Read The Return of Martin Guerre by Natalie Zemon Davis Online


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 & reestablished his claim to the identity, property & wife of Martin Guerre. The astonishing case captured the imagination of the Continent. Told & retold overThe 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 & reestablished his claim to the identity, property & wife of Martin Guerre. The astonishing case captured the imagination of the Continent. Told & retold over the centuries, the story of Martin Guerre became a legend, still remembered in the Pyrenean village where the impostor was executed over 400 years ago. Now a noted historian, who served as consultant for a French film on Martin Guerre, has searched archives & lawbooks to add new dimensions to a tale already abundant in mysteries. We're led to ponder how a common man could become an impostor in the 16th century, why Bertrande de Rols, an honorable peasant woman, would accept such a man as her husband, & why lawyers, poets & men of letters like Montaigne became so fascinated with the episode. Natalie Zemon Davis reconstructs the lives of ordinary people, in a way that reveals the hidden attachments & sensibilities of nonliterate 16th-century villagers. Here we see people trying to fashion their identities within a world of traditional ideas about property & family & of changing ideas about religion. We learn what happens when common people get involved in the workings of the criminal courts in the ancien régime, & how judges struggle to decide who a man was in the days before fingerprints & photos. We sense the secret affinity between the eloquent men of law & the honey-tongued village impostor, a rare identification across class lines. Deftly written for both the public & specialists, The Return of Martin Guerre will interest those who want to know more about ordinary families & especially women of the past & about the creation of literary legends. It's also a remarkable psychological narrative about where self-fashioning stops & lying begins....

Title : The Return of Martin Guerre
Author :
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ISBN : 9780674766907
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 162 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Return of Martin Guerre Reviews

  • Jan-Maat
    2019-01-19 10:40

    In the autumn of 1560 Arnaud du Tilh was executed in front of the house, deep in southern France, where he had lived for the past three years. He had been found guilty of impersonating one Martin Guerre, a local man who had walked out of his marriage and life in the village over ten years previously, and had not been heard of since. Du Tilh had succeeded in convincing Guerre's uncle, sisters and wife that he was in fact the long lost Martin Guerre. His testimony in court was convincing, he had the scar on the forehead and the warts on his fingers that Martin Guerre was said to have had and when the real Martin Guerre turned up hobbling on a wooden leg (view spoiler)[ true to his name, gained in war(hide spoiler)], the imitator was found to have a better memory of the intimate details of Martin's marriage prior to his disappearance than the real Guerre.The case was so striking and extraordinary that Coras, the investigating judge, and La Sueur, a lawyer from the region both had books out in press about the case within a year. These were printed and reprinted in French and Latin in legitimate and bootlegged editions.Working on the film Le Retour de Martin Guerre the author was troubled by its necessary departure and simplification of the historical background and that experience led her to write this book.I'm not sure that it is a micro history in the style say of Montaillou, it is rather a reconstructed tapestry with missing sections filled out by "must have's" and "would have's" (view spoiler)[ this region's court documents from this period are lost(hide spoiler)]. The twist is that Coras' amazement was in part at how wrong his own judgement had been "here was a case where the "best" witnesses turned out to be mistaken, hearsay evidence turned out to be true, and the judges almost went astray (p106), and the same realisation of the uncertainity of judgement then applies to this book. All the careful and well reasoned inferences, the must haves, the would haves, the differences in attitudes between the Guerre family with their Basque background and their neighbours, and the influence of Protestantism are just that, insubstantial inferences. The only difference is that this time there is no real Martin Guerre who can turn up at the eleventh hour to stomp through them all on his wooden leg.Michel de Montaigne turned to the case in his 1588 published essay On the Lame, the uncertainty of our ability to judge and the difficulty of knowing the truth about things were central to his outlook which gave him a starting point to criticise Coras for his original presumption that du Tilh was innocent. The case of the return of Martin Guerre is one of the odder examples of the provisional nature of knowledge, yet this emphasis on the point of view of the judging outsider overlooks something else that the author pays attention to: the role of Martin's wife Bertrande de Rols.De Rols was herself at risk during the trial as a potential adulterer if she had been aware of the deception. The delicacy and precision of how she positioned herself as a deceived person and an innocent victim is carefully brought out. The same attention is brought to how refusal to seek an annulment of her marriage to Guerre during the long early years of their infertility, or possibly just his, impotency (she was to say that they were both bewitched), and her later acknowledgement of du Tihl as her husband were decisions that worked for her and made sense in her social context. She emerges as, if not a winner, than as one who came closest to making the most of the circumstances in which she found herself, which is no more maybe than we all try to do with varying degrees of success.Very short, very readable. Not an exploration of the spread of Protestantism in Southern France in the middle of the sixteenth century nor of the structure of the rural economy , but a singular, very human, story.

  • John
    2019-02-08 09:35

    This would be a great introduction to microhistory for the casual non-fiction reader, as long as that reader knew what they were reading. Microhistorians examine one particular moment in time in great detail, trying to see how that moment can betray larger truths about society and culture at large. Usually these historians are looking for some rare window into the lives of ordinary people, and Davis has a great one here, with the records from a 16th Century trial of a peasant in southern France who was accused of stealing the identity of another peasant and living as 'Martin Guerre' for years. (Davis also consulted on the movie with Gerard Depardieu, which is also really good). She writes this in a narrative, almost novelish way, easy to follow, and this can really be enjoyed by just about anyone. But it would be important for the casual reader to keep her intro in mind; she says that the book is "in part my invention, but held tightly in check by the voices of the past." Because this isn't a movie, but rather a book written by a historian, it could be very easy for a reader to forget about that sentence in the intro, and treat the book as if it was some sort of 'proven' truth. Davis has a great story here, and she has evidence to back a lot of it up, and her story makes logical sense - it definitely could have happened in this way. But nothing is certain. It is important for each reader to decide how much of this story to accept and how much to take with a grain of salt.

  • Roman Clodia
    2019-02-16 15:30

    Much of what we know about sixteenth century France concerns the nobility since it is they who were literate enough to have left records in the forms of journals, letters, and diaries. Here Zemon Davis uncovers one of the few cases which gives us an insight into artisan life in a French village: the mysterious, beguiling case of Martin Guerre.Drawing on both court records and contemporary written accounts, Zemon Davis traces her version of the story, all the while being aware that her reconstruction might still be full of possibilities rather than proofs. And it is this historical self-consciousness which raises this book beyond the romantic biases of ‘popular’ historians.The case of Martin Guerre is still an amazing one: Guerre leaves behind his wife, family and inheritance and, eight years later, a man returns claiming to be the missing husband and is accepted back by wife and sisters... but is he really who he claims to be?The story is unpacked expertly by Zemon Davis, taking in issues of religion, village relationships, the social role of women, love and identity amongst the non-elite. And even when we think we know what happened, there are still questions posed by this story which tantalise.

