Hogtied in the Hexagon? part 1 of 3

Hogtied in the Hexagon? Part 1

Our choice of 15 Books to help you better understand France.

First of all what is « hogtied« ? To hogtie is an Americanism that goes back to about 1890 literally meaning to tie an animal, in particular a hog, with all four feet together. Figuratively the phrase mean to thwart or hamper. So below is the beginning of our list of 15 books that’ll help you feel less bewildered in France.

What is the Hexagon? The Hexagon is a nickname for France! (due to the mainland’s nearly hexagonal shape)

Dictionnaire amoureux de l’Histoire de France
Max Gallo
Max the historian works the alphabet from A to Z with entries ranging from Alésia to Jean Zay, touching along the way on Bernard de Clairvaux, Dreyfus, François Ier, Gambetta, Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz, Henri IV, les intellectuels, la laïcité, le maquis, Saint Louis and Verdun. When Monsieur Gallo says he loves French history he means it. Listen to him:
« J’aime l’histoire de France, cette immense forêt. Voilà plus de cinquante années que je la parcours. Je connais les massifs qui la composent et les essences diverses qui la peuplent. Chaque lettre est comme un massif forestier, chaque fait ou personnage retenu, est un arbre…cette diversité rassemblée dans une même et indestructible forêt, c’est cette France dont je suis amoureux, que je ne me lasse pas de contempler et de parcourir. »
This book has its place in every francophile’s francophone library.

Paris to the Moon
Adam Gopnik who is a contributing writer to The New Yorker since 1986 may also be one of the best journalists ever to have reported regularly from the City of Lights. This Nineties memoir moves from the particular (wife, children, domestic arrangements) to the general (French culture, politics, economics) with ease, wit and penetrative insight.

Les Liaisons dangereuses
Dangerous Liaisons is a French epistolary novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, first published in 1782.
It is the story of the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, two rivals (and ex-lovers) who use seduction as a weapon to socially control and exploit others, all the while enjoying their cruel games and boasting about their manipulative talents. A tasty sample :
« Adieu, mon ange, je t’ai prise avec plaisir, je te quitte sans regret : je te reviendrai peut-être. Ainsi va le monde. Ce n’est pas ma faute. » –Lettre CXLI
It is often claimed to be the source of the saying «Revenge is a dish best served cold», a paraphrased translation of «La vengeance est un plat qui se mange froid» (more literally, «Revenge is a dish that is eaten cold»). However, the expression does not actually occur in the original novel in any form.

Pancakes in Paris, Living the American Dream in France
Imagine going to the planet Mars. The chances of that happening to you are inexistant. Now think about getting in between a grizzly bear sow and her cubs while out hiking the backcountry of Wyoming. Your chances of coming away from that bruin encounter unscathed are slightly better. But slim, very slim indeed. Now ponder starting a food-related business … read the full review

understand the hexagon

Our well-worn copy

Le Nouveau Guide France
de G. Michaud
A great introduction to different aspects of France clearly and concisely presented in six chapters in French
. Les visages de la France
. Les témoins du passé
. La vie culturelle
. La vie politique
. La vie économique
. la vie sociale


Part two of this article will be out next week.


More great new books about France and other subjects can be found in our book corner.

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Par John

Monsieur Fusac since 1988