Season of Infamy: A Diary of War and Occupation, 1939-1945

Season of Infamy: A Diary of War and Occupation, 1939-1945

Season of Infamy: A Diary of War and Occupation, 1939-1945

Season of Infamy: A Diary of War and Occupation, 1939-1945

Synopsis

In 1939, the 65-year old French political economist Charles Rist was serving as advisor to the French government and consultant to the international banking and business world. As France anxiously awaited a German invasion, Rist traveled to America to negotiate embargo policy. Days after his return to Paris, the German offensive began and with it the infamous season of occupation. Retreating to his villa in Versailles, Rist turned his energies to the welfare of those closest to him, while in his diary he began to observe the unfolding of the war. Here the deeply learned Rist investigates the causes of the disaster and reflects on his country's fate, placing the behavior of the "people" and the "elite" in historical perspective. Though well-connected, Rist and his family and friends were not exempt from the perils and tragedies of war, as the diary makes clear. Season of Infamy presents a distinctive, closely-observed view of life in France under the occupation.

Excerpt

Robert O. Paxton

Bad times make for good diaries. france experienced its worst time since the Black Death of 1381 with defeat by the German army in May–June 1940, followed by a military occupation until August 1944. Humiliation was followed by cold, hunger, and internal division. On one side was the collaborationist government of the World War I hero Marshal Philippe Pétain, located at Vichy, a spa town in the southern hills of the Auvergne, while Paris was occupied by the Germans. On the other side was a growing opposition. the opposition itself was divided between underground Resistance movements within occupied France and the Free French government-in-exile in London (in Algiers after summer 1943). the two oppositions were gradually pulled together by the imperious personality of General Charles de Gaulle. Marshal Pétain had personally brought France into an armistice with Germany in June 1940, and he was determined to maintain French neutrality under the armistice even when the Germans exceeded their allotted powers. De Gaulle thundered on the bbc that the armistice was illegal and that the true France, which he embodied, was still at war with Germany. An increasing number of French people listened to him, and the Vichy and German police increasingly tracked them.

The wartime diary of Charles Rist, first published in France in 1983, appears here in English to join other classic diaries of this period such as Jean Guéhenno’s Diary of the Dark Years, Marc Bloch’s Strange Defeat, and Hélène Berr’s Journal. These four diaries are very different, each one the product of a strong mind and particular circumstances. But they are similar in their acute powers of observation, their moral exigency, and their eloquence. Guéhenno, a writer and literature professor in preparatory classes for university applicants, employed formidable powers of intellectual and ethical judgment as he examined the occupation and Vichy’s responses to it from an outsider’s . . .

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