  • Siria
    2019-01-27 13:26

    One of the classic works of microhistory, The Return of Martin Guerre tells the story of a sixteenth century French case of fraud and imposture. A young man called Martin Guerre, the only son of Basque parents who had moved eastward into France, is married off to a local girl, Bertrande. After a decade of marriage, he disappears—and after another decade or so, he returns. Martin is welcomed back by Bertrande as her missing husband—but within three years, Martin's father has filed suit, claiming the returned Guerre is a fraud and impostor. (If this story sounds familiar, it was the inspiration for the rather turgid Sommersby with Jodi Foster and Richard Gere.) As a narrative, it's interesting. The story itself is of course fascinating, and Davis weaves in threads about everyday life in sixteenth century southern France which gives us a more complete picture of the world in which the Guerres lived—a world of trade and crafts, of social pressures and close family ties. That said, I found the standard of writing to be disappointing. There is a lack of literary skill here—Davis' prose is often clunky; there is a liberal use of shallow, pointless rhetorical questions; and there are even one or two points where a lack of citations left me unable to tell whether what Davis was saying was based on historical fact or her own imaginings. Interesting, but flawed.

  • Stacia
    2019-02-01 16:38

    An interesting look at a little slice of life, crime, & the courts in France in the mid-1500s. I think the author did good research based on what was written about the case at the time (including an account written by the trial judge of the case), as well as the small amount of general info that was available about the life of an average peasant during that period & in that location. From those info sources, she then tries to draw some lines & infer motivations & further details of the events. So, it's a bit of a mix in that the bulk of it is factual history, but some parts are filled in with the author's guesses as to what happened & why; I think that's important to keep in mind if you're reading this for historical value. I think it's fairly accessible even to non-historians, but it is semi-dry & textbook-y in the style of quite a few history narrations (i.e., it's not high literature). Recommended, especially if you like history &/or true crime.(Note: Historian Robert Finlay criticized Zemon Davis' conclusions in her version of the Martin Guerre events & she wrote a rebuttal to his criticisms.)

  • John David
    2019-02-17 13:38

    Natalie Zemon Davis, along with the likes of Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie and Carlo Ginzburg, both of whom she explicitly acknowledges in “The Return of Martin Guerre,” has carved out a relatively new niche in the academic history. Instead of writing about the movers and shakers, the kings or emperors, or large-scale religious change, she writes here specifically focused on a few families in mid-sixteenth century France. The reputations made by the people that exist within the covers were not the result of high birth or diplomatic achievement. The only reason the name “Martin Guerre” has any resonance to our ears is because his story is perhaps the most incredible since that of Odysseus. Except Guerre’s has the virtue of being historical fact. Without any of the historiographic jargon that we may have come cynically to expect, Davis has wonderfully harnessed most of the elements that allow the causal reader to fully appreciate the story of Martin Guerre.Not long after moving from the Basque village of Hendaye to Artigat with his father Sanxi and his uncle Pierre, Martin Guerre, aged 13, marries a certain Bertrande de Rols. After a period of restlessness and sexual impotence, they conceive a child (also named Sanxi); soon afterwards, he gets into a dispute with his father and runs away, never to return. From this point on, there are intermittent lengthy discussions of property transfer in France at the time, specifically detailing how Basque tradition stipulates that the property moves from Bertrande to Pierre (since Sanxi the elder had already died). In another world, Arnaud du Tilh (aka “Pansette,” or “The Belly,” for his well-defined paunch), eager to remove himself from the monotony of the seigniory of Sajas, joins Henri II’s army. In one of the weaker and more speculative parts of the book, Davis here guesses that Arnaud and Martin might have both met somewhere while in the service of Henri II (in whose service the real Martin might have lost a leg), traded intimate life stories and history to such an extent that Arnaud could then arrive in Artigat, proclaim himself the long-lost Martin Guerre, and insert himself into lives of Pierre Guerre and Bertrande, who quickly learns of du Tilh’s imposture, but outwardly fervently maintains that he is really Martin Guerre. Pierre, however, decides to form an inquest into Pansette’s identity, suspecting something is out of place. The inquest turns into a trial where witnesses – Martin’s friends, family, doctors, neighbors – cannot agree on his identity. In fact, Pansette is such a good impersonator that about one-third of them say he is Martin, another third say he isn’t, and the remaining refuse to comment, being too baffled or fearing retribution from a member of the village. He is found guilty, but appeals to an illustrious court in Toulouse, where the author of one of the first accounts of the story, Jean de Coras, sits as a judge. After careful consideration, he overturns the ruling of the lower court, and announces Pansette innocent. At that moment, a man with a wooden leg enters the courtroom claiming to be Martin Guerre. One by one, everyone begins to recognize “the newcomer” (as Pansette calls him), and within a matter of hours Martin, who has been gone for a several years, regains his reputation, family, and friends inside the courtroom. Coras sees the error of his previous judgment and sentences Pansette to, first, an “amende honorable” (a traditional French assignation of culpability) and then death by hanging (a punishment deeply tied to avarice in the medieval imagination). Davis ends again on a speculative note, suggesting that perhaps Coras found sympathy with Pansette because of their common sympathy for Reformation ideas (Coras was and remained fairly liberal for the time). Given the time period, there were countless accusations slung back and forth of faithlessness and apostasy. However, the book is much too short and this part in particular too underdeveloped to seriously support this idea. Interesting, too, is what Davis never explicitly takes much time to discuss, but nevertheless lurks beneath the surface: ideas of identity, gender, property acquisition, incipient capitalism, and belonging in sixteenth-century France. So, while a causal reader can enjoy it for its unique historical cache, those whose interest is more academic have a lot to unpack, too. For those interested in enjoying the latter approach, I recommend a reading in tandem with Valentine Groebner’s “Who Are You?: Identification, Deception, and Surveillance in Early Modern Europe,” which takes the time to fill out some of the undercurrents in Davis’ thought which she only alluded to.

