Rambaud, Patrick 1946-

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Rambaud, Patrick 1946-


Born April 21, 1946, in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France; married Pham Thi Tieu Hong, May, 1988. Education: Baccalaureat Condorcet, Paris; Lettres moderns a la Faculte de Nanterre. Politics: "Without opinion." Religion: "Without." Hobbies and other interests: Cuisine, gardening, walking.


Home and office—Paris, France.


Writer and journalist. Actuel, cofounder and journalist. Military service: Army de l'Air, 1968.


Prix Alexandre Dumas, 1976; Prix Lamartine, 1977; Prix de l'Insolent, 1988; Grand prix du Roman de l'Académie Française and Prix Goncourt, 1997, for The Battle; Prix ciné-roman, 2001.


La Saignee, Récit, 1970.

(With Michel-Antoine Burnier) Les Aventures Communautaires de Wao-Le-Laid, 1973.

(With Michel-Antoine Burnier) Les Coplots de la Liberte, 1832 (novel), 1976.

Mururoa Mon Amour (satire of Marguerite Duras), 1976.

(With Michel-Antoine Burnier) 1848 (novel), 1977.

(With Michel-Antoine Burnier) Le Romand Barthes San Peine (satire), 1978.

Comme des Rats (novel), 1980.

(With Michel-Antoine Burnier) La Farce des Choses (satire), 1982.

Fric-Frac (novel), 1984.

La Mort d'un Ministre (novel), 1985.

(With Jean-Marie Stoerkel) Frontiere Suisse (novel), 1986.

Comment se Tuer Sans en Avoir L'Air (fantasy), 1987.

(With Bernard Haller) Le Visage Parle (satire), 1988.

Virginie Q (Parodie de Marguerite Duras), 1988.

Bernard Pivot Recoit (satire), 1989.

Le Dernier Voyage de San Marco (novel), 1990.

(With Francis Szpiner) Les Carnets Secrets d'Elena Ceaucescu (satire), 1990.

Ubu President ou L'Imposteur (satire), 1990.

(With Bernard Haller), Fregoli, spectacle pour le Theatre National de Chaillot, 1991.

Les Microbolantes Aventures de Fregoli (biography), 1991.

Le Gros Secret (satire), 1996.

(With André Balland), Oraisons Funebres des Dignitaires politiques qui ont fait leur Temps et Feignent de Laignorer, 1996.

La Bataille (novel), 1997, published as The Battle (novel), translated by Will Hobson, Grove Press (New York, NY), 2000.

Le Journalisme San Peine (satire), 1997.

Les Aventures de Mai (novel), 1998.

Il Neigeait (novel), 2000, published as The Retreat, translated by Will Hobson, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 2004.

(With Louis Cartou, Jean-Louis Clergerie, and Annie Gruber) L'Union européennne, 4th edition, Dalloz (Paris, France), 2002.

L'absent (novel), Grasset (Paris, France), 2003, published as Napoleon's Exile, translated by Shaun Whiteside, Grove Press (New York, NY), 2006.

L'idiot du Village: Fantaisie Romanesque, Grasset (Paris, France), 2005.

Le Chat Botté (novel), Grasset (Paris, France), 2006.


Patrick Rambaud is a writer, journalist, and author of several historical novels, some of which center around the Napoleonic era. The Battle, the first book of a trilogy, focuses on Napoleon's first defeat on the continent, the Battle of Essling in 1809 and is based on notes originally taken by French novelist Honore de Balzac. It was Balzac's intention to write a novel full of pageantry and action, with Napoleon as a distant figure who only becomes completely realized at the end of the story. Balzac never finished the book, but Rambaud has taken up its spirit in The Battle, originally published in French as La Bataille. In Rambaud's account, Napoleon's character is prominent, and he remains front-and-center for all the action. Rambaud describes the emperor's recalcitrant and demanding personality, his preferences when it came to military and personal life, and the copious amounts of goods, food, and material that accompanied him even on the battlefield. Other characters appear to carry the bulk of the story, including Private Paradis, who wants only to survive the carnage and return to his father's farm. In the background, another literary figure—Henri Beyle, otherwise known as Stendhal—considers news of the war while entertaining dreams of Austrian Anna Krauss.

Rambaud does not spare the details of wartime horrors: "The author excels in creating scenes that rip the heroic mask off the atrocities of war," including rape and carnage; the battlefield decisions made by doctors concerning who can and cannot be saved; and the decisive action taken by the Austrians that destroyed the French ability to cross the Danube River, noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer. "Fans of literary fiction as well as classic military fiction will recognize the quality of Rambaud's elegant storytelling," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Rambaud "balances horrific battle set pieces and subtle characterizations to produce what will be a classic," commented David Keymer in the Library Journal.

