Charles de Gaulle famously asked how one can govern a country with 246 kinds of fromage. Historians could just as easily ask how one can understand a country with even more kinds of lieux de mémoire. A term coined by the historian Pierre Nora, a memory site is a shape-shifter. It points to those ideas or individuals, movements or monuments, literary works or legal texts which take on and take off different meanings over the centuries. In their three-volume work Les Lieux de mémoire, Nora and his colleagues applied the concept to a dazzling array of such sites, ranging from Verdun to Versailles, the Tour de France to the Tour Eiffel, the civil code to the paintings at Lascaux.

In this Baedeker guide for semioticians, one of the most intriguing sites is la gauche et la droite. The twinned concepts of the left and right were forged in the

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