  • Raisu
    2019-01-30 12:20

    Identity theft, 16th century style: Martin Guerre, an affluent farmer, steals something from his father. Disgraced, he runs away, abandoning his wife and children, and isn't heard from again fo nearly a decade. Sometime during those years, a petty criminal Armand du Tihl runs into two men who mistake him for Marin Guerre. This gives Armand an idea: he'll impersonate Martin and steal his life. Which he does. For three years, Armand lives as Martin, and even has a child with Martin's wife, Bertrande de Rolls. But then the first Martin's uncle grows suspicious of the new one, and eventually takes him to court. First he's declared guilty and sentenced to death. He appeals. The appeal goes well and the court is just about ready to announce him innocent when a one-legged man makes an appearence, going "it is I, Martin Guerre!" Responds Armand: "Nu-uh, I am Martin Guerre." But the court no longer believes him and he hangs. The real Martin Guerre and Bertrande resume their marriage and even have a few more children.Weird, right? The contemporaries thought so too. Two books were written about the case shortly after it ended, one by the main judge. And it has been repeated many a time over the centuries in various collections of odd happenings. (Don't think that the craving for curious true stories is a 21st century/reality tv thing.) Zemon Davis reads the two original books, and draws conclusions from them. Were that material falls short, she speculates, but the speculations are never plucked out of thin air: they're based on what historians know about the era.As a book The Return of Martin Guerre is close to pefection. It's well and succintly written, and of course the events themselves provide lots of excellent drama: we have legal drama, family drama and romantic/sex drama. What more could you ask?

  • Jimmy
    2019-02-03 11:39

    This is the true story written by the woman who was the historian helping out with the movie version with the great French actor Gerard Depardieu. I recommend both the movie and the book. I learned a lot about village life in 16th century France. The peasant Martin Guerre goes off to war to fight with the Spanish Army. After being away for a few years, an imposter arrives. The peasant Arnaud du Tilh pretends to be Martin Guerre. He takes over Guerre's wife, property, and life. Finally, about three years later, the real Guerre will arrive on a wooden leg and denounce him. Arnaud will be hung as a result. Although the author leaves some room for doubt about who is who. Here are two 16th century quotes about marriage in France: 1. "Femme bonne qui a mauvais mary, a bien souvent le coeur marry." A good wife with a bad husband often has a sorry heart. 2. "Amour peut moult, argent peut tout." Love may do much, but money more. Another 16th century quote about the sex life of village boys: "I hardly knew what it was to be in love, but nowadays there is hardly a young man past fifteen who hasn't tried something out with the girls." Here is a quote from the same time period about peasant homes: "they call themselves Lords and Ladies of such-and-such a house, even if it is only a pigpen." And this one as well: "Throughout this country, the people are gay. They are always laughing, jokjng, and dancing, women and men both." As far as Martin Guerre arriving on one leg, Horace once said that punishment comes on a limping leg. And there is a Languedoc curse: "Le maulubec vous trousse." May your leg sores turn you lame.

  • Genichka
    2019-02-04 15:39

    I was deeply impressed when I read this book. I read it like a fiction not like a historian book. (according to the linguistic turn this method of reasoning seems to be a tragedy)I was interested in tasks that Devis set before herself. She tried to understand the motivations of her heroes. but not only those who were described in the source but also the motivations of the recorders, what were the feelings of the witnesses of that events. and why they had exactly that feelings. It's the kind of close-up history that impounds with the details the canvas of "general history". I would not reduce it only to the problem of the identity in the early modern history. Of course it is one of the most important streams but not the single. We could find there the problem of traditional culture and different world-view issues. I recommend this book as the wonderful example of the microhistory and just for enjoying also.

  • Breanna Willson
    2019-02-16 13:32

    The Return of Martin Guerre was written by Natalie Zemon Davis. The Return of Martin Guerre was published in 1983 by the Harvard University Press in Cambridge Massachusetts London, England. Davis wrote the book because she was part of the production of the movie based on Martin Guerre’s life and she felt the movie diverted from the actual historical content of what happened during the trials of Martin Guerre. This book allows the reader to understand the culture and lifestyles of people in the 15th century which is a major strength of the book because this lacks within the movie, but the book makes assumptions of what may have happened which becomes a weakness because the identity of individuals can be perceived differently.The Return of Martin Guerre is about a peasant man living in the 15th century named Martin Guerre. He gets married to a woman named Bertrande, but their marriage is based more so on connecting their family and land than their actual love for one another. Martin decides to abandon his family for many years and in this time a peasant named Arnaud du Tilh comes to Martin’s village and claims to be Martin Guerre. After three years of pretending to be Martin Guerre, Pierre Guerre (Martins uncle) charges Arnaud with taking Martin’s identity. Trials take place to find Arnaud guilty or innocent of the crime and during the trial the real Martin shows up.The Return of Martin Guerre allows the reader to understand the culture and lifestyles of the peasants in the 15th century. Most peasants in the 15th century could not read or write so there is little to no documentation about the peasant life during this time. Through this book though the reader can read about the trials of Martin Guerre and his life leading up to the trials as well as the lives of his family. Reading these trials allows a better understanding of the peasant life. The book allows the reader to see what was valuable to the people living in this culture, as well as seeing what peasants lacked such as the ability to read, write, and have self-portraits of themselves. These were all things that could not be used in the trials because they were lacking in the average peasant life. The Return of Martin Guerre makes many assumptions throughout the book. These assumptions include knowing the exact route that the Guerre family took when they moved, why the Guerre family moved in the first place, if Martin and Arnaud knew one another, why Martin left, if Bertrande really knew that Arnaud wasn’t Martin, and so on. These assumptions are based or historical reasoning but they are assumptions. These assumptions appear because of the lack of documentation done by peasants at this time. These assumptions form a weakness within the book because they may or may not be fact and within being fact or not can change the real meaning of the trials. For example, understanding if Bertrande really had knowledge that Arnaud was not Martin gives a completely different historical identity to Bertrande during the trials.The Return of Martin Guerre allows the reader to have a better understanding of the culture and the life style of peasants during the 15th century, yet the assumptions within the book make it so that some of the perspectives and identities of the individuals change. I think that The Return of Martin Guerre is an extraordinary book because it allows the reader to not only see an unusual event take place but to see that event through a peasant culture of the 15th century. Through the documentation of what individuals said and reacted to things you can also see the gender roles of peasants during this time. Overall, I think this book is extraordinary and useful to gain understanding of the peasant life in the 15th century.