The Retreat, published in French as Il Neigeait and the second book of the Napoleonic trilogy, tells of Napoleon's 1812 invasion of Russia and the harrowing winter retreat from the area a few months later. With more than seventy-five percent of his troops already dead or wounded, Napoleon's attempt to take Moscow is doomed to failure. A diverse cast illuminates the dreary landscape and extreme physical hardships experienced during this phase of Napoleon's military actions. A young cavalry captain is destroyed piece by piece, physically and mentally, until his mind snaps and he can no longer function. Napoleon himself invents unlikely scenarios involving treaties with the tsar and a triumphant return to Europe. Instead, the fierce Cossacks and the brutal environment annihilate his forces. "Throughout, the author is a master of narrative action," noted Keymer in a Library Journal review. "In a remarkable tour de force, Rambaud re-creates the most famous rout in history, peopled by historical and fictional characters, all equally victimized by the freezing cold," remarked Lucille F. Becker in World Literature Today. "Once more from Rambaud, history that's spectacular, authentic, pitiless, and moving," stated a writer in Kirkus Reviews.

Napoleon's Exile reveals little glory, but there is "plenty of bad behavior detailed in this colorful, exhaustively researched conclusion to Rambaud's popular trilogy," commented a reviewer in Publishers Weekly. In the book, Rambaud chronicles Napoleon's exile to the island of Elba, off the coast of Italy, from 1814 to 1815. The story is told from the perspective of Octave Senecal, one of Napoleon's aides. The account covers in detail Napoleon's disconnect from the realities of war, including his ordering up nonexistent armies. Rambaud describes how the emperor is finally overwhelmed and forced to abdicate, then sent into exile. Even there, Napoleon thrives, biding his time and making plans for his eventual return. A Kirkus Reviews critic named the book "lively, true to history, and a pleasure for period buffs."

Rambaud told CA: "I was born in Paris in 1946. From my father (a jeweler on the rue Royale) I have roots from Lyon (Lyon is the second largest city in France) dating back to the fifteenth century (my ancestors included notaries, deputy mayors, traders, and military personnel); from my mother I have connections with the Perigord (Perigord is a region of France located on the south coast). In brief we are talking about two French regions that are dedicated to gastronomy. That's where my interest for the ‘cuisine’ (that I consume and that I prepare) comes from. The woman of my life is Vietnamese from Hanoi and I add to the French and Italian cuisine some Asian dishes.

"Motivation? I always wrote and I never thought about anything else. Very young I was influenced by Belgian cartoons (Herge, Franquin, Jacobs) then by film, (Fellini, Renoir, Buñuel, Wells, Keaton). Among the writers: Alexandré Dumas, Flaubert, Jules Renard, Paul Morand, as well as Tchouang-tseu, Tanizaki, Orwell, Henry-David Thoreau, Allan Watts, Richard Brautigan….

"During the past thirty years I have written with an old mechanical typewriter, it doesn't matter where or when, or whether it's calm or noisy.

"I am partial to historic subjects, by taste, for reconstructing days gone by and to play with it. Thus, after La Bataille (1809) I am thinking of undertaking the telling of the Russian retreat (1812). I think of writing on the life of Tchouand-tseu, who lived twenty-four centuries ago in China, during the Fighting Kingdoms; I am also thinking about another novel that would include Emerson, Thoreau, and Walt Whitman in Concord, in the middle of the nineteenth century."



Booklist, May 15, 2000, Margaret Flanagan, review of The Battle, p. 1731.

Guardian (London, England), December 17, 2005, Hazel Mills, review of Napoleon's Exile.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2004, review of The Retreat, p. 831; April 15, 2006, review of Napoleon's Exile, p. 377.

Library Journal, May 1, 2000, David Keymer, review of The Battle, p. 154; November 15, 2004, David Keymer, review of The Retreat, p. 51.

New York Times Book Review, June 11, 2000, Jeff Waggoner, review of The Battle, p. 22.

Publishers Weekly, March 13, 2000, review of The Battle, p. 59; October 11, 2004, review of The Retreat, p. 54; February 13, 2006, review of Napoleon's Exile, p. 60.

Washington Post Book World, March 6, 2006, Douglas Porch, "On the March with Bonaparte," review of The Retreat, p. 9.

World Literature Today, winter, 2002, Lucille F. Becker, review of Il Neigeait (The Retreat), p. 175.


French Book News,http://www.frenchbooknews.com/ (April 15, 2007), review of Le Chat Botté.