During the last years of his life, Napoleon set to dictating his memoirs. These texts should not, however, be confused with the memoirs published by his companions in exile, the success of which has often seen the French emperor's own account of his life left in the dark. Conscious of the remarkable nature of his career, he was not about to let anyone but himself recount and interpret his story. And so for more than five years, on the tiny island of Saint Helena, he oversaw a veritable factory dedicated to the production of history.
Painstakingly dictated, reread and corrected by Napoleon himself, these memoirs constitute, if you will, the principal protoganist's view of key moments in his own epic saga. Which makes the fact that these writings have not been republished for over one hundred years all the more perplexing. The particular version of the texts we have chosen to reprint here is the emperor's own edition. And even if he prefers, understandably, to offer his truth, to emphasise the consistency in his decisions, and to save the best role for himself, he nevertheless refrains from altering the facts, their chronology or their unfolding in the story. And as far as his interpretations go, who are we to criticise him for them? Why should he not be allowed to offer his opinion, his version of events, when so many other witnesses and historians of the period have offered theirs? [T. Lentz]
The first in what will eventually be three volumes dedicated to Napoleon's memoirs allows us to truly understand not only the French emperor's considerable writing talent but also what historian Louis Adolphe Thiers meant when he said “The [19th] century had an immortal writer, immortal like Caesar: it was the ruler himself, a great writer because he was great in spirit.” What more is there to say?
This edition also includes a detailed introduction to the series as well as an introduction to this particular volume.
[I.D. tr. H.D.W.]
– Volume 2: The Egyptian campaign
– Volume 3: The island of Elba and the Hundred Days
Thierry Lentz was awarded the 1997 Fondation Napoléon history prize for a work on the First Empire.
Mémoires de Napoléon: la Campagne d’Italie (Vol. I) (in French)
Author(s) : LENTZ Thierry, NAPOLEON I
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- Paris, Tallandier
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