Why Vauban?

Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban (1633-1707) was an engineering genius, Maréchal de France, and visionary military strategist whose legacy lives on in the network of distinctive, star-shaped fortresses that still dot the frontiers of metropolitan France. Vauban's contributions were many but he is today perhaps best known for his role in crafting the defensive doctrine of natural borders. The Kingdom of France was a polity; it was also a territorial entity. For Vauban, the surest way to safeguard the former was to fortify the external frontiers of the latter. It is our hope that the written word can serve a similar purpose, fortifying a certain idea of culture as rooted, historic, and always fragile, the better to ensure its survival.

Why Vauban Books?

Vauban Books is a project in translation, a counter-project. It was born of the realization that so much of what passes for contemporary writing in Europe and, in particular, France reflects a very deliberate process of ideological curation and gatekeeping. Some voices are amplified, often for no other reason than that they flatter the prevailing doxa on this side of the Atlantic; other voices, some of them quite prominent, are neglected or even actively suppressed when what they have to say runs counter to it.

The result, inevitably, is a false picture of the world and of our place within it. Europe today is a continent riven by conflict, anxiety, and increasingly stark polarization. Its predicament, in other words, shares much in common with our own. While this refusal to make dissonant voices available in translation may well serve the interests of “narrative management,” it runs directly counter to those of free inquiry, open debate, and, indeed, democracy itself.

This must be refused. Precisely because our fates are so closely joined, we have much to learn from Europe, all the more so when what it has to teach us is unsettling or inconvenient for those who would impose a single filter on the phenomena of social and political life. It is this cause that Vauban Books, in its small way, seeks to advance.

Vauban Books