Thomas, Chantal

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THOMAS, Chantal




Agent—c/o Author Mail, George Braziller, Inc., 171 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016; fax: 212-689-5405.


Writer, educator, historian, and researcher. Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France, director of research. Has taught literature in New York, NY, and Tucson, AZ.


Prix Femina, for Les Adieux a la Reine.


Sade, l'oeil de la lettre, Payot (Paris, France), 1978.

Casanova: Un voyage libertin, Denoël (Paris, France), 1985.

(With Claude Bonnange) Don Juan ou Pavlov: essai sur la communication publicitaire, Seuil (Paris, France), 1987.

La reine scélérate: Marie-Antoinette dans les pamphlets, Seuil (Paris, France), 1989, translated by Julie Rose as The Wicked Queen: The Origins of the Myth of Marie-Antoinette, Zone Books (New York, NY), 1999.

Thomas Bernhard, Seuil (Paris, France), 1990.

Sade, Seuil (Paris, France), 1994.

La vie réele des petites filles, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1995.

(With Jean-Marie Abgrall) Healing or Stealing? Medical Charlatans in the New Age, Algora Publishing (New York, NY), 2000.

Coping with Freedom: Reflexions on Ephemeral Happiness, translated by Andrea L. Secara, Algora Publishing (New York, NY), 2001.

Lettres de Madame du Deffand, Mercure de France (Paris, France), 2002.

Les adieux à la reine (novel), Seuil (Paris, France), 2002, translated by Moishe Black as Farewell, My Queen, G. Braziller (New York, NY), 2003.

La lectrice-adjointe: Suivi de Marie-Antoinette de le théâtre, Mercure de France (Paris, France), 2003.

(With Denis Reynaud, Charlotte Burel, and others) Le régent: entre fable et histoire, CNRSéditions (Paris, France), 2003.


In both a nonfiction book and a novel, Chantal Thomas, an expert in eighteenth-century literature, explores the life and the myth of celebrated French queen Marie-Antoinette. The Wicked Queen: The Origins of the Myth of Marie-Antoinette is a detailed study of the attacks made upon Marie-Antoinette in the pamphlets and popular media of the late-eighteenth century. Thomas offers a "lively examination of the extensive defamatory, and often pornographic pamphlet literature directed against the queen," noted Elizabeth Colwill in Canadian Journal of History. In the pamphlets, Marie-Antoinette was characterized as a monster, accused of base depravities, and denigrated without mercy. In lurid, inflammatory accounts, she was accused of being "a treacherous tribade [lesbian], incestuous mother, and bloodthirsty Austrian wolf," Colwill stated. Over time, the pamphleteers "were forced to cast their target in ever more unfavorable ways to increase their sales and perpetuate the culture of shock that they had created," commented Jason T. Kuznicki in Journal of Women's History.

These pamphlets succeeded in their mission of "undermining the monarchy," stated Jay Freeman in Booklist. Further, the image of the queen that they perpetrated was a lasting one. "Thomas shows how deadly media attacks could be in the late eighteenth century, effective enough for the image of a frivolous queen to have lasted for two centuries," commented Angelica Goodden in the Times Literary Supplement. Thomas "rightly refuses to gloss the pornographic content of the pamphlets and transcribes seven pamphlets in full, invoking the catalogue of charges against Marie-Antoinette in colorful prose that lays bare the dual tasks of gratification and condemnation that the literature performs," Colwill observed. Freeman called the book "an unusual and interesting examination of a primitive but quite effective effort at mass political indoctrination."

Farewell, My Queen is Thomas's fictionalized account of Marie-Antoinette's last days at Versailles before the eruption of violence of the French Revolution and the queen's last gasp on the guillotine. "Marie-Antoinette is the subject of hundreds of biographies and novels, but perhaps none of them brings the reader quite so close to her as Farewell, My Queen," commented Hilary Mantel in the New Statesman. "And there are very few historical novels that create, as this one does, a shiver of uncertainty in the reader."

Farewell, My Queen is told from the point of view of Madam Agathe-Sidonie Laborde, the queen's designated reader. More than twenty years have passed since the fall of the Bastille and the destruction of Louis XVI's court at Versailles, and it is Agathe's intention to set down the story of her queen as she saw it, as both observer and participant. She describes in detail the three days between the storming of the Bastille by revolutionaries and the panic-stricken flight of the residents of Versailles. When word of the fall of the Bastille reached Versailles, courtiers gathered what belongings they could carry and fled, leaving behind possessions and children alike. Finally, Agathe fled. Louis, racked with indecision, remained behind, as did Marie-Antoinette; both would die in the revolution.

A Publishers Weekly reviewer called Farewell, My Queen a "graceful, exquisitely detailed novel." Thomas's "imaginative fluency and her close acquaintance with every detail are astonishing; her writing is delicate, aerial, precise," Mantel observed. The book "is an object lesson in how quickly the end can come when those in power believe so much in their own glory that they are the last to smell the stench of their own corruption," commented Helen Falconer in the Guardian. And Washington Post Book World reviewer Zofia Smardz declared: "Farewell, My Queen is no ordinary historical novel. It's a bravura glimpse into a time past and a dreamlike life that seemed to have nowhere to go but oblivion."



Biography, summer, 2003, Philippe-Jean Catinchi, "Orleans, Phillipe, Duc D', Regent de France," pp. 547-548.

Booklist, April 1, 1999, Jay Freeman, review of The Wicked Queen: The Origins of the Myth of Marie-Antoinette, p. 1384; May 15, 2003, Karen Jenkins Holt, review of Farewell, My Queen, p. 1640.

Canadian Journal of History, April, 2001, Elizabeth Colwill, review of The Wicked Queen, p. 131.

Choice, November, 1999, T. J. Schaeper, review of The Wicked Queen.

Guardian (Manchester, England), January 10, 2004, Helen Falconer, "The Rats of Versaille: Helen Falconer Eavesdrops on a Fictionalised Marie-Antoinette," p. 26.

Journal of Women's History, spring, 2000, Jason T. Kuznicki, review of The Wicked Queen, p. 234.

Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2003, review of Farewell, My Queen, p. 567.

Library Journal, March 15, 1999, Jean E. S. Storrs, review of The Wicked Queen, p. 95; July, 2003, Jo Manning, review of Farewell, My Queen, p. 126.

New Orleans Times-Picayune, August 31, 2003, Julia Kamysz, "Allons, Enfants; Maybe Not. Farewell, My Queen Is a French Revolution Tale Minus the Suspense of the Event," p. 7.

New Statesman, January 19, 2004, Hilary Mantel, "The Real Princess: Marie-Antoinette Has Been the Subject of Countless Biographies, but None Brings Her to Life More Fully Than Chantal Thomas's Vivid Historical Novel," pp. 50-51.

New York Times Book Review, August 31, 2003, Alan Riding, "Late Lunch with Late King," p. 18.

Publishers Weekly, June 9, 2003, review of Farewell, My Queen, p. 37.

Times Literary Supplement, February 4, 2000, Angelica Goodden, "Social History"; January 16, 2004, David Coward, "Last Days at Versailles."

Washington Post Book World, August 24, 2003, Zofia Smardz, "Lady in Waiting," p. T07.*