The Sisyphean travails of Paul Gauguin, who died an anti-colonial activist

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This summer, members of the Mediapart editorial team separately review books published or republished over the past year and which, while off the bestseller list, have especially pleased them. Here, political correspondent Hubert Huertas has chosen a biography published in March of 19th-century French artist Paul Gauguin, and more especially his last years spent on the Pacific Ocean Marquesas Islands.  He says Laure Dominique Agniel’s book avoids the pitfalls of cap-tipping to a genius, and the portrait that emerges is at times a brutal one, placing this larger-than-life character within the context of his epoch and a people crushed underfoot by colonisation.

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Laure Dominique Agniel has a long career as a journalist behind her, and it shows in the tone of her work Gauguin aux Marquises (Gaugin in the Marquesas). It’s not that the style of her writing is limited to the crisp essentials of a news report - on the contrary, it is dense although never bloated – but her approach to her subject is that of a reporter’s. She brings back to life a man, a society, an epoch, a world and power balances that resonate in the present.