, clearly by pre-arrangement), and unsolved mysteries to delight any intelligent audience. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Natalie Zemon Davis

Natalie Zemon Davis is Henry Charles Lea Professor of History, Emerita, Princeton University.

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