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CULTURE

French city of Nice becomes Unesco world heritage site

The United Nation's cultural organisation said on Tuesday that it had added the French Mediterranean city of Nice to its world heritage list.

French city of Nice becomes Unesco world heritage site
Photo: Valery Hache/AFP

UNESCO made the announcement in a tweet calling Nice, famous for its mild climate, the “Winter resort town of the Riviera”.

Nice joins France’s more than 40 world heritage sites which include the banks of the river Seine in Paris, the Amiens cathedral, the Mont Saint Michel and stretches of the Loire valley.

READ ALSO 10 things you might not know about Nice

“The history of Nice, which is at the same time deeply rooted and open, Mediterranean and Alpine, European and cosmopolitan, has produced an architecture and a landscape that are unique, a model for many other cities in the world,” Nice’s mayor Christian Estrosi said in reaction to the announcement.

With close to one million inhabitants, greater Nice is the second-biggest city on the French Mediterranean coast after Marseille, and the fifth-biggest in France.

It is a tourist hotspot with several million visitors per year, and its airport is one of the country’s busiest.

Nicknamed “Nice the Beautiful”, the city attracted European aristocracy from the 18th century, starting with British royalty who had the seafront Promenade des Anglais named after them.

READ ALSO Nice’s mayor explains why his is the ‘most British’ city in France

Painters including Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse also stayed there, as did writers Anton Chekhov and Friedrich Nietzsche.

The seafront walk became the scene of a murderous attack on July 14th, 2016, when a 31-year-old Tunisian drove a truck into crowds gathered for fireworks to celebrate France’s national holiday.

Eighty-six people, including 15 children, were killed in the attack for which the Islamic State claimed responsibility.

The UN cultural body awards world heritage status to sites judged to be of special universal value to humanity.

Top heritage sites include the Great Wall of China, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Machu Picchu in Peru and the Acropolis in Greece.

The sought-after distinction brings intangible benefits, but also often boosts tourism, and can help secure funding for the preservation of sites.

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HISTORY

‘Lost’ manuscript of pro-Nazi French author published 78 years later

A book by one of France's most celebrated and controversial literary figures arrives in bookstores this week, 78 years after the manuscript disappeared

'Lost' manuscript of pro-Nazi French author published 78 years later

It is a rare thing when the story of a book’s publication is even more mysterious than the plot of the novel itself.

But that might be said of Guerre (War) by one of France’s most celebrated and controversial literary figures, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, which arrives in bookstores on Thursday, some 78 years after its manuscript disappeared.

Celine’s reputation has somehow survived the fact that he was one of France’s most eager collaborators with the Nazis.

Already a superstar thanks to his debut novel Journey to the End of the Night (1932), Celine became one of the most ardent anti-Semitic propagandists even before France’s occupation.

In June 1944, with the Allies advancing on Paris, the writer abandoned a pile of his manuscripts in his Montmartre apartment.

Celine feared rough treatment from authorities in liberated France, having spent the war carousing with the Gestapo, and giving up Jews and foreigners to the Nazi regime and publishing racist pamphlets about Jewish world conspiracies.

For decades, no one knew what happened to his papers, and he accused resistance fighters of burning them. But at some point in the 2000s, they ended up with retired journalist Jean-Pierre Thibaudat, who passed them – completely out of the blue – to Celine’s heirs last summer.

‘A miracle’
Despite the author’s history, reviews of the 150-page novel, published by Gallimard, have been unanimous in their praise.

“The end of a mystery, the discovery of a great text,” writes Le Point; a “miracle,” says Le Monde; “breathtaking,” gushes Journal du Dimanche.

Gallimard has yet to say whether the novel will be translated.

Like much of Celine’s work, Guerre is deeply autobiographical, recounting his experiences during World War I.

It opens with 20-year-old Brigadier Ferdinand finding himself miraculously alive after waking up on a Belgian battlefield, follows his treatment and hasty departure for England – all based on Celine’s real experiences.

His time across the Channel is the subject of another newly discovered novel, Londres (London), to be published this autumn.

If French reviewers seem reluctant to focus on Celine’s rampant World War II anti-Semitism, it is partly because his early writings (Guerre is thought to date from 1934) show little sign of it.

Journey to the End of the Night was a hit among progressives for its anti-war message, as well as a raw, slang-filled style that stuck two fingers up at bourgeois sensibilities.

Celine’s attitude to the Jews only revealed itself in 1937 with the publication of a pamphlet, Trifles for a Massacre, which set him on a new path of racial hatred and conspiracy-mongering.

He never back-tracked. After the war, he launched a campaign of Holocaust-denial and sought to muddy the waters around his own war-time exploits – allowing him to worm his way back into France without repercussions.

‘Divine surprise’
Many in the French literary scene seem keen to separate early and late Celine.

“These manuscripts come at the right time – they are a divine surprise – for Celine to become a writer again: the one who matters, from 1932 to 1936,” literary historian Philippe Roussin told AFP.

Other critics say the early Celine was just hiding his true feelings.

They highlight a quote that may explain the gap between his progressive novels and reactionary feelings: “Knowing what the reader wants, following fashions like a shopgirl, is the job of any writer who is very financially constrained,” Celine wrote to a friend.

Despite his descent into Nazism, he was one of the great chroniclers of the trauma of World War I and the malaise of the inter-war years.

An exhibition about the discovery of the manuscripts opens on Thursday at the Gallimard Gallery and includes the original, hand-written sheets of Guerre.

They end with a line that is typical of Celine: “I caught the war in my head. It is locked in my head.”

In the final years before his death in 1961, Celine endlessly bemoaned the loss of his manuscripts.

The exhibition has a quote from him on the wall: “They burned them, almost three manuscripts, the pest-purging vigilantes!”

This was one occasion – not the only one – where he was proved wrong.

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