Frederic Raphael

Revenge of the Second-Rate

The Shameful Peace: How French Artists and Intellectuals Survived the Nazi Occupation


Yale University Press 288pp £25 order from our bookshop

Frederic Spotts begins his account of the conduct of French artists during the Occupation with the suggestion that it is a neglected subject. He complains that Robert Aron’s 1954 fat Histoire de Vichy ‘devoted at most three hundred words to cultural matters’ and that, nearly forty years later, Le Régime de Vichy, a 788-page series of papers by seventy-two scholars (the same number responsible for the original Septuagint), contained ‘nary a word’ about artistic life or cultural figures. I suspect that the reason for these alleged omissions was more to do with the French disapproval of historians who stray hors sujet than with any large lack of books on Céline, Sartre and de Beauvoir, Drieu la Rochelle, Gide, Montherlant, Brasillach and everyone else who was anybody during the années noires between 1940 and 1944. In cultural terms, Vichy was only Vichy, while Paris was still, almost, Paris.

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