Saturday, January 30, 2010

New Book about southern France in WW2

Catherine, one of the contributors to this Second World War Blogspot has recently (December 2009) had a book with three fictional tales about the latter part of the Second World War in the 'Alpes-Maritmes' region of southern France. Written in French and entitled 'Histoires floues' (which one may translate as 'Fuzzy stories') the book is composed of three stories about survivors of the Nazi Occupation and their descendants.

Based in the area where Catherine lives, the themes in the stories have been thoroughly researched. They are set within the context of what happened in France during the Nazi Occupation of the Southern Zone, and the remembrance of these years, which may be fuzzy (or blurred if you like) looking back from the present time.

Well done on getting the book published, Catherine!


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Some thoughts on Catherine’s book (May 2010)

Having read through Catherine’s novel (‘Histoires Floues’, or ‘Blurred Stories’) a couple of times, here are a few brief thoughts on it. This is just a personal reflection. Others who read the book may have a similar or a totally different impression.

Having undertaken a reasonable amount of research about the Second World War in France, a number of the themes and ideas in Catherine’s fictional story have a certain familiarity to them. Although the actual stories are fictional, they are obviously base upon some thorough research on Catherine’s part.

During the Second World War France was, of course, an ‘Occupied country’. This, I feel, makes a significant difference to the way the war has been thought about between France and a country like the UK which was not occupied.

For example, in Britain, people who remember the war years may talk about rationing, or American and Commonwealth troops who lived in their communities. On the other hand, in France, many people went into hiding to escape being rounded up by the invading Occupier, and these people had no rationing cards and were dependant on the goodwill of others, who were putting their own freedom or lives at risk in doing so.

Additionally, people in Occupied France would wonder “When will the Allies come to help us?” or “Where are they?” This was a somewhat different situation to a family in Britain listening to a radio broadcast by Winston Churchill about how bad things were at present but that in the end they would have Victory.

Also, in the post-war era many of the remembrances of the war years were different between Britain and France. At best, memory can be a selective thing. In both countries, it is true that good things would be remembered, while perhaps more painful experiences would not be discussed to the same extent. History, or the stories that make up history, as the book’s title suggests, can become blurred over time.

During my wartime research in France, and also in Belgium and the Netherlands, I have met people who have told me, “We do not speak to that family. We know what they did in the war!” As one can see from this, in some cases writing about the war years in France - or other Occupied countries - can be rather difficult! Therefore, putting the themes into print in a fictional setting, but based on reality, is a really excellent way to allow people to learn about the type of things that happened in the recent past.

In ‘Histories Floues’, Catherine ties together many of these underlying attitudes about the war. More than 60 years after the end of the Second World War there are people in France - and elsewhere - who would deny the Holocaust and the part that some French people played in it. In reality, there were children in reality who had to hide away to avoid being ‘rounded up’ and transported to a place where death was almost certain. The book is largely set in and around southern France - Catherine’s home – and helps set the place as well as the time.

On the whole, this is an excellent read, and was probably even better the second time round. The main disadvantage for Anglophones is that, at present, the book has only been published in French! Being set in southern France there are also some terms and expressions used that are particular to the area around Nice, although this should not really be a problem for anyone able to read ‘standard’ French. In my opinion, it would also make a good film if a French film producer were forthcoming!

So well done again, Catherine!

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Wednesday, 19 May, 2010  

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