  • Eric Staggs
    2019-02-16 08:20

    Sometimes we are presented with a serious of events that are so preposterous that they seem their only natural place would be on the big screen. In Natalie Davis’ work, The Return of Martin Guerre, we are presented with such an event. Through her careful analysis of documents this near legendary case of identity theft is laid bare before us. The case covers the disappearance, and return of a young woman’s husband in 16th century. Amazed at his return, the village welcomes their lost son in with open arms. For three years it seems to go well within the French village, until Pierre, Martin’s uncle, starts to grow suspicious of his nephew. His suspicious grow as details become apparent that this man may not his relative, but instead an imposter. Choosing to bring him to trail, the show starts as witnesses take sides in an effort to figure out who this man really is. Davis uses her sources well in order to present the facts of the event in such a way to build an understanding of the characters involved. Moving than to establish the chronology of events that leads up to the trail and its after math. What is amazing is her eye for detail and pursuit of information in order to build the narrative of the events in such a way that, if not directly transcribed from the record, it is held, as the author states, in check by the voices of the past. The largest detraction from the story that I get is some of the details seem vague at times. This may be just my opinion on what I want to help flesh out the narrative more, but I felt I wanted a few more details as to what each Martin was doing before returning to the village. Further, I felt the last few chapters speaking on the books reception and distribution, though important to the spread of the case, could have just as easily been relegated to the epilogue or to an end notes section for those interested in the matter of the case documents themselves. Davis shows us that events like those contained in The Return of Martin Guerre are a universal possibility that is not fixed to our modern times. Though her extensive research we are given details to the three major actors in the events, and see how their choices send ripples through France forcing people to reexamine issues of personal identity. The Return of Martin Guerre is not just for those passionate about history, but those interest in historical court cases, or unique events of the past.

  • MIL
    2019-02-12 10:30

    藉由神奇的冒名頂替案刻劃出1540年代法國農村切片看起來幾乎所有爭端都跟財產有關不管是繼承權使用權不動產權生活圍繞著各種爭取權利的做為就連真假馬丹也繞著財產打轉~不禁想到馬基維力在君王論中說的:殺父之仇可忘,奪財之恨難消!不過事件中各角色心境在今天已經無從得知作者做的心理推論到底能不能稱得上嚴謹,還是得保留幾分但對史普讀者來說,這樣的推論正是讓書本更精彩的重點之一爭端就讓史家去煩惱吧~書中有一段提到羅馬法的慣例「寧可錯放有罪者,也不可誤罰無辜的人」。想到同時代的海瑞判案標準是:凡訟之可疑者,與其屈兄,寧屈其弟;與其屈叔伯,寧屈其侄。與其屈貧民,寧屈其富民;與其屈愚直,寧屈刁頑。事在爭產業,與其屈小民,寧屈鄉宦,以救弊也。事在爭言貌,與其屈鄉宦,寧屈小民,以存體也。有種東西方的差異在兩千年前就決定的感覺,不用等到鴉片戰爭QQ雖然書的內容不錯但翻譯又是零零落落翻譯腔很重,充滿各種英文文法直翻中文這倒還好,我也不是在看文學書,看得懂就成但是親屬稱謂堂表不分,婆婆一直翻岳母雖然這在英文裡沒有分別,但只要看親屬關係就能還原成漢人用法卻沒有注意,婆婆翻岳母更是不知所云而且一路錯到底基督教神職翻譯新舊教不分這樣讓讀者很難抓住馬丹案件中的宗教因素新舊教稱謂全都混在一起,只好猜測會用聖統制的神職應該都是舊教的另一個從頭錯到尾的是耶路撒冷聖約翰騎士團翻成在耶路撒冷的聖約翰之軍令機構顯然是由英文直譯而不探究這團體的性質索引更誇張連語序都搞不清把同一個詞Saint John of Jerusalem, order of翻成耶路撒冷的聖約翰的教令實在不知道譯者的歷史系都念到那裡去了?搞得我看不太懂作者想表達的意思,只好找原文來對照才看懂這些錯誤似乎是這類偏史普翻譯書籍的通病就算請相關背景的譯者還是無法避免,真糟糕啊~

  • S. Keller
    2019-02-11 08:22

    The Return of Martin GuerreBook Review By S. Keller In France during the mid to late 1500’s, there were many changing ideals and practices. As part of the occurring Renaissance period, France, as well as surrounding countries, became subject to religious persecution and hardship. In this book by early-modern historian at the University of Toronto Natalie Zemon Davis, the author takes this hardship and exposes it through her objective to view the retelling of the past in a different way. I found that this was a great way to begin research on a history topic and that the book did an overall great job at achieving the goal by using a multitude of research and and links to historical significances, however there are some things that the author mentions that provide the story and the content in the book with weaknesses such as assumptions and misguided connections. To give a brief summary, the book begins with the upbringing and introduction of a Frenchman by the name of Martin Guerre. The book then divulges into the disappearance of Guerre and the grief with which his wife, Bertrand, experienced. The next few chapters describe a false person named Pansette of Tilh taking Guerre’s place and how he deceived the entire town, followed by his conviction of identity theft. Following the conviction, the book finishes off with a description of Pansette upbringing, life, and reasons for taking Guerre’s place, and the aftermath of his death and the stories told following. Some of the strengths I noticed throughout the book are the many ways that the author divulges deeper into subjects of note. For example, the chapter The Masks of Arnaud Du Tilh explains the attributes of Pansette with words like cunning and trickster. I find these little descriptions helpful in showing a visual of this narrative and bringing forth a helpful addition to the emotion that arises in the story itself. Another example of a strength is in the chapter History prodigieuse, Histoire tragique, where the author makes connections to the historical significances of the story by asking the audience questions. Using these questions, the author brings new inquiries about as to the credibility of the available information, such as the question of whether Martin guerre’s tragic story represented a protestant cause. primarily consist of assumptions made by the author that are quick to the point. For example in the chapter From Hendaye to Artigat the author makes comparisons between French culture at the time and the effects that culture had on specific characters in the past. I found this specific point as a weakness because the chapter begins by letting on that it will explain how people change because of their surroundings and the additive of this aspect misdirected the objective to tell the story in a different way. Another, more subtle, weakness I noticed is the assumptions made about Bertrand’s feelings and emotions of the time. Early on in the book the author make multiple notes about the fact that Bertrand had no ability to write for a very long time and then continues on in later chapters, History prodigieuse, Histoire tragique, that Bertrand must have known all along of Pansette’s true identity. This distracted the fact that she was, for the most part, illiterate and could not have possibly written these feelings or conceptions down. While the author did do a great job of using historical significances, though tends to offset the narrative of the story by making assumptions and connections between events that may not be providing for the objective of the book. I found that this book was actually really great in my overall rating, personally. The insights and evidence provided far outweighed the tribulations that came with the assumptions because I could much more easily navigate my way to the facts when there were questions asked. The author successfully achieved her goal in my mind by her bottom-up process of looking into the life of Martin Guerre. The significance of this book showed the average daily life of citizens in France during the 1500’s and provided insight into their social interactions and cultures through documentation such as court records and journals.

