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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Right, Left and caught in the Middle
France was the major cultural space of the western world in the 1920s and 30s. But it was increasingly wracked by intense cultural conflict in the 1930s between a reactionary and anti-Semitic Right and a socialist and often Communist Left. Intellectuals in the two camps engaged in literary warfare against a wider cultural backdrop of world-class art, music, ballet, and...
Published on December 15, 2010 by Paul A. Myers

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Long List of Names
I am French, and I could recognize most of the people listed in this book, but I expected more than "this one did this, and this one did that" type of book. I found myself jumping to the end of chapters because I was bored. Choosing major protagonists, and placing them in a broader perspective would have helped a great deal. A deeper analysis of why people behave the...
Published 20 months ago by Alice Bidois

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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Right, Left and caught in the Middle, December 15, 2010
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France was the major cultural space of the western world in the 1920s and 30s. But it was increasingly wracked by intense cultural conflict in the 1930s between a reactionary and anti-Semitic Right and a socialist and often Communist Left. Intellectuals in the two camps engaged in literary warfare against a wider cultural backdrop of world-class art, music, ballet, and theater.

Then came 1940 and total political defeat. The German Occupation became a petri dish in which to gauge how different individuals and groups reacted under an often deathly stress. Many French gave a grudging acquiescence to the Vichy government under old Marshal Petain since when you lose, you lose. Many turned against this government "by stooge." After Germany invaded Russia in 1941, the French Communists organized and executed a highly effective and very brave resistance. Many non-Communist resistants also joined the overall movement. So there was a small, vibrant underground cultural resistance.

More interesting is the journey of the Right Wing writers. From being hate-filled polemicists in the 1930s, this group now had the power through their magazines to denounce other Frenchmen and cause their arrest by the Germans, possible deportation to concentration camps, or simple execution in France. Somewhere in here you find the Seventh Circle of Cultural Hell. The irony was that many were brilliant writers and thinkers who took a wrong turn in their personal development, the lure of the romance of extreme ideology with its promise of total commitment so beloved by intellectuals. This is one of the most fascinating sections of Riding's book.

Another interesting section is the account of American Florence Gould, who hosted a very popular salon in Paris during the Occupation. She was also involved in shady financial shenanigans with high-ranking Nazis in a Monaco bank. She said she did this to protect her husband, who was suspected of being Jewish. After the war, she survived investigations into possible collaboration and went on to become a prestigious supporter of the arts and recipient of the French Legion d'Honneur. Riding concludes, "Over the years, Florence's wartime salon and her questionable choice of friends have been quietly forgotten." So for the right people, money buys the prestige of privilege, which can be counted on to buy "understanding" from the right people.

The last section deals with the "epuration," or period of revenge starting with the Liberation and lasting into the peacetime years. This became the mirror-image of the denunciations by the Right Wing writers--a period of false denunciation, settling scores, and for many the safety of silence.

