The Return of Martin Guerre

By: Davis, Natalie Zemon

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The Inventive Peasant Arnaud du Tilh had almost persuaded the learned judges at the Parlement of Toulouse, when on a summer's day in 1560 a man swaggered into the court on a wooden leg, denounced Arnaud, and reestablished his claim to the identity, property, and wife of Martin Guerre. The astonishing case captured the imagination of the Continent. Told and retold over the centuries, the story of Martin Guerre became a legend, still remembered in the Pyrenean village where the impostor was executed more than 400 years ago.

Now a noted historian, who served as consultant for a new French film on Martin Guerre, has searched archives and lawbooks to add new dimensions to a tale already abundant in mysteries: we are led to ponder how a common man could become an impostor in the sixteenth century, why Bertrande de Rols, an honorable peasant woman, would accept such a man as her husband, and why lawyers, poets, and men of letters like Montaigne became so fascinated with the episode.

Natalie Zemon Davis reconstructs the lives of ordinary people, in a sparkling way that reveals the hidden attachments and sensibilities of nonliterate sixteenth-century villagers. Here we see men and women trying to fashion their identities within a world of traditional ideas about property and family and of changing ideas about religion. We learn what happens when common people get involved in the workings of the criminal courts in the "ancien regime," and how judges struggle to decide who a man was in the days before fingerprints and photographs. We sense the secret affinity between the eloquent men of law and the honey-tongued village impostor, a rare identification across class lines.

Deftly written to please both the general public and specialists, "The Return of Martin Guerre" will interest those who want to know more about ordinary families and especially women of the past, and about the creation of literary legends. It is also a remarkable psychological narrative about where self-fashioning stops and lying begins.

Title: The Return of Martin Guerre

Author Name: Davis, Natalie Zemon

Categories: History, Family,

Edition: 17th Printing.

Publisher: Cambridge Massachusetts, Harvard University Press: 1983

ISBN Number: 0674766911

ISBN Number 13: 9780674766914

Binding: Trade Paperback

Book Condition: Very Good

Type: Book

Seller ID: 010353

Description: 162 pp. Small ink mark on top edge near spine. Slight wear, text clean. Several historical engravings included. Index, bibliography and reference notes. A Princeton historian explores the 16th century case of a French peasant who pretended to be Martin Guerre, an AWOL husband reclaiming his property by marriage. Basis for a film. Size: 8mo -- 9.5 In Tall