  • Diandra Rivera
    2019-02-13 16:38

    Goodreads Review: The Return of Martin Guerre by Diandra RiveraWithin the return of Martin Guerre which one could talk about it being the earliest account of a sex scandal around the sixteenth century in the rural part of France, which would be called Basque, meaning it’s southern France which it has many rural settings that one could see like that of plains on plains of land, people milling for wheat and grain and other means of resources at this time period of the late 1500, along with that of a life of a peasant as well. However the author of the book, Natalie Zemon Davis takes historical accounts quite to heart as she writes about numerous historical events throughout the whole book, like that of the Protestant Reformation, and how a war was going one between France and Spain at the time. Nonetheless, historians have this evidence of all what happened at this time due to the court of Toulouse all writing this down by people who most of them didn’t know how to read and or write, meaning the elites were doing and perverse these documents for the near future.Born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1928, Davis traces her intellectual path back to her Jewish heritage and the respect for learning that came with it. Her father was in the textile industry and her mother a homemaker. Though neither was the scholarly type, she grew up surrounded by books, especially theater books and Shakespeare. After Kingswood, she was off to Smith College to study the revolution's, intellectual movements, and literature of Europe; then to Radcliffe for more of the same; and, finally, to the University of Michigan, where she earned her doctorate in 1959, writing on Protestantism and the printers of sixteenth-century Lyon. Davis would be the scriptwriter and consult to the slightly fictionalized version of The Return of Martin Guerre, an account in the sixteenth century of an impostor who he takes place of a husband who’s his whereabouts are unknown until he comes back to his wife and family, yet there’s another man who calls himself Martin Guerre, which they fight for his identity in the court of law of the time. The film itself came around 1982, Davis not happy with how much information the movie left out for their viewers, she decided to write her own prose of the same name in 1983, and who published her prose was the President and Fellows of Harvard College. In 1538, the family of Guerre’s and de Rols have given both of their son and daughter, Martin and Bertrande to have an early marriage between these young teens of that both of them were the age of fourteen, as this marriage been seen by the priest before them and a notary taking accounts of what both of these newlyweds would obtain, like the likes of a cash payment of between 50-150 livres, a gift to the likes of a country wife. For eight years Martin’s marriage as yet been consummated which many of the villagers talk around the village of Artigat, that said the couple has been cursed by a spell of a “jealous woman”, so the couple started masses and seeing a wise woman of the village as they wanted to be released from the said spell, and after four masses from the priest, they soon had a son who was named after Martin’s father, Sanxi. After being caught by his father being somehow responsible for stealing from his family, Martin decided to leave his village of Artigat without telling nobody, not even his wife Bertrande knew his whereabouts, many of his friends and family members started to believe he left the village for the shame he bought his father for stealing the milate, and rumors started to spread out he might have left wanting to participate in the war happening north of Basque, the battle of St. Quentin in Spain, and another rumor talking he lost his leg during the war as well. After nine winters have passed, the self-proclaimed Martin Guerre has come back to the village of Artigat, many don’t seem convinced that it's the real Martin, and some believe it’s the long lost Martin, but when push comes to show he appears to be very different, and acting different as well, like showing more respect towards his wife, Bertrande, working hard within the fields yet his uncle Pierre Guerre wouldn’t want his nephew’s name to be tainted by some sort of imposter name Pansatte or his true name of Arnaud du Tilh. As Pierre did a citizen arrest to Pansatte to bring him into the court of Toulouse, and when a new suspect comes into view claiming himself to be the true Martin Guerre, many are in disbelief as this new suspect has a leg replaced with that of wood. The strengths of the prose would be numerous within the story and or legend does give an insight of the illiterate villager of Basque, France, many families in this rural area of France weren’t that rich, either could read and or write, only the elites of the time period were the ones with most money and or a vast amount of land, yet there’s evidence to many routines these villagers of Artigat would do most of their lifetimes as peasants of the land, like the woman of the village would have a bathhouse to clean their lines and cotton, their children would help their mother out during these type of chores, while the men were on the field spreading seeds for the nest harvest, meaning the sense of gender roles is strong along these chapters that talk about Martin and his wife throughout the book. However there’s morality to be played against religious morality as of the time being, the Protestant Reformation was coming back strong among Western Europe which was quite accurate yet frightful for these people of poverty as they held their religion quite seldom. Nonetheless, there's quite a few perspective to view the story about women, religion as well. However what’s not clear in the story which could be a weakness for itself, it would be the likes when Martin has returned to Artigat but this while the trail of Toulouse is happening as he comes forward as a new suspect in the trail itself, He as only came back from Spain, because Arnaud is taking an ahold of his identity and name, property as well, he simply didn’t came back for his loving wife and child at the name, having such biases towards his wife as well, thinking he wasn’t that respected by Bertrande for letting a different man than himself come into her life, this might portrait that she was a much happier woman while being with Arnaud at the time, which can reflect to that of a modern marriages as divorce is quite easy to obtain in the meanwhile during sixteenth century France, there was no way to obtain such freedom. Another thing to talk about with that if the real Martin did fight at all in the war between France and Spain, himself he was illiterate so he couldn’t write about his military service or that wanting to tell his family that he was doing this on the behalf for the honor for the marriage, along with him coming back to the village, he didn’t knew either about his own mother and father passing away. As foretold as like that of a sex scandal about two different people calling himself Martin Guerre for the likes of money and property of his own, the prose of Martin Guerre would be a suitable number of eight out of ten.

  • Ubiquitousbastard
    2019-02-13 08:25

    So, this was rather interesting in its utter bizarre source material. The events sound like something out of Chaucer or something, but there is documented evidence of it actually happening, so its pretty irrefutable. I also liked how the author took the time to examine multiple points of view, show evidence and then speculate on the motives of each person. Secondly, I like that this wasn't written in overly academic language and was instead very approachable. The length was something else I was glad for, since I was starting to get bored right about where it ended. The reason I was really getting bored was that the subject matter was basically dealt with and she randomly decided to follow a minor player in the aftermath of everything. Yeah, did not care about that, really.Overall, it was pretty informative about French peasant culture and law in the sixteenth century. The fact that it was written directly and clearly helped to convey the author's intent without me feeling like I'd wasted time.