What is not emphasized, but does come out, is that many average French people and workers behaved well under difficult circumstances while many of the elite and privileged behaved rather badly. This book is a beautiful exposition of how a good people behaved in an awful war.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The artist's dilemma, December 16, 2010
Alan Riding's book raises one of the most difficult issues concerning intellectuals living under foreign occupation:to what extent should they resist the enemy? Should they show defiance or show indifference to the occupying forces? What is the intellectual's role in a situation of war?
These questions started bothering Mr.Riding thirty years ago when he asked the same questions about the artists' response to dictatorships in South America. He writes that "few sold out to the dictatorships" then. After started living in Paris, he realized that the same questions could be asked about the French intellectuals and artists during the Nazi occupation in the forties.(p.10,Introduction)
His book starts with the fall of France in June,1940, when the German army drove into Paris unopposed. Within weeks, the remnants of French democracy were quietly buried. Riding continues to introduce us to a very big number of writers, painters, actors, entertainers and dancers who kept being busy under the Nazi occupation.
Broadly speaking, the artists were divided into three main groups: those who collaborated, those who opposed the enemy and those who chose to remain indifferent in a no-man's land. Among those artists discussed are Edit Piaf,Picasso, Chevalier, the pianist Alfred Cortot, the composers Boulez and Messiaen as well as the virulent anti-Semitic writers Celine, Brasillach and Drieu La Rochelle. Camus and Sartre are also discussed in detail. Marguerite Duras joined the resistance along with her husband, Robert Antelme, while the writer Colette spent much of the occupation in her apartment where her Jewish husband was forced to hide every night in a maid's room in the building's attic.
Theaters, nightclubs and cabarets made sure the show went on.
In one of the best chapters of his fascinating book, Mr. Riding discusses in great detail the trials held after the war against those who actively collaborated with the enemy. Laval's trial in October 1945 was most dramatic and then the trials of some artists followed, among them the trial of Brasillach who was condemned to death. Another writer, Charles Maurras, was condemned to life imprisonment.
Riding emphasizes one main thing and that was about writers who had shared one fundamental need during the occupation: that of seeing their words in print. Other artists acted in the same way, showing their motivation to keep appearing under the limelight.
Although some purges were conducted, the cultural life of the French continued after the war and only some artists have undergone judicial procedures.
The main conclusion of the book is that the answers to the questions posed at its very beginning are hard to answer and diverge. Life under the Nazi occupation was not a contrast betweeen black and white, and the many ambiguities, the numerous variants of the German occupiers, the many cases of collaboration or resistance-all these only emphasize the complexities of the whole central issue examined in this interesting book, which is based on extensive research (documents and diaries,mainly) and interviews and also includes sixteen pictures og the main protagonists.
In short, this book is extremely informative, extremely entertaining and a brilliant cultural history which shows how the elites in France reacted during a relatively short time when they were facing evil.
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38 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Panoramic View, November 8, 2010
Presents a vivid and readable panorama of French life during the German occupation of Paris, with particular attention paid to the various artists, journalists, film makers, writers and intellectuals of the time. The activies of many notables are featured--i.e. Coco Chanel, Maurice Chavalier, Sartre, Camus, Picasso, etc.

Only toward the end of the war, did the Resistance garner active moral and armed support. Prior to that, complacency and/or collaboration seemed to have been the rule. Several interesting photographs add to the value and interest level of this historical account.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent, November 10, 2011
There are 3 recent excellent books on life in occupied Paris-
1. And the Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris (Vintage) by Alan Riding (Oct 4, 2011)
2. The Shameful Peace: How French Artists and Intellectuals Survived the Nazi Occupation Frederic Spotts (March 30, 2010)
3. Americans in Paris: Life and Death under Nazi Occupation 1940-44 by Charles Glass (4 Feb 2010)

Riding's book covers a wider ground compared to the two other books.
He starts with the entry of the Nazis into Paris on 14 June 1940. He surveyed how life was like for the writers, artists and cultural elite in occupied Paris. One will find interesting nuggets like the American Varian Fry who was sent by the Emergency Rescue Committee based in New York to help writers and artists flee to the United States in Aug 1940.

Despite opposition even from his own American embassy and the State Department, Fry and his team managed to bring out around 2000 refugees. Sadly according to this book it was only in 1967 , just months before Fry's death, that one of those he saved Dina Vierny persuaded France's Culture Minister to name Fry as a chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur. ( P 89 Vintage 2001 ed ).

Equally sadly, Riding sets out how the Jewish novelist Irene Nemirovsky
who was planning a five-part epic called Suite Francaise , inspired by War and Peace, could only finished the first two volumes before she was taken by French gendarmes and sent to the Nazi camp in Auschwitz where she died. The unfinished manuscript of Suite Francaise was kept by her 2 children who were hidden by the locals and only published 62 years later. ( P 137 ).

