Written over the course of four decades, Francois-ReneÅL de Chateaubriand’s epic autobiography has drawn the admiration of Baudelaire, Flaubert, Proust, Roland Barthes, Paul Auster, and W. G. Sebald. In this unabridged section of the Memoirs, spanning the years 1768 to 1800, Chateaubriand looks back on the already bygone world of his youth. He recounts the history of his aristocratic family and the first rumblings of the French Revolution. He recalls playing games on the beaches of Saint-Malo, wandering in the woods near his father’s castle in Combourg, hunting with King Louis XVI at Versailles, witnessing the first heads carried on pikes through the streets of Paris, meeting with George Washington in Philadelphia, and falling hopelessly in love with a young woman named Charlotte in the small Suffolk town of Bungay. The volume ends with Chateaubriand’s return to France after eight years of exile in England.
In this new edition (the first unabridged translation of any portion of the Memoirs to be published in more than a century), Chateaubriand emerges as a writer of great wit and clarity, a self-deprecating egoist whose meditations on the meaning of history, memory, and morality are leavened with a mixture of high whimsy and memorable gloom.