  • Dylan
    2019-01-30 14:31

    This is a fascinating microhistory of a strange episode in 16th century France, where a man abandons his wife and an impostor takes his place with surprising success. The scholarly style does not make for a page-turner, but the research is fantastic; Davis draws on countless records from the time period to paint a vivid picture of the setting, often in quite innovative ways. Unfortunately, the available sources are too sparse to provide anything close to the complete story, and she fills in the gaps with speculation. Her inferences are all individually reasonable, but there are simply too many of them to view the whole construct as totally credible. Still, it's compelling, even if it occupies a somewhat shaky middle ground between historical rigor and entertainment.

  • Amalie
    2019-01-28 09:22

    "The Return of Martin Guerre" is the account of one of France's most infamous trials ( in 1527?). A young man, namely Martin Guerre, returns to his native home town after his long disappearance. People accepts this man with open arms as Martin Guerre who has returned to his family and to his wife. But later, when another Martin Guerre returns, problem arises as to who the real person is.After reading this book, be sure to check out the film version starring Gerard Depardieu; it is a great version of the story.

  • Hannah
    2019-02-05 13:22

    Once upon a time, I had to read this for a history class. What really stuck with me is the concept of identity before photos and biometrics: how the identification of a person was based around the goodwill of the people you grew up with and that they could choose to accept or exclude you. The idea being that there would never be a trustworthy stranger because why would you willingly abandon those who could vouch for your identity?There's a movie version out there somewhere, but I haven't seen it.

  • Julio César
    2019-01-17 08:38

    This book is a must for those interested in History as a research field. Zemon Davis builds a solid, concise book on a long-forgotten episode in sixteenth century France and she teaches a lesson on how to delve into the past in order to inquire into human history. The case is well known nowadays, but that's the less important part of this book: I think it shows (like Carlo Ginzburg's work) how a minor episode might illuminate a whole era.

  • Jesselyn
    2019-01-20 10:28

    Zemon Davis's subject matter is fascinating but her analysis is cautious and doesn't truly address her questions. I'll sound like the worst history nerd ever, but skip the book and watch the movie. She was a consultant on the film and it's well done and in many ways more rigorous than the book.

  • Richard F. Schiller
    2019-01-28 10:28

    Very interestingstory , but the rambling historical style that Zemon Davis employs is incredibly tiresome. Somewhat of a hybrid novel-historical document.

  • Carlos Gonzalez
    2019-02-09 09:31

    The Return of Martin Guerre is a secondary source written to counter an incorrect movie. The author of the book, Natalie Zemon Davis, is a historian that has written several other books, taught at multiple universities including Berkeley and Princeton, and has also has received many awards which consist of the Holberg International Memorial Prize and National Humanities Medal among others. The Return of Martin Guerre was published in October, 1984 by the Harvard University Press. This is an important book as it gives insights to what life was like in the mid-1500s in rural France. A forte of this well written book consists of the analysis following the story in the last three chapters and epilogue of the book meanwhile the weakness consists of Davis assuming parts in the book.This book is split into the introduction, 12 chapters, epilogue, and a bibliography section with notes and an index. After introducing the location of events in Southern France near Spain, Davis informs that an unhappy peasant leaves the village of Artigat. After 8 years, the story continues, a man claiming to be Martin Guerre returns. After being accepted by the town for three years, a monetary feud leads some village members to believe that the man is an imposter and Arnaud du Tihl (Pansette) is exposed in a court trial as the real Martin Guerre. The story ends giving more information on Judge Coras and the sources as well as some information about the happenings in Artigat after the fraud.Even though the writing style was an obvious strength, another large strength was that Davis went a little further than the event and the execution of Arnaud du Tilh which adds more credibility. She analyzes more, even the feelings and beliefs of Jean de Coras. In chapter 11, Histoire Prodigieuse, Historie Tragique, Davis mentions that Jean de Coras had nightmares of his wife marrying someone else and that in a way he saw Arnaud as a hero. She even includes that Guillaume Le Sueur got his information from Michel Du Faur’s notes. All this extra information shows that this seemingly little incident was much larger than it appeared.Despite all of Davis’s credentials and research she creates some assumptions that a reader may take as fact. In chapter 4, she claims that Arnaud du Tilh was after more than just the inheritance because of his elaborate preparations. Arnaud may have had other intentions, but we will never know for sure. In the epilogue, Davis also states that Martin and Betrande stayed together because they would not have been able to make it by themselves. If they would not have stayed together, Martin may have returned the military for his assisted living, and Betrande may have found a solution to her problem. In the last passage of the book before the selected bibliography, she claims she has found the face of truth. In history, the truth is rarely uncovered as there is no way to go back in time and be 100% certain.After reading, “The Return of Martin Guerre,” I realized the importance of this small story that happened a little over half a century ago. Since a lot of these peasants were illiterate, there is not much information about their everyday lives. This account fills that gap and gives a glimpse into social interactions, religion, and beliefs from the 16th century. Although the weakness through assumptions weakens the book, Davis’s credibility and research make this a good story and book analyzing France during the 16th century and reformation period. Because of this I give the book 4/5 and would definitely recommend it to anyone wanting some information about rural life in France, or someone wanting an interesting read.

  • Kendall Boglino
    2019-01-28 14:39

    The return of Martin Guerre a story of crime, intrigue and even love that took place in the 16th century. Written by Natalie Zemon Davis in 1984, Davis is a historian who consulted on the 1982 movie of the same name, in order to document aspects of the legend that the movie could not. When reading this book, it is important to keep in mind the introduction that Davis wrote, “In part my invention, but held tightly in check by the voices of the past”. Lack of documentation has led Davis to take an educated guess on certain aspects that took place during the trial of Martin Guerre, However, she remains rooted in the basis of the past and the documents recorded during this event. The novel/historical view taken on by Davis made it an interesting read. While footnoted and backed up by evidence, it is also unique and could be read as a novel. Historically, it gives a view into the lives of people in the early 16th century. This story focuses on Martin Guerre, how he abandoned his family and returns years later. Only for the villagers to raise suspicions about this man being an imposter and the subsequent trial of those suspicions. This book gives a clear picture of women’s roles in the 1500’s society. The world is mainly ran by men and women have to depend on their spouses to provide for them in all aspects in both life and death. It seems a woman has more power as a widower then as a wife or someone who is neither a wife nor widow, such as Bertrande. If Bertrande had been a widow she would be able to decide how the circumstances of her husbands’ will could benefit her in a way that would support her. Davis states, “At best he provides that his wife can have the usufruct of all his goods so long as she lives ‘in widowhood’. By Martin Guerre leaving his family he left his wife, Bertrande, as a a woman who could not fulfill the duties of a wife, or the monetary safety she would’ve gained had she been widowed. In Arrest Memorable which was a source used by Davis. it is known that Coras, a judge during Annaud’s trial, left out parts of the story. Perhaps this was to hide the fact that the court was at fault and nearly fell victim to the imposters influence. Coras over stated the charms of Arnaud and attempted to understate the influence he held over the court. Omitting important parts of the trial, it could be said that Coras mislead the people who read his testimony. Even with other sources stating the parts he omitted, there will always be contentions among individuals due to the decision by Coras’ to withhold the truth. These contentions affect The Return of Martin Guerre because we can no longer see the story with a clear view of the events taking place. Instead, we must wade through the viewpoints mentioned in the book that will affect our perceptions of the past. This book gives a beautiful insight into past European societies. How they thought, how their laws were and how they perceived social injustices. Davis does an excellent job of attempting to find the truth with the slim resources provided about Martin Guerre. Definitely a must read, especially for anyone who possess an interest in micro-history or the laws of the 16th century during the Reformation era.

