15 November 2017

Book Launch Spotlight: Joan of Arc and 'The Great Pity of the Land of France', by Moya Longstaffe


New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Joan of Arc's life and death mark a turning point in the destiny both of France and England and the history of their monarchies. `It is a great shame,' wrote Etienne Pasquier in the late sixteenth century, `for no one ever came to the help of France so opportunely and with such success as that girl, and never was the memory of a woman so torn to shreds.' 

Biographers have crossed swords furiously about her inspiration, each according to the personal conviction of the writer. As Moya Longstaffe points out: `She has been claimed as an icon by zealous combatants of every shade of opinion, clericals, anticlericals, nationalists, republicans, socialists, conspiracy theorists, feminists, yesterday's communists, today's Front National, everyone with a need for a figurehead. 

As George Bernard Shaw said, in the prologue to his play, "The question raised by Joan's burning is a burning question still."' 

By returning to the original sources and employing her expertise in languages, the author brings La Pucelle alive and does not duck the most difficult question: was she deluded, unbalanced, fraudulent - or indeed a great visionary, to be compared to Catherine of Siena or Francis of Assisi?

Extract from the Prologue
 ~  Joan: A Burning Question Still 

Ô Jeanne, toi qui as donné au monde la seule gure de victoire qui soit une gure de pitié! 

André Malraux, Rouen, 30 May 1964 

On Wednesday, 21 February 1431, at 8 o’clock in the morning, a girl of nineteen years of age was led into the chapel of the castle of Rouen, before a tribunal presided over by the portly Bishop of Beauvais and comprising no less that forty-two eminent theologians and canon lawyers of all ages, sitting in solemn array, leaning forward and gazing at her with intense curiosity, mingled in many cases with stern disapproval, dark suspicion, and occasionally perhaps even pity. 

She was dressed in plain and sombre male clothing, a belted knee-length tunic over the hose of a page, but she was of average height and build for a girl of her time, not at all the strapping hoyden they might have expected.1 Her dark hair, cut round and still short like a soldier’s even during her captivity in Rouen, lent a curious pathos to her appearance, somehow underlining her present vulnerability. 

Joan of Arc's Tower, Rouen
After passing the previous two months imprisoned in a cell in the tower of the castle, chained to a heavy wooden beam by night and by day, allowed no exercise and only meagre rations, and guarded at all times by hostile English soldiers ‘of the roughest sort’, of whom three were shut in the cell with her at night and two kept guard outside, she now looked pallid and very young. And when she spoke, the greatest surprise of all was her voice, for it was soft and feminine, with a hint of the speech of her native Lorraine.  Who was this notorious and enigmatic prisoner, on trial for her life? What had brought her to this pass?

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About the Author
Moya Longstaffe is a retired Senior Lecturer in French at the University of Ulster, having previously taught at the universities of Bristol. Edinburgh, Heriot- Watt (Edinburgh), Caen and Belfast. She is the author of Metamorphoses of Passion and the Heroic in French Literature: Corneille, Stendhal, Claudel (Edwin Mellen Press) and The Fiction of Albert Camus: A Complex Simplicity (Peter Lang). She has researched the life and trial of Joan of Arc from primary sources over several years.

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