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Paris After the Liberation Hardcover – July 1, 1994
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From Publishers Weekly
Early postwar France saw the trials of collaborationist leaders, de Gaulle's reestablishment of the republic and his abrupt resignation in 1946, widespread panic at the prospect of a Communist or right-wing coup and the arrival of Marshall Plan aid, which rescued the country from economic collapse. This engaging chronicle set in Paris--a magnet for Picasso, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Camus, Wright, Orwell, Hemingway, Breton, Koestler, Philby--captures the desperation and exhilaration of those years through a blend of history, eyewitness accounts, interviews, telling incident and gossip. Beevor ( The Spanish Civil War ) and Cooper ( Cairo in the War: 1939-1945 ) illuminate the blind Stalinism of France's "progressive" intelligentsia, protracted enmity between resisters and collaborators, early years of the Cold War and France's love-hate relationship with the U.S.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Husband-and-wife team of Beevor and Cooper have produced a thorough, fascinating account of postwar Paris. The authors focus on three themes: the bitter struggle of Resistance supporters against the collaborators of the Vichy government; the city's emergence as the intellectual and cultural mecca of the world; and the development of a love-hate relationship between France and the country that did the most to liberate it-the United States. Beevor and Cooper benefited from access to private manuscripts, including the papers of Duff Cooper, the British ambassador to France immediately after the war and grandfather of Artemis. The book is filled with sound, balanced insights and witty observations. It should prove enjoyable and valuable both for specialists and general readers. Readers will also value it because it was one of the last projects on which Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis worked as an editor at Doubleday.
T.J. Schaeper, St. Bonaventure Univ., N.Y.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top customer reviews
The authors do want to make the most they can from their access to the papers of Duff Cooper (he was the British Ambassador at the time; Ms. Cooper is his granddaughter), so that also makes for an uneven focus, but shines a light on yet another aspect of the postwar years.
Overall -- unbalanced focus, but you will learn about the period, and the writing itself is good.
Yet, I think this book is unfocused. Beevor and Cooper really needed to decide whether they were writing a book about the City of Paris in the Liberation and life and events in it, or a history of France from 1944 until 1968. The focus shifts in too many places from goings on and life in the city to the national political alignment in France, international events affecting France, and relations between other countries dealing with France, political events in France outside the city, etc.
Likewise Beevor and Cooper's view of the city of Paris tends to be unbalanced. They focus on the city of tourism and myth rather than the city most Pariseans live in. They give us only a few pages of description of the misery, poverty, disease, starvation, and neglect in the outer working class suburbs. They provie a paragraph about the prison-like experience of workers at Billancourt where Renault is. They have not one word about the working class and poverty-stricken faubourgs inside the city. Instead, Beevor and Cooper concentrate on the life of major intellectuals, upper class socialities, and above all the English-speaking diplomatic circles and returning exiles
If you want to know the details of the life of British Ambassador Duff Cooper, his various extra-maritial affairs, taste in decoration, friendship, advice to French politicians, advice to the British government, this is the book for you. If you want to know what it was like to live in Paris from 1944 until 1952 as an average working class or lower middle class citizen who is not a writer or a painter and who does not socialize at embassies, world class restaurants, or hotels, you need another book. This is about the Paris of public myth,the Paris of politicans and millionares, and not about the Paris that the great bulk of its people lived in and continue to live in.
I think this book would be very hard to understand for someone who does not understand French, is not familiar with the city of Paris, and is not familiar with the array of political, cultural, socialite, and artistic figures that Beevor and Cooper present without explanation.
I speak French, have spent time in Paris not as tourist, and have studied and written about French History and politics for decades. Yet, I found this book both exhilarating and hard to keep up with as names and places whirled past me and had to stop and remember the city's geography. I don't know what someone who can't read French would make of the many statements in French produced with no translation?
One of the interesting aspects of this book is Beevor's use of documents unearthed since the fall of Soviet Union about the French Communist party. In doing so, he provides a good picture of the utter contempt Stalin and his bureacrats had for the working people of France and the world, and Stalin's continued determination to use the PCF not as a tool for social change in France, but as a puppet to secure diplomatic advantages with the imperialist leaders of Europe and the United States.
Beevor and Cooper explain that the PCF began to lose its support in 1944 when it became clear to French workers that the party was not going to lead French workers and farmers to power. Once connections with Moscow were restored and exiled leader Maurice Thorez returned, the PCF organized itself to increase production, "stop strikes," as Thorez was wont to stay, and allowed the peaceful return of French capitalism.
To be sure the PCF remained a major political party, but as Beevor indirectly explained, this was due to middle class intellectuals flocking to the party as workers left. Later in the late 1940s when the PCF aimed at spoiling actions whose purpose was to disrupt the Marshall plan and stiffen France's opposition to the West's plan to build a strong West Germany as a military bulwark against the USSR, the PCF brought about disaster.
What I found the most interesting was Beevor and Cooper's pictures of the lives and intellectual development of Jean Paul Sartre and Simon De Beauvoir, Camus and other Paris intellectuals during these years. Though I think Beevor and Cooper tend to have a bias against De Beauvoir, I would loved to hear more about them and less about the sexual affairs of various English socialities and diplomats.
The final chapters takes the reader through the 1950s and 1960s very quickly. The focus on the city of Paris is really lost, so we don't know anything about the big changes in life and lifestyle, the explosion of new art, film, literature, and politics that happened. As the book goes on and loses focus, inaccuracies unworthy of Beevor and Cooper start to appear. Rather than describing life in Paris, Beevor and Cooper seem to end this book by trying to settle political scores with a generation of the French who were barely born in 1944-1950.
I would have loved a book focused on real life in Paris during these years with the necessary background in French and global politics, a picture of the real city and not just the tourist city. On the other hand, a political history of France from 1944 to 1950 by Beevor and Cooper would have been a wonderful work. Perhaps, a book on the social world of the upper classes, the intellectual elite, and foreign dignataries and diplomats might also be interesting. However, this is the best we've got from Beevor and Cooper on this topic, and it can be enjoyed.
See Paris like a native, not a tourist!