12th annual Bastille Day Quiz! La farfouille de l’histoire / A Historical Grab-bag

Welcome to our annual Bastille Day quiz!

A gathering of fun facts about revolutions to provoke and inspire debate, and to sustain the human spirit of defiance, until such time as truth and decency are seen in government, and the powers that be serve us all.

12th annual Bastille Day Quiz: La farfouille de l’histoire / A Historical Grab-bag


1. Which twentieth-century American author pokes fun at aristocratic pretensions by naming a child born in a dingy tenement to working-class parents “Marry Anto’nette”?

a. Tom Wolfe, in Bonfire of the Vanities

b. Ayn Rand, in Atlas Shrugged

c. Edith Wharton, in The House of Mirth

d. John Updike, in Rabbit Run

2. Which nineteenth-century American writer railed against the habit of reading newspapers, claiming news is basically just gossip, and arguing that “nothing new does ever happen in foreign parts, a French revolution not excepted”?

a. Walt Whitman, in Specimen Days

b. William James, in The Varieties of Religious Experience

c. Louisa May Alcott, in Little Women

d. Henry David Thoreau, in Walden


3. Queen Marie-Antoinette is credited with promoting Japanese art in France, thanks to her collection of what traditional objects?  (Hint: In 1793, after her execution, this collection was saved for posterity by Marie-Etienne Nitot, founder of Chaumet.)

a. silk kimonos

b. lacquer boxes

c. glazed stoneware dishes

d. folding screens


4. Among the world’s iconic revolutionary songs, one must remember “¡El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!” (“The People United Will Never Be Defeated”) by Sergio Ortega and Quilapayún. This song, beloved to Chileans, commemorates the revolutionary optimism of what years?

a. 1960s and 1970s

b. 1980s and 1990s

c. 1830s and 1840s

d. 1890s and 1900s

5. Nostalgia for revolutions past can be heard in songs by Bob Dylan (b. 1941). “There was music in the cafés at night and revolution in the air,” comes from one of his most poignant hits. Where is that line found? Choose the correct song title.

a. “Simple Twist of Fate”

b. “Tangled Up in Blue”

c. “Blowin’ in the Wind”

d. “Slow Train”

6. Gil Scott Heron (1949-2011) is another great artist in the revolutionary tradition. In his spoken word / drums and flute performance of “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” (1970) he cajoles, entreats and finally warns people about paying attention and resisting oppression before it is too late. Many have noted the ongoing relevance of his words to our recent times in the USA. Which of the following lines is not in this song?

a. “You will not be able to stay home, brother / You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out”

b. “The revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner, because / The revolution will not be televised, brother”

c. “There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down brothers on the instant replay / There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down brothers on the instant replay”

d. “There will be no highlights on the eleven o’clock news / And no pictures of hairy armed women liberationists / And Jackie Onassis picking her nose”

7. In the YouTube video accompanying his 2019 hit “Sisyphus,” Indie rock singer Andrew Bird (b. 1973) poses in a startling new version of famous art from the revolutionary period in Europe. In so doing, he makes a cryptic commentary on political activism. Which painting is it? 

a. The virile working man Sans-Culotte painted in 1792 by Louis Leopold Boilly

b. Jacques Louis David’s portrait of the dying rabble-rouser, Jean-Paul Marat in his bathtub (1793)

c. The gory and violent Saturn Devouring his Son by Francisco Goya (c. 1819-1823)

d. All of the above.


8. Dix pour cent (Call My Agent), is a popular French miniseries, launched in 2015, which ends with a struggle over the production of a film about the French Revolution. The director’s name for that fictive ode to resistance has a certain symbolic resonance for French-speaking audiences, suggesting support for Left-wing causes. Which is the correct name of the director in the show?

a.  Xavier Beauvois

b. Xavier Lerouge

c. Xavier Saint-Just

d. Xavier du Giletjaune

9. In a clever mise en abyme (or play-within-a play), Lydia West, heroine of the excellent British drama, It’s a Sin (2021), takes on the role of a rollicking tricoteuse (knitting needles in hand!) in a musical and sings her heart out every night, while enduring a trauma of her own at home. She brings that role to life in 1980s London while the AIDS epidemic is annihilating her friends and while the British public and its health authorities look away in denial and disgust. At a climactic moment in the plot, her theatrics are juxtaposed to the terrible denouement of her best friend’s life, played by the boyish, ebullient Olly Alexander. What happens at that moment? Choose the accurate event.

a. he dies

b. he learns he has AIDS

c. he makes love with a man for the first time

d. he commits suicide by jumping in front of a train


10. We’ve all heard of, if not tasted, Lobster Thermidor: a rich yellow/orange dish made of lobster, brandy, egg yolks, and English mustard. It was named “Thermidor” by a woman restauranteur, in reference to the month made notorious by the Terror of 1794. Some say the Terror ended that day, 10 Thermidor, when Robespierre was executed along with his brother and their closest friends and associates among the Montagnards, thus ushering in a new government, the Directoire. Others say the extreme measures of Robespierre’s regime were simply replaced by a new police state using different forms of repression to snuff out the original populist revolutionary principles. This lady’s clever marketing was a hit, because Robespierre had a lot of admirers in her day, as a martyr of revolutions past. Who amongst us realizes that the dish, Lobster Thermidor, was not created in 1794 but actually in…

a. 2020

b. 1830

c. 1891

d. 1975

ARTWORK: Le Village (The Village) by Fernand Léger (1914) ; seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Bon courage!

Come back tomorrow, July 15, for the answers!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s