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Vidal-Naquet, Pierre


VIDAL-NAQUET, PIERRE (1930–2006), French historian of antiquity, an emeritus professor at Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (ehess). Vidal-Naquet was born in Paris into a typical assimilated and bourgeois French Jewish family, as the eldest of five in a family originating from Carpentras, in the Comtat Venaissin. His father, Lucien, was a lawyer and his mother, Marguerite Valabregue, a relative of the famous musician Darius *Milhaud. He attended a private school until the outbreak of World War ii in 1939. As his father was enlisted in the army, he lived with his mother, brother, and sister for a while in Bretagne, and then moved to Marseille after the defeat of France in 1940, where he stayed until the deportation of his parents in 1944. Coming back to Paris after the liberation, he had to face the death of his parents. He finished high school in 1947 living with his cousins and grandmother. He joined the École Normale in Paris and Marseilles, and began a lifelong friendship with Pierre Nora, Jerome Lindon, and Charles Malamoud. While working with the French periodical Esprit, he met there Alex Derczanski, who trained him in some cultural aspects of Judaism. As a student at the Sorbonne in the 1950s he was challenged by the question of decolonization and was actively engaged against torture during the war in Algeria. From then on he became a widely recognized public figure in two venues: the scholar in Hellenistic studies and the active militant against torture and against Holocaust denial. Internationally renowned as one of the leading specialists in the history of Ancient Greece, he was one of the founders – with Jean-Pierre Vernant, Nicole Loraux, Marcel Détienne – of a new approach to classical Greece. His numerous books were widely translated into many languages. Among them are Myth and Tragedy in Ancient Greece (1994; French, 1972, 1986) published with Jean-Pierre Vernant; The Black Hunter: Forms of Thought and Forms of Society in the Greek World (1986; French, 1966); Flavius Josèphe ou du bon usage de la trahison (1987); Politics Ancient and Modern (1995; French, 1991). In 2005 he published L'Atlantide, petite histoire d'un mythe platonicien.

As a militant against French policies during the war in Algeria in the 1950s and 1960s, he wrote L'Affaire Audin (1958); La torture dans la République, essai d'histoire et de politique contemporaine, 1954–1962 (1975); and Les crimes de l'armée française en Algérie (2001). And as a fighter against the denial of the Holocaust he published Assassins of Memory: Essays on the Denial of the Holocaust (1992; Hebrew, 1991; French, 1987); and with Limor Yagil, Holocaust Denial in France: Analysis of a Unique Phenomenon (1994).

About the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he wrote The Jews: History, Memory, and the Present (1996; French, 1981), and explained his political stance in a volume written as a dialogue, Questions au Judaisme: entretiens avec Elisabeth Weber (1996).

Among his autobiographical works are La brisure et l'attente (1995); Le trouble et la lumière (1998); and Le choix de l'histoire: pourquoi et comment je suis devenu historien (2004).

[Sylvie Anne Goldberg (2nd ed.)]

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