Thierry Jigourel invites you to discover 2,000 years of history through some fifteen biographies of characters who gave of their person to defend the sovereignty and cultural identity of Brittany. About fifteen handpicked men and women, from the British queen to the singer and the independentist… Fifteen portraits of “rebels and rebels” who teach us as much about the history of Brittany as about the references regionalists.
A subjective regional pantheon ...
The biggest criticism that one can make with this work is its tendency to use a series of historical figures in order to serve a quasi-essentializing vision of the Breton people, considered as an autonomous and immutable entity characterized among other things by the defense of great values. This Breton people, locatable from Antiquity in insular Brittany and Armorica / in mainland Brittany today, is presented as rebellious to any domination which would deprive them of the values which are dear to them: equality, social justice, equality between the sexes, opposition to torture in the name of human dignity… Values which would be all or in part defended by a few rebels and rebels in Brittany for nearly 2,000 years. But can we really envisage a continuity between the revolt of Boudicca at the beginning of our era and the fight of Jean Jacques Le Goarning to give Celtic names to his children during the post-war period? Concretely, no, if we put the events in their context. And it is the concern for the presentation of this work that tends to erase particular contexts in order to embroider a sort of continuous novel of the Breton rebel spirit. We suddenly find ourselves with anachronistic interpretations such as Boudicca, symbol of ancestral parity in Brittany… As if the relations of equality between the sexes over 2,000 years of history could be limited to Boudicca… It is clear that in this work the characters are handpicked according to the image that we want them to embody and that we want to associate with a Breton people considered immutable. And yet a different choice could have conveyed a different image, let's think for example of Surcouf's slave career, of Chateaubriand's royalism and Catholicism, of the career of deputy of ex-chouan Guy Aubert de Trégomain during the Restoration or even to the SS movement Bezen Perot (cited however) founded by the Breton nationalist Célestin Lainé… The choice of characters is therefore far from neutral, the few examples cited here show that among the illustrious characters in the history of Brittany we also have had people far removed from the aforementioned values or who knew how to find their place with the representatives of French power. Suddenly a more objective study would certainly have been able to show that the Bretons' relationship with French power cannot be limited to the image of a people struggling against forced acculturation, to rebels who have always worked against "a systematic ethnic cleansing ”and“ intermediate genocide ”to use the words of Jean Jacques Le Goarning on which the book concludes.
... but a really pleasant reading!
In just over 200 pages, Thierry Jigourel gives us some fifteen short biographies: Boudicca, the widowed queen who rose up against the Roman invader after the rape of her daughters and the attempted plunder of her land; Nominoë, the count of Vannes who claimed his independence to the detriment of the Franks of Charles the Bald in the 9th century; Anne of Brittany, the young duchess forced to become queen of France; Sébastien Le Balp, leader of the popular revolt against the taxes of Louis XIV; Pontcallec, emblematic figure of the conspiracy of the gentry against the imposition of Louis XV; La Chalotais, Attorney General of the Parliament of Brittany, exiled for having defended this institution against the tax abuses of the Duke of Aiguillon; René Jean de Botherel du Plessis, who defends the “rights and freedoms” of Brittany against Louis XVI and then against the Revolutionaries; Armand Tuffin de la Rouërie, former American Revolutionary War veteran who joined the ranks of the counter-revolution; Cadoudal, hero of the Chouannerie; Emile Masson, regionalist libertarian and co-founder of the Breton Nationalist Party under the Third Republic; Louis Napoléon Le Roux, separatist and refractory influenced by the Irish harvest of 1916; Fant Rozec, alias "Meaven", known as the "Red Virgin", idol of Gwenn ha Du (underground separatist movement) who early understood the effectiveness of the symbolic attacks / media duo; General Jacques Pâris de Bolladière, who
denounced torture in Algeria; Morvan Lebesque, Marxist autonomist author in the 1970's of the famous " How can you be Breton? »Partly set to music by the group Tri Yann; Glenmor, charismatic Breton singer; and Jean Jacques Le Goarning who in the 1950's / 1970's opposed French justice to accept the Celtic names he gave to his twelve children.
The style is easy to read, romanticized, not hesitating to play on the pathos and the epic to enhance the characters presented. Characters who of course always carry a fiery spirit and a fierce spirit of freedom that the author wants to raise as the primordial value of a Breton people in perpetual quest for sovereignty. A thinly veiled nationalist message. The juxtaposition of biographies has its advantages and disadvantages: on the one hand, it allows the reader to easily cut off his reading time, or to focus quickly only on a particular character who interests him more particularly, but from a on the other hand, this process involves multiple repetitions of contextual elements between contemporary characters (Botherel and La Rouërie for example). Nevertheless, we have here a very pleasant book to read, close in its approach to subaltern studies with this desire to highlight the struggle of a people against the attempts of submission of the great European nation states. We also find latently this left orientation that we often find in subaltern studies.
To conclude : it's obvious that " Great rebels and rebels of Brittany »By Thierry Jigourel is a book very influenced by a left-wing regionalism, but which turns out to be very pleasant and easy to read, in full knowledge of the facts. A book that will appeal to all lovers of Brittany but also to those who wish to discover the field of experience of Breton regionalism.
JIGOUREL Thierry, Great rebels and rebels of Brittany, Editions Ouest-France, 2013.