  • Reis Forsgren
    2019-02-05 11:23

    The Return of Martin Guerre, written by historian Natalie Zemon Davis is a fictional tale based upon the true story of the impersonation of Martin Guerre. Written in 1928 and printed by the Harvard Press, Natalie Davis shows incredible attention to detail through her portrayal of the 16th century France. She showcases her talents and study even more as she writes about the strife and life of the common people of this time. Through her long career as a certified historian, the author takes both evidence and reason as she tells us of this story and, in her own way, takes a few liberties with the creation of this book. This book gives other historians and readers a look into a subject that we formally know very little about, which could both be a gift and an overstep. This story starts in Southern France, 1500’s. In the town of Artigat, a man fools a town and a family that he is the missing Martin Guerre that was lost at war. It takes three years, and a financial argument for the town and Martin Guerre’s family to accuse this ‘imposter’ of lying to them for all this time. With the lack of withstanding arguments against this newcomer, this man nearly wins his case with parliament until the real Martin Guerre interrupts the jury and wins by the recognition of his family.Through this book Natalie Davis takes the records from the trial of Martin Guerre and study to create a realistic portrayal of the common people of 16th century france. This group is one that is highly undocumented and has little solid study about done about them. With these records, and the tale of Martin Guerre told today, the Author takes the facts known of this community and spins a story that gives readers a glimpse into this historical society. Right at the peak of reformation and border wars, Davis explains the effect this period in history would have on the common fold of Southern France, where the threat of religion and war were prominent and ingrained into everyday life. Though much is left to speculation and assumptions, this book is work of historical study and comprehension. The biases of this Author represent the historical weaknesses of the book. Through the creation of this text, though written through study and work, there is much left to assumption, and much that is stated as fact. For these people, most who were illiterate, their lives are mostly undocumented and little is truly known of how they lived. Any statements that came across as the one truth, and were not supported by the law records or other evidence, were assumptions made by the Author. In no way does this mean that they were incorrect, or that a better assumption could be made, yet they were assumptions. Through her career, Natalie Zemon Davis has proved herself an apt historian and a phenomenal writer. She brings facts to life through her portrayal of The Return Of Martin Guerre, and strives to make historical sense of the questions why and how? Davis strived to create an answer to these questions by combining all historical evidence she could find and listening and researching the other mediums of this popular tale. In the end, she seamlessly blends facts and historical assumptions based upon her years of study and creates a historical tale of a group shrouded in unknown.

  • Jersonmiranda
    2019-02-03 11:23

    The Return of Martin Guerre is an outstanding example of a historical document and a glimpse into the post classical era of France. while reading less like a story Natalie Zemon Davis instead uses documents from the peculiar court case of identity theft and the story around it to not only give us insight on what happened in the case between Arnaud du Tilh and Martin Guerre but also show us things such as the labor practices, routes people took in moving around the northern part of the Iberian peninsula, and an in depth look into peasant life when most of the documents of this time focused on the leaders and bigger heads of that time. Though while the book does show many things we could take as fact there are alot of things that have to be left as assumption in the story as well. Davis begins this book not diving straight into the court case, but instead showing us the route that Martin's father possibly took in order to reach the town where this all took place called Arigat. this was important to know because it would explain to a certain extent why martin was cold to his wife because of how people from his father's region were cold. this also comes back when Martin disappears and we assume he takes the same route to reach Spain. However, while it is likely that this is true we cannot take any of this to be solid facts. This also comes in again in terms of the relationships between the people in the story. From what we know in the court case we can assume that Arnaud du Tilh and Bertrande may of had a bit of an intimate relationship even after she would of guessed that he was an impostor due to her defending him to the very last moment though we cannot tell for sure because we don't have any written proof saying that she did since it was most likely certain that she could not write considering her status. The assumptions also come into play in considering why Martin left. we cannot tell for certain it was because of the stolen grain from his father or from his troubled relationship with his wife that caused him to leave but since he did not exactly write his reasoning's down even after he came back we have to go by what we know and fill in the gaps on what we don't. Unfortunately we do not have the option of a "ESPN Play by Play where we could analyze every facet of the story, and provide stats and points in a video that show what is fact and what isn't but we can use what we know from the documents we have in history and try to fill the gaps in from there using other information from the time and that is exactly what Natalie Zemon Davis does in her book.

  • Dagmar
    2019-02-04 14:30

    Excellent non-fictional history of stolen identity in the mid 1500's, I saw the French film with Gerald Drapideau which came out in the 1980's and the American fictional takeoff film, "Somersby " with Jodi foster and Richard Gere set in the Civil War. The non- fictional account was heavily researched and written by a Princeton professor. Written accounts of the imposter's trial still exist and she supplemented her information from these medieval sources with research on peasant lifestyles. The writing style is pedantic but the book is brief (125 pages) and the topic interesting. A Basque peasant family moves to a French town where they succeed in re-establishing themselves, build a tile making enterprise that does well, and intermarry with another local successful peasant family. The son, Martin, deserts his wife and disappears for many years on end. The abandoned wife is forbidden from remarriage by church laws. An imposter with an excellent memory shows up many years later (in the days before photographs, portraits of peasants, fingerprints, or literacy). The imposter manages to gain acceptance by many of the relatives and community including the wife who may have found him a better husband. Doubts remain such as his shoe size being larger than the shoemaker remembers and increase when he wants to sell some of the inherited land, which violates Basque custom and does not recall simple phrases in Basque language from childhood. During his trial the real Martin Guerre shows up on a wooden leg .

