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The Shameful Peace: How French Artists and Intellectuals Survived the Nazi Occupation Paperback – March 30, 2010


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"'A fascinating account of how famous writers, artists, and intellectuals living in France during the war survived the Nazi occupation; a whole spectrum from heroes to collaborators.' Marcel Berlins, Guardian G2 'In this elegantly written, coolly intelligent book Spotts refrains from judgment.'" Lucy Hughes-Hallett, Sunday Telegraph 'Admirably forensic and entertaining... What Spotts brings to the story is a set of refreshing opinions on familiar figures such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and the rest of the crowd clustered around the cafes of Saint-Germaindes Pres... Spotts has written an excellent book.' Andrew Hussey, New Statesman"

About the Author

Frederic Spotts is an independent scholar who has written widely on cultural topics, published books on German and Italian politics, and edited The Letters of Leonard Woolf. He is the author of Bayreuth: A History of the Wagner Festival and, most recently, Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics. He lives in France.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (March 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300163991
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300163995
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,390,416 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

It raises interesting moral issues.
A. Thiele
Culture matters because it is what brings all the strands of society together and, in one way or another, reveals society to itself.
I. Martinez-Ybor
The academic level of writing was disappointing.
D. McMillin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By I. Martinez-Ybor VINE VOICE on January 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Culture matters. It mattered centrally to the Germans as they sought to establish a New Europe under German-Nazi hegemony. It mattered to the Vichy government as it sought to rid France of any vestiges of the Third Republic, to create a nationalistic, conservative society, and to ingratiate itself with the occupier with a policy of deliberate collaboration. It mattered because Paris was the center of Western Culture until 1940. Culture matters because it is what brings all the strands of society together and, in one way or another, reveals society to itself.

The overwhelming majority of works dealing with the German occupation of France and the Vichy regime, deal with the political and military aspects of that difficult period, though some do focus on how ordinary citizens behaved during those years. What has been missing has been a thorough analysis of the "culture" community as it related to the Germans. This void is what Mr. Spotts' "Shameful Peace" seeks to fill and mostly succeeds. This is not an exhaustive listing of who did what to whom during those years; not everybody who was anybody then is worth the memory. Spotts takes each of the elements of what we usually regard as "culture": literature, painting, sculpture, music, popular entertainement, publishing, theatre, film and, selecting representative figures, analyses their behavior, i.e., answers the question did they collaborate or not, what form did collaboration, resistance, abstention, or flight take, what were the ramifications of their actions, how they fit within the German and Vichy schemes, and what was their respective aftermath with the Liberation. This is well structured analysis and narrative, a pleasure to read that becomes something of a page turner.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Reich Claude on April 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a Frenchman interested in the gray attitude of the French during WWII, I was eagerly anticipating the publication of this book and was somewhat disppointed when I read it. It is basically a gallery of portraits of important intellectual figures of the time, from Sartre to Galtier-Boissière, from Gide to Guéhenno, from Drieu to Céline, from Picasso to Matisse,etc. However, those portraits I found rather superficial (very light on Rebatet or Brasillach, more consistant on Drieu or Céline), the author sometimes reaching outright conclusions, condemning the opinions of some of the characters involved, when a more nuanced judgement would have been more appropriate (especially on Ernst Jünger or Colette, the latter erroneously appearing in a list of collaborationist writers on page 238). Also, the author often taps well-known sources (such as the war-time diaries by Gide, Guéhenno, Fabre-Luce or Jünger)and therefore brings forth very few revelations to an attentive student of the period. Nothing new is written about Céline, Drieu or Brasillach, as well as on Gide or Sartre, which is rather frustrating. I also expected a more in-depth account of the nefarious deeds of the notoriously influential collaborationist newspaper "Je Suis Partout" or the literary publication "Comoedia", both of which the book scantily broaches.

This book may be satisfactory to the layman as an introduction, but left me very frustrated and wanting to know more than I already knew. A book on the same topic is available in France,"Le Voyage d'Automne", which describes the attitude of such writers as Jouhandeau or Giraudoux (nearly absent here), Drieu, Brasillach, in much more precise details.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A. Thiele on March 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a well-researched, well-written account of French intellectuals' behavior during the Occupation and its immediate aftermath. I was familiar with the topic before I read the book, and I can wholeheartedly say the author is accurate in what he depicts. I don't understand the poor ratings the book has received on this website - maybe they're due to the fact that collaboration remains a touchy topic in some circles.

There wasn't any big revelation for me in the book - yes, Drieu la Rochelle and Brasillach were "collabos", Beauvoir stayed in Paris but tried to keep her hands clean, Guehenno was a Resistant, etc. What I think is the strength of the book is that it gathers vignettes of all the major French intellectuals' behavior in one place. In addition, it introduces shades of gray in their behavior and makes the reader about what constitutes collaboration. Some cases were obviously clear-cut, but others not as much. It raises interesting moral issues.

The book also arouses outrage regarding collabos' attitude and the wide differences in treatment they received after the war. This is no small achievement from the author, given that the facts described occurred almost 70 years ago. He makes us feel the injustice of it all anew (especially when collabos got off almost scot-free).

Certainly, the "epuration" was severe immediately after the Liberation, but sentences were often drastically reduced after a few years when some French decided they preferred to move on - often but not always, as is clear with the case of Germaine Lubin, whose behavior was not nearly as reprehensible as others who got punished much more lightly. Also, some newspapers were shut down, but "collabo" publishers like Gallimard were allowed to continue their business unimpeded.
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