Among the unforgettable, throat-catching images of World War II are the swastika flying in Paris, and the delirium of the...



Among the unforgettable, throat-catching images of World War II are the swastika flying in Paris, and the delirium of the Allies' re-entry--but Pryce-Jones' pictorialized history is closer in tenor (if not in power) to Louis Malle's agonizing The Sorrow and the Pity: this is a Paris where, with minor alterations (a bus converted ""to travel by gas populsion,"" fashionable Parisiennes in ""blue-tinted glasses: an echo of the blackout""), life went on as usual--except for the elderly Jewish woman wearing a yellow star (and others who, later, could not disprove a Jewish taint). There is the irony, too, that the color photos--the yellow star, for once, is yellow--were taken by a collaborationist photographer on film provided by the Germans. The text, however, doesn't quite suit a book composed half of photographs (most of the black-and-whites by a second, officially-sanctioned photographer) and ostensibly for a general audience. Two thirds consist of a stream of information on conditions and developments--what Tout-Paris was doing, what German officialdom was aiming at (and feuding over), how the two mingled--with a host of names and much, much detail. But, for anyone attuned, the fascinating rundown on the spectrum of newspapers alone is indicative of two of Pryce-Jones' salient points: how the Germans fostered a semblance of diversity, with a ""right"" and a ""left""; how the various factions responded to the German ascendancy, the extremists becoming too extreme even for the Germans. How, all told, the French became ""instruments of their own coercion."" And how very little resistance there was--until 1) Hitler invaded Russia, and the Communists (""the first and most wholehearted collaborators"") went underground; and 2) the few Gaullists rallied support ""around popular discontent. . . and personal disruptions."" Only when German defeat loomed, Pryce-Jones writes, was ""the huge passive majority"" ready to decide ""on which side it would be preferable to finish."" This is not a new story, certainly, but the Parisian ambience--writers ""did not care to stay at home, invisible,"" any more than streetwalkers--gives it a special edge. And the interviews which comprise the book's last third sharpen that edge still further. An un-prettified picture of the world's most glamorous city, complete to the photographs.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 1981


Page Count: -

Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1981

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