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the Complete Review
the complete review - history

The American Enemy

Philippe Roger

[an overview of the reviews and critical reactions]

general information | review summaries | review and reception notes | links | about the author

To purchase The American Enemy

Title: The American Enemy
Author: Philippe Roger
Genre: Non-fiction
Written: 2002 (Eng. 2005)
Length: 453 pages
Original in: French
Availability: The American Enemy - US
The American Enemy - UK
The American Enemy - Canada
L'ennemi américain - Canada
L'ennemi américain - France
  • The History of French Anti-Americanism
  • French title: L'ennemi américain
  • Translated by Sharon Bowman

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Why we haven't reviewed it yet:

Tempted, but also looks like a lot to take in

Chances that we will review it:

Possibly, eventually

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Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Foreign Affairs A 5-6/2005 Stanley Hoffmann
The Nation . 12/1/2004 Stephen Sartarelli
The New Republic . 28/11/2005 Paul Berman
New Statesman . 18/4/2005 Andrew Hussey
The NY Rev. of Books . 1/5/2003 Tony Judt
Sunday Times . 1/5/2005 Sebastian Faulks
The Telegraph . 3/4/2005 George Walden
TLS . 10/1/2003 Henri Astier

  Review Consensus:

  Impressive and enjoyable

  From the Reviews:
  • " (A) doubly invaluable book. It is an exhaustive history of a phenomenon that, as he shows, has existed in France since the days of the eighteenth-century philosopher-scientist Georges-Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon, to the present. And it is written with enough subtlety, complexity, and awareness of how anti-Americanism is an expression of French beliefs, myths, and fears about France to make it quite unnecessary for anyone else to revisit this territory. (….) (A) brilliantly instructive book." - Stanley Hoffmann, Foreign Affairs

  • "L'Ennemi américain makes lively reading, due in no small part to the author's energetic, ironic commentary. (…) As this culture of complaint builds and ramifies, we witness the birth and development of an intellectual reflex. (…) Roger's exclusion of the other face of the Franco-American relationship -- the commerce of political ideas between the world's two oldest democracies, and especially the French love of American literature, cinema and music -- gives his otherwise admirable book a rather one-sided feel." - Stephen Sartarelli, The Nation

  • "Anti-Americanism in France has been, by Roger's lights, a cultural tradition elaborated by one writer after another over the centuries -- a current of thought and literature that has passed through several phases, each of which can be identified and studied, and each of which has deposited a lasting sediment of ideas and images, destined to influence the writers of the next phase. With this notion in mind, Roger sets out to record the history of these phases, as expressed in works of literature, philosophy, journalism, social criticism, and even painting. (…) Nobody has done as much as Philippe Roger to lay out these phases of the French animus, or to show how vast has been the literature rehearsing these themes -- to demonstrate, in short, that in France such a thing as anti-Americanism does exist and has been expressed in extravagant detail over the centuries." - Paul Berman, The New Republic

  • "The American Enemy is a shrewd and deft analysis of French cultural history which unmasks a great many absurdities, past and present. What it does not address is the extent to which, in today's world, a large dose of Old World anti-Americanism is a necessary corrective to an economic superpower that seems bent on cultural domination." - Andrew Hussey, New Statesman

  • "At upward of a quarter of 250,000 words, it is less a history than an encyclopaedia or compendium. And with what comic high spirits does the story begin. (…) (I)t is the grim achievement of Philippe Roger’s book to demonstrate that France’s lifelong hatred of America does not depend on intermittent justification, but is a self-perpetuating state of mind that meets a vital need in the French psyche. (…) Francophiles, be warned: this is a deeply dispiriting book." - Sebastian Faulks, Sunday Times

  • "For all its amusing vignettes, Philippe Roger's message is sober (…) The English rendering of Roger's book is sometimes awkward, but that is not unusual. French style and French concepts simply do not translate easily into English, and vice versa. Which of course is the problem, although after reading this book one's standard reaction -- "Vive la différence" -- is somewhat muted." - George Walden, The Telegraph

  • "Throughout L'Ennemi americain, Roger highlights an important aspect of French anti-Americanism: it manifests itself through words rather than deeds. American tourists are not targeted for attacks; France is the only great power that has never been at war with the United States. Being above all a "discourse", as Roger puts it, anti-Americanism tends to be confined to intellectual and political elites." - Henri Astier, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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Notes about the Reviews
and the Book's Reception

       The issue of specifically French anti-Americanism was again very prominent around the time of the debates about whether or not to take military action against Iraq, just as Roger's book appeared in France (the fall of 2002). His historic account of French attitudes towards America, though focussed on the past and not taking into account contemporary issues, struck a chord and the book was discussed in the American press even before it was translated. For such a heavy tome it was also fairly widely (and favourably) reviewed once it did come out in translation, and it continues to be a referred-to work.
       The reviews are generally very favourable, though some do note Roger's relentless one-sided perspective (through these often bizarre French prisms) might skew things -- and there is some disappointment that he didn't continue the story with the past few decades worth of anti-Americanism.

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The American Enemy: Reviews:

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About the Author:

       French scholar and author Philippe Roger is editor in chief of Critique.

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© 2007-2008 the complete review

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