FRANCE REBORN by Robert ron


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Apparently Frenchmen dine not only on Faulkner and Hemingway, but also on documentary banquets like The Longest Day. Historian Robert Aron's specialite is a spirited, solidly satisfying rehash of France during the Normandy assault onwards through the liberation, much of it served in the narrative-newsreel manner of American reportage. It's a big book and a bracing one; being determinedly objective too it was its share of quirky fact, e.g. the odd picture of Petain pridefully watery-eyed ever Free French heroics, or the black comedy of Hitler's lunatic demand on Paris andied back and forth by the Wehrmacht's General Choltitz. Strangely, though the large logistic episodes -- the advance into Brittany, Provence and Alsace, the National insurrection, and the Paris opening- show up as the stirring experiences they must have been, a number of other events are either sad or sordid: Communist venality, including the risk of revolution; the terrible mishmash massacre of the Vercors; above all, the compromised Maquis: some of those true-blue guerrillas acting like gorillas with the many summary executions of suspected countrymen- a dirty business which Frenchman Aron honestly records. Still throughout there's one spotless figure, the savior, the hero of all that's happening, Charles de Gaulle- even if at the end, with the homeland reclaimed and the peace secured, he seems rather like a dove esting on a dung heap.

Pub Date: April 28th, 1964
Publisher: Scribners