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in how the cultural
elites coped with living and working in Occupied Paris. This is no easy story. It is not so clear-cut as either working for or against the Nazis. Riding has pointed out the many complexities and shades of ambiguities of resistance and collaboration in Occupied France as well as Vichy France.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ideology was everywhere, January 30, 2011
M. A Newman (Alexandria, VA United States) - See all my reviews
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Characterizing the cultural scene as a "show" makes perfect sense in this latest addition to the body of histories addressing occupied France during WWII. It was a show because of the sense of unreality which most of the participants sought to embrace. This book recalls some of the grander histories of the late Barbara Tuchman in that really is about more than the sum of its parts and provides insight not into just he events in Paris in 1940-44, but the human condition in general. Alan Riding has provided us not only with a map of the past, but an understanding of the present.

French intellectuals have been notorious for seeking a single all encompassing ideology to explain the world and provide solutions since the 19th century. The suppleness that characterized the salon culture of the enlightenment in which general principles were debated has increasingly been abandoned for the safety of ideologies. This approach, as the author wisely notes led to some errors in judgement which are not limited merely to four years in French history. One can recall many of the more mendacious post war statements of Sartre whose mental clarity was frequently clouded by ideological bias towards Communism if not Maoism. One wonders how some of the people in the book would have fared under the cultural revolution in China where elites were not even allowed the possibility of collaborating with the regime, but were sent out to "learn from the people" as Mao embraced anti-elitism.

What the intellectuals in this book are reacting to are what could most succinctly described as the "uncertainties of the modern age" and the breakdown of the established order which run counter to the sensibilities of most people. Like religious fundamentalists (be they Moslem or Christian) the quest for certainty in age that is anything but can lead all manner of murderous excesses and moral compromises.

During the period in question the two main ideological poles were communism and fascism, both created out of sense of frustration with modernity and like most ideologies dangerous if taken to extremes or embraced whole-heartedly as the source of absolute truths.

France and French intellectuals had sought to explain away the problems of the world by taking an almost racial perspective, that somehow defeat in WWII was the result of having a lack of moral fiber. A lack of planes and tanks along with the strategy to employ them effectively might be a better answer (and one that might have come out of the 18th century rational salon culture), but since this answer was impossible with the constraints imposed by an ideological bent, intellectuals like the author Celine focused on a ritual purification approach and embraced the persecution and deportment of Jews from France, not unlike a previous generation of Frenchmen had focused on Alfred Dreyfus as the scapegoat for defeat in 1870. Prior to the war, the Blum government created a crescendo of loony rightists who were as appalled by having a Jew head a government in France as the "birthers" would later be at having an African American in a similar position in the US in the 21st century. These sentiments were later exploited by both Vichy and the Nazis as a kind of justification for the morally bankrupt behavior that characterized both during the occupation. Celine, obsessed as he was with plots concerning Jews, Free Masons and a need to acquire gold currency comes off as a somewhat insane author whose works seem unlikely to endure much beyond the realm of literary curiosities. His visions of reborn pure France was, however highly seductive to people who shared his vision, which was of course purely an aesthetic one.

On the other side, those who opposed the occupation later acquired the status of having a certain morally prescient nature. This ideological perspective avoids a number of facts. Communists did tend to be quicker than assorted anti-immigrant right wing racists to recognize the Nazis for what they were, but this only took place after the well-beloved Soviet Union was invaded in 1941. The point is made in this book as elsewhere that resistance was not something that was embraced by the mainstream or even those outside it. The lack of moral clarity, which appears in hindsight so obvious to us now, did not govern the initial response of French intellectuals or the man in the street.

Sarte stated after the occupation (and most of Sartre's strong moral positions against the Nazis were taken after they had left France) there were only two choices during 1940-44, collaboration or resistance. Really what most people did as this book points out is to accommodate themselves and their deeply held positions to what they viewed as new reality. It was a rare group of people who could truly be said to have resisted or actively collaborated. To do so effectively in the case of the first generally involved being an early part of the Gaullist government in exile and as is pointed out by Alan Riding, few Frenchmen had any idea what De Gaulle even looked like, much less what he represented.

