LA LECION: The French Foreign Legion and the Men Who Made It Glorious by Geoffrey Bocca

LA LECION: The French Foreign Legion and the Men Who Made It Glorious

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KIRKUS REVIEW

What with the Foreign Legion's recent transfer from the sands of Algeria to the little town of Aubagne near Marseilles, and with the possibility that the Legion's long life (130 years) may shortly be rounded with a last salute, armchair aficionados of that band of glorious mercenaries may confidently anticipate a continuing spate of definitive histories. Charles Mercer's Legion of Strangers is more broadly informative and objective than Bocca's gloire-minded La Legion!, but some readers may prefer the swaggering insanity of this newer version's legionnaires. Bocca has the double advantage of having fought with the legionnaires and of having covered their tragedy in Algeria as a war correspondent. Also, Bocca is considerably more thorough on the Legion's latest activities and includes an hour-by-hour chapter dealing with the generals' revolt in Algeria. (Once before, the Legion fought against France for France, during World War II, when some units sided with Petain and others with De Gaulle.) Key to the average legionnaire's temper is the cafard, a malady endemic among them and this is characterized by an often suicidal neurasthenia brought on by alcoholism. Bocca covers the 20th Century at the expense of the 19th but his material on Dien Bien Phu, Korea, and the Harvard grads who joined during World War I (including Alan Seeger) is both gripping and elegant.

Publisher: Crowell