I am very unsure that I can craft a review that does any justice to the sheer lyricism of this book.
It is to be savoured. The narrative exists ob a variety of levels from the small anecdotal insertions of individual experiences of the archives to the wider reflection on the role of the historian, the exuberance of finding lives otherwise hidden and doing justice to the lives reflected in the authoritative remnants of the past.
This pure treat is a faceted nugget of personal reflection crafted in a way that demands absolutely and willing engagement. I was drawn to connect this work with the same passion that came from Jules Michelet’s own reflections on his drive to establish the foundations of the Franch National Archives.
Farge could not be more pervasive is capturing this engagement with the lives that embody the fragments of the French criminal archives but supremely conveys how the role of the historian extends beyond reflection and in reading but demands intrinsic emotional empathy.