After the occupation, De Gaulle created the necessary myth that aside from a few bad apples who welcomed the arrival of the Nazis and the defeat of France, all had been part of the resistance and Paris had been liberated by Frenchmen. For those seeking to have their wits dulled, the communists had a similar myth that it had been the vanguard of the resistance movement (something even a devoted communist like the poet Louis Aragon might dismiss). This would be a belief that the nation would embrace for as long as "le general" was in power. In the late 60s, these ideas began to slowly change and it was understood that resistance was something that social heretics performed for most of the war. Moral clarity was not something that well-paid writers, actors, poets, artists, singers or designers really achieved to the degree that would be desirable, despite all the talk about the tradition of public intellectuals. It took a film as powerful as "The Sorrow and the Pity" to drive that lesson home nearly 25 years after the war.

This book is an important addition to the literature dealing with "France's Dark Years," though not as comprehensive as the book by the same title on the subject by Julian Jackson, this book's focus on the artistic and creative world during that period is certainly ground breaking. That Alan Riding includes people like Guitry, Piaf and Baker along with Celine, Gide, Picasso, Matisse, and loads of journalists pursuing their petty vendettas (much like pundits on US television do today) make this book interesting. It is probably one of the most interesting treatments of the period that is likely to emerge and like Barbara Tuchman's books a source for insight into our own ideologically maddened period.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Culture as an extension of war and politics, January 21, 2011
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Alan Riding's meticulously researched and documented account of what happened to the French cultural scene under the German occupation and Vichy regime (1940-mid-1944) presents a vast amount of information about the intellectual movers and shakers of the period. More interestingly, it lays out at least two major historic points about the French and German societies of the time. Riding's detailed account of French high culture and its leading figures is framed by well-explained descriptions of the political and military realities of the same period.

French cultural heavyweights reacted to the swift defeat of the French Army in 1940 in one of several ways: they fled the country, laid low or tried to function within the new political context, or actively and openly collaborated with the occupying Nazi forces. A surprising number were in the latter category. But Riding points out that, in fact, collaboration often had its basis in a vigorous anti-semitism which had been strong in France even before Hitler and the Nazis adopted it as a national policy akin to religion. Which is also one of the reasons so many prominent cultural figures were in the first category and left the country to save their lives. Much of Riding's book is devoted to the collaborators who shared the Nazis' political philosophy and the fence-sitters who tried to carry on as though the occupation were a temporary state of affairs.

A second interesting idea that the author argues in "And the Show...", is that the conquering Germans actually felt, in general, culturally inferior to the French, and worked assiduously throughout much of the occupation period to get the French elites and intelligentsia to accept and extoll the merits of German culture, if not its superiority. A strange position for the conquerors to be in, but a sentiment shaped by a long history of relations between the Germans and French.

"And the Show..." chronicles the reaction of each cultural form to the occupation, including classical music, film, ballet, literature, painting and criticism exhaustively in individual chapters. There is somewhat less information on popular culture, perhaps because music hall performers, jazz musicians, radio actors, comics and writers of middle-brow fiction left less of a written record of their personal adjustment to the political climate to research. (In this context, I was disappointed not to know more about just how American popular music remained so widely performed and recorded during the occupation; and how did someone like guitarist Django Reinhardt with a gypsy background survive the racial purges; and why Georges Simenon's wartime Maigret detective novels were so completely absent any reference to the war or occupation.)

