Back to Her Sheep: The Commune and Peasant Politics in George Sand’s Nanon

This article examines Sand’s response to the Paris Commune through a rereading of her novel Nanon, which she started writing just two months after the Commune’s collapse, in July 1871. Sand’s work of fiction refracts the recent traumas of this urban uprising through a retelling of the French Revolution, and the period of the nation’s first Commune (1792–95)—this, from the perspective of the provinces. The article thinks through this double “displacement” of 1871 in Nanon—in particular, the distance that the novel cultivates from the capital of revolution. It situates Sand’s pastoral narrative in relation to contemporaneous discourses on the Commune that recognised in the peasant class an impediment to its radical Republican politics. However unfashionable the pragmatic version of Sand’s Republicanism might be, this article sets out to take seriously the writer’s political thought as it was transposed in fiction. In redescribing, from the periphery, the peasants’ alienation from the political centre, Sand interrogates the blind spots in the Commune’s theorisation of “people” and “nation.”

Claire White
University of Cambridge
Volume 49.3–4