Panorama of the Bay of Figari, looking towards the estuary

First time visitors to Corsica may observe a number of striking things beyond the unremitting coastal beauty and mountain scenery (sometimes reminiscent of the Cévennes) for which the island is known best. Notwithstanding, that is, Asterix in Corsica (see comment 1 below) siestas, vendettas, pungent salamis and cheeses, striking ferry-men or assasinations of French préfets.

Two (other) such things impressed this observer in particular during the Easter break: the quantity of elaborate mini town-house sized family tombs sitting in prime scenic locations (known, in London property development speak as “off-plan holiday studios”); and the frequently implanted roadside ad for Editions Duhmane’s Corsican Encyclopedia in seven volumes. Gibbon, covering a slightly larger subject, managed to produce his masterpiece in six. But it is cruel to begrudge the verbosity surrounding l’île de beauté.

When it comes to relating this sojourn to investing the best the scribe can offer (besides “avoid the over-priced beach front real estate”) is a short Corsican illustration on the role of chance.

Until the eighteenth century the island had been part of the Republic of Genoa for 200 years. Essentially the banker of Spain, Genoa's fortunes declined with the successive debt defaults of its main client. Coupled with its harsh, unsuccessful (socially and economically) administration of Corsica (run at the time, incidentally, by a Genoan bank – vive la finance) it was forced to sell the island to the French in 1768.

A scant year later Napoleon was born in Ajaccio and born French - not a citizen of Genoa. His formerly nationalist father had already set about ingratiating himself (successfully albeit under false pretences) into the French nobility with all the rights of education such status conferred upon his children (including scholarships).

Thus the weight of hazard set about, as it does with finance, shaping the subsequent course of European history.

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3 comments

  1. "Cassandra" // 4/18/2007 07:51:00 PM

    Rawdon,

    Forgive me, but I cannot think of Corse with out conjuring images of Goscinny & Uderzo's "Boneywasawarriorwayayix" and "Courtingdisastus".

    And of course there are the unemployed reserve fire fighters setting the brush alight to supplement their incomes...

  2. RJH Adams // 4/18/2007 08:24:00 PM

    C,

    lol - text amended accordingly.

    R

  3. Anonymous // 4/19/2007 12:22:00 AM

    Year 1968. Slept three August nights on the immense mat of dried seaweed on the beach in Ajaccio under utterly clear skies. The best ever. Spent the intervening two days trying unsuccessfully to hitch a ride to Bastia in the baking sun, bus service not existing. Questions as how best to get there brought out the most puzzled looks on the locals' faces. Got one lift. The guy went three kilometres up the road.

    Welcome back.

    CB

    BTW, having spent three and a half hours filling out papers today at the subsidy office, I'm now reminded that the only time that Asterix was summarily defeated was by the bureacrats that he was forced to face upon his triumphant arrival in Italy.

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