  • The Idle Woman
    2019-02-02 11:25

    In 1560 Jean de Coras, judge of the Parlement of Toulouse, found himself faced with an extraordinary case which had come up on appeal from the court at Rieux. A woman, Bertrande de Rols, claimed that the man with whom she had lived for four years was not, in fact her husband Martin Guerre, but an impostor. The husband himself denied the charges and claimed that his wife was being unwillingly coerced by his avaricious uncle, who hoped to get his hands on the family inheritance. This alone would have offered de Coras an intriguing case, but the complex tale of Martin Guerre presently developed an unexpected twist that elevated it into one of the most fascinating courtroom dramas in history. Natalie Zemon Davis’s reconstruction is a classic of modern historical writing, offering an irresistible glimpse of the social and sexual mores of the Renaissance...For the full review, please see my blog:

  • Nastya_Poltava
    2019-02-05 15:15

    Чудова книга! Надзвичайно цікаве мікроісторичне дослідження, що. на тлі життя невеликого французького села Артига та регіону з яким у місцевих жителів були тісні контакти показує наскільки сильно над середньовічною людиною тяжіло традиційне життя, а наскільки існувала свобода вибору життєвого шляху? Які могли бути життєві стратегії (усталені і девіантні)? Якою була роль жінки? (і її сприйняття чоловіками, які вважали Бертранду легковірною, слабкою, дурненькою жінкою, яку, через слабкості її статі, можна легко обдурити - хоча така позиція для неї все ж була позитивнішою) Наскільки людина була сама собою і як її можна було впізнати/невпізнати? Загалом, ця праця дає змогу зроуміти, так що ж таке "мікроісторія", бо є чудовим її прикладом. І ще варто додати про дуже гарний стиль викладу - легкий, захолюючий, схожий до художнього детективного жанру))

  • Minna
    2019-02-10 08:15

    I would never have picked this up if it wasn't assigned reading for a class, but it was thoroughly engrossing. The focus on telling a story is a large part of that: it's a slim volume that wanders little from its core narrative, a "prodigious history" of a family abandoned, a charismatic impostor posing as the returning husband, and the providential last-minute arrival of the real husband during the trial of the impostor. However, the book doesn't end with the return of Martin Guerre - there are still three chapters left, taking into account the afterlife of the story, through the two contemporary accounts and the men who wrote them to references and retellings after. The closing sentence of the book highlights the uncertainty at the heart of the story and the life it took on after: "I think I have uncovered the true face of the past—or has [the impostor] done it once again?" We were instructed, while reading this, to think about why Davis would choose to tell this story, and what value her telling of it has. There's the obvious reason why she told it, which she admits in the beginning: she was intrigued by the story, and wanted to take a historical approach to it, having found working on a film of it ultimately unsatisfying. She wanted answers. But it's the search for answers that ends up being the real story of the book. As a person in the village, a family members, the wife of Martin Guerre, how do you determine the truth about a man who claims to be Martin Guerre returned after years away? There are uncertainties, sure, and people don't recognize him at first, but he seems to remember so much. As a judge in either of the trials of the false Martin, how do you establish the truth of his identity? And there are more questions brought up in the second: could Martin's uncle have forced Martin's wife to bring the trial against the man she's been treating as her husband for three years against her will? There are questions of complicity, loyalty, memory, honor. And how do you punish such a rare crime? How do you - as one of the judges did in his account of the case, one of the two accounts published soon afterwards - justify putting an impostor to death in a case where everything was so unclear until the precipitous arrival of the real Martin?More to the point: as a historian, working with the fragments left of the past, evaluating sources and sometimes the people who wrote them (as the judges in the trial did the characters of the witnesses), relying on incomplete information and the memories of strangers, how do you establish the truth? To me, this is the question this book revolves around, and like many of the questions of the case of Martin Guerre, it remains open at the end. Davis makes much of three figures in her tale. The first is Bertrande, wife of Martin Guerre. In something of a leap of imagination, Davis sees her as complicit in the false husband's deception, hoping he'll be proved true even as she brings the trial against him. There's a concern in this book with giving Bertrande a level of agency and sense that she is largely not given in the historical record. Since Davis admits that some of this is a work of imagination, I don't really see a problem with it; as Davis mentions, there is no female perspective on this tale until the 20th century, and (to deviate from the general tone of this review) I'm always a slut for adding in female perspectives to historical events. There is no way of knowing Bertrande's inner life at the center of such a strange set of events, but Davis presents one possibility.The second is Arnaud du Tilh, the impostor himself. A dazzling figure, apparently, in both contemporary accounts, he's an object of fascination for Davis as well. It is a massive feat he pulled off: successfully convincing a bunch of strangers that he was someone who had grown up in their midst, not just on the strength of their physical resemblance but by seeming to have Martin's memories as well. Even by the end, with the reappearance of the real Martin, it's a little hard to accept that the real Martin really is real despite the evidence. And honestly, there are still questions in my mind - and I think that's kind of the point, and why the story and Arnaud retain their fascination. That's something Davis highlights with her discussion of the story's afterlife, especially in the chapter "Of the Lame," where she mentions an essay where Arnaud's death sentence and the uncertainties of the trial were used by someone who witnessed the sentencing to argue that sometimes sentences should not be passed. The questions about Arnaud do not end with his death by hanging; he remains an ambiguous figure. The third is one of the judges who presided over the second trial, Jean de Coras. He wrote one of the two contemporary accounts of the case mentioned before in this review, but she spends time on Coras as a person and relates his experience to the case. She suggests that he returned to it in the account specifically to justify his decision and resolve his own uncertainty about the case. He often, apparently, returned to old writings, feeling that he had new things to say, had gained more insight since. It is this characteristic that I think is most important to Davis. Here, again, is the idea that truth is not stable. You can put the facts together into a good argument, but that doesn't mean that is the only truth there will ever be. People grow and find new insights; different people offer different interpretations; new generations find still more. Through telling a single, remarkable story of sixteenth-century deception, Davis highlights a central tension of the discipline of history: the elusiveness of truth.

  • Erin
    2019-02-04 14:20

    A book I read for a class titled "The Mind, the Soul, and the Self in Early Modern Europe." I probably wouldn't have picked it up on my own, but this is probably one of the few books I read for school that I wound up liking. It's an interesting story and really makes you think about the power of the mind, will, the ramifications of not having photography and/or mirrors and the weakness of memory. Got a bit more into detail near the end (after the death of Arnaud du Tilh) that probably wouldn't be relevant if you're just interested in the story of Martin Guerre, but I had to read it anyway and I'm not mad.