Author Riding includes chapters on two Americans who were important figures to the wartime cultural scene in France. One was literary journalist Varian Fry, who came to France after its partition in mid-1940 at the head of an Emergency Rescue Committee and managed to help more than 2000 imperiled French and other European "cultural" personalities escape the country. Many of these refugees were Jewish or had dangerous political associations. A second American of importance, in Riding's estimation, was Florence Gould, wealthy Franco-American, who set up a literary salon in Paris that brought together French intellectuals of all political stripes, as well as members of the occupying Nazi administration.

The book concludes with the observation that the war and the experiences of the occupation served to move the center of artistic innovation out of Paris and France permanently, with much of it winding up in New York. Whatever the more lasting effects, the war period certainly smoked out the extreme right-wing elements in French culture and robbed anti-semitism of any sense of public respectability to this day

"And the Show Went On" is quite an achievement as a piece of wonderfully detailed modern history. It isn't without a few missing pieces (in my opinion), but its massive assembly of facts and insights by a learned observer, makes it an important and interesting chronicle of a painful period of European history.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Artists in Occupied France, August 8, 2011
There are many poignant passages in this book on the occupation of France from 1940 to 1944. It focuses on artist performers and intellectuals (writers, poets...) and how they coped during these trying years. It must be remembered, that initially with Petain, the word "collaboration" had positive connotations - only beginning in 1943 with Stalingrad and U.S. entry into the war, did the word begin to have negative features.

The best chapters are on writers (in a sense the least politically ambiguous of the arts) and on the liberation and its aftermath. Some of the chapters, particularly on the theatre and cinema, had a lot of name-dropping in terms of simply listing writers, directors and titles. The author is at his best when detailing the life of an artist during this era.

Mr. Riding does point out how after the liberation, a few artists - such as Sartre - jumped on the resistance bandwagon and exaggerated their role in opposition during the long occupation. I believe Picasso was another. I wish there would have been more written on this aspect. Many have remarked that at the time of liberation everyone in France claimed a role in the resistance. But as Mr. Riding correctly points out at the very beginning in the quote from Anthony Eden: "If one hasn't been through the horror of an occupation... you have no right to pronounce upon what a country does which has been through all that."

I also could not help feeling that many in France had an easy time compared to the countries of Eastern Europe. In Poland, for instance, the entire cultural elite were wiped out by the Nazis.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars La Vie during Wartime, August 4, 2012
Alan Riding's "And the Show Went On" plods along a bit at first, but stick with it, because it starts to pick up about a third into the book. This is a book to which art and culture aficionados with an academic bent will naturally gravitate.

However, I would especially recommend this book to military history/WWII buffs to remind them that was isn't just armor assaults, dive bombers and generals, but societies - both occupier and occupied - including both producers and consumers of culture just trying to make a living. Collaboration and resistance is rarely a binary choice; as Riding amply documents, there are a million individual stories and a million shades of gray in between.

Riding gives a good overview of German occupational policy and the organizational structure charged with its implementation. He touches on the subject of art looting, forced labor and the escalating repression against French Jews. He gives a brief but cogent overview of French right-wing extremism and of course covers French art and literature, theatre and couture as it attempts to survive under the shadow of the swastika.

A worthwile read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars French Artists, September 30, 2013
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The author presents a detailed and well written account of artists in WW2 France. This includes painters, actors, writers and musicians. At time France had been the center of artistic achievement for two hundred years and was the envy of the world,especially Germany. The author, an American journalist living in present day Paris, describes the compromises both the Germans and French made during WW2 . The germans made concessions to better control the French and the French in order to continue their artistic endeavors. One with and interest in the arts and in the history of Nazi occupied France will enjoy this book .
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars And the Show Went On, January 22, 2013
Very interesting: filling in all of blank spaces left by others who covered the occupation. A whole set of characters ignored by many histories were given their due. Gives the reader a chance to wonder the true meaning of collaboration and the difference between actual collaboration and the perception of the same. A fast read that is very thought provoking and liable to lead anyone to many forgotten texts.
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And the Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris
And the Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris by Alan Riding (MP3 CD - October 27, 2010)
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