Archive for Napoléon Bonaparte

Dos de Mayo [book review]

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , , on August 23, 2016 by xi'an

Following a discusion I had with Victor Elvirà about Spanish books, I ordered a book by Arturo Pérez-Reverte called a Day of Wrath (un día de cólera), but apparently not translated into English. The day of wrath is the second of May, 1808, when the city of Madrid went to arms against the French occupation by Napoléon’s troops. An uprising that got crushed by Murat’s repression the very same day, but which led to the entire Spain taking arms against the occupation. The book is written out of historical accounts of the many participants to the uprising, from both Madrilene and French sides. Because of so many viewpoints being reported, some for a single paragraph before the victims die, the literary style is not particularly pleasant, but this is nonetheless a gripping book that I read within a single day while going (or trying to get) to San Francisco. And it is historically revealing of how unprepared the French troops were about an uprising by people mostly armed with navajas and a few hunting rifles. Who still managed to hold parts of the town for most of a day, with the help of a single artillery battalion while the rest of the troops stayed in their barracks. The author actually insists very much on that aspect, that the rebellion was mostly due to the action of the people, while leading classes, the Army, and the clergy almost uniformly condemned it. Upped estimations on the number of deaths on that day (and the following days) range around 500 for Madrilenes and 150 for French tropps, but the many stories running in the book give the impression of many more casualties.

Forte di Bard

Posted in Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 4, 2016 by xi'an

After our aborted attempt at Monte Rosa, Abele Blanc treated us to a quick visit to Forte di Bard, a 19th Century military fortress in the Valley of Aosta [a first version of which was razed by Napoleon’s troops in 1800] on top the medieval village of Bard. Ironically, the current fortress never saw action as Napoleon’s siege was the last invasion of the kingdom of Savoy by French troops.

The buildings are impressive, so seamlessly connected to the rock spur that supports them that they appear to have grown out of it. They reminded me of Vauban’s fortresses, with the feeling that they were already outdated when they got built. (On the French Savoy side, there is a series of fortresses that similarly faced no battle as they were designed to keep the French out, becoming overnight useless when this part of Savoy was ceded to France in exchange for its support of the unification of Italy. For instance, there is such a fort in Aussois, which now houses an hostel, a gastronomical restaurant [we enjoyed at O’Bayes 03], and a via ferrata…)

The fortress has been recently and beautifully renovated with the help of the Italian State and of the European Union. It houses conferences and art exhibits. Like those on Marc Chagall and Elliot Erwitt that we briefly saw, missing the massive museum of the Alps… A few dozen kilometers from Torino, it would be a perfect location for a small workshop, albeit not large enough for a future MCMski.