5 MARCH 1932, Page 40

THE CIVILIZATION OF FRANCE By Dr. Ernst Robert Curtius '

, Dr. Curtius has written one of those books so popular since

• the War, in which a prominent publicist of one nation exam- ines and criticizes the characteristics of another. The Civilization • • of France (Allen and Unwin, 12s. 6d.), brilliantly written, Dad skilfully translated by Miss Olive 'Wyon, is a welcome addition to the series. Dr. Curtius writes of French civilization In a sympathetic spirit and with an evident desire to under- stand and admire. The sharpness of 'contrast between French and German has perhaps helped him in his task ; for he is naturally Mast Sensitive to those peculiar qualities in which Frenchmen diverge most conspicuously from his own compatriots. This book is not mainly—indeed, it is scarcely at all—political, though Dr. Curtius analyses the intensely nationalistic Spirit of France, curiously combined with an apparently complete absence of race-instinct or race-con- kciousness. The best chapter is perhaps the one devoted to " Literature and Intellectual Life." Dr. Curtius shows how France "has made intellect a national institution " ; how prose in France has in the last resort always prevailed over poetry ; and how the classical spirit in French literature has found expression even in the mouths of Romantics, Symbolists and Modernists. It is no accident that France, having lived down a superficial and undeserved reputation for lightness of head and heart, stands in the world to-day as the principal bulwark of tradition, nationalism and security.