This article explores Chateaubriand’s reflections on history and ‘modernity’ by reading an important passage in his autobiography Mémoires d’outre-tombe, which tells of his experience of not being allowed to pass a border in Austria on an important political mission, and his belief that this incident reveals the true nature of the historical changes brought about by the French Revolution and its aftermath. Indeed, the incident represents «modernity» as the epoch which unsettles all traditions and ushers in a preposterous age of irony and outdated anachronisms.

Keywords: Chateaubriand, modernité, 19th century border control, reflection on history, French Revolution, misères ironiques