See also: song/chanson
b. 1902, France;
d. 1985, Paris
Perhaps France's most influential postwar historian, Braudel was from 1956 the editor of the journal Annales, was instrumental in the setting-up of the sixth section of the École Pratique des Hautes Études (later the institutional bastion of structuralism), and founded the Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, later to be the power-base of Bourdieu. His institutional importance is fully matched by that of his writing. La Méditerranée of 1947 (on the sixteenth century) and 1979's Civilisation matérielle, économie et capitalisme (XVe-XVIIIe siècle) are two of the century's major works of history. Braudel was elected to the Academic Française shortly before his death.
b. 1929, Brussels;
d. 1978, Paris
Brel, together with Brassens, is regarded as one of the great icons of postwar chanson. Following a middle-class Catholic education in Brussels, Brel escaped his father's cardboard-box factory, to make his debut in 1953 at the Théatre des Trois Baudets in Paris. He initially adopted a lyrical voice in the songs of the 1950s, combining religious and moral zeal with youthful romanticism, typified in 'Quand on n'a que l'amour' (If We Only Have Love), earning from Brassens the nickname l'Abbé Brel (Abbot Brel).
Following a heightened sense of pessimism and disillusionment towards the end of the 1950s, especially where women and love were concerned, as in 'Ne me quitte pas' (If You Go Away), Brel's lyricism was eclipsed by the development of two additional voices. The first satirized middle-class society in songs such as 'Les Bourgeois' (The Bourgeois), and 'Les Flamandes' (The Flemish Women) which made him unpopular in Flanders. Brel's attack was, however, of more universal significance, addressing those who fall into immobility, deny their intelligence and individuality, and refuse to be existentially committed in life. The second voice was developed in a series of invented characters which served to renew his hope of finding the perfect love ('Madeleine', 'Titine', 'Les Bonbons').
The optimism generated in these dramatic songs faded by 1968 with the triumph of death and time, as in 'J'arrive' (I'm Coming). Songs such as 'Les Bonbons 67', the sequel to 'Les Bonbons', degenerated into parody and the burlesque, as characters could no longer hold on to any serious goal in life. Resigned to a more realistic notion of love, as in 'La Chanson des vieux amants' ('The Song of the Old Lovers'), the lyrical narrator returned, escaping nostalgically back towards an idealized childhood. Given the pessimism and escapism of his 1967-8 work, it is perhaps not coincidental that Brel decided to stop his concert tours.
During the 1970s, he went on to star as Don Quixote in the musical Homme de la Mancha (Man of La Mancha), produced and acted in several films, and developed a passion for sailing and flying, all before settling in the
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Publication information: Book title: Encyclopedia of Contemporary French Culture. Contributors: Alex Hughes - Editor, Keith Reader - Editor. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1998. Page number: 79.
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