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Diary of the Dark Years, 1940-1944: Collaboration, Resistance, and Daily Life in Occupied Paris

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Jean Guéhenno's Diary of the Dark Years, 1940-1945 is the most oft-quoted piece of testimony on life in occupied France. A sharply observed record of day-to-day life under Nazi rule in Paris and a bitter commentary on literary life in those years, it has also been called "a remarkable essay on courage and cowardice" (Caroline Moorehead, Wall Street Journal). Here, David Ba Jean Guéhenno's Diary of the Dark Years, 1940-1945 is the most oft-quoted piece of testimony on life in occupied France. A sharply observed record of day-to-day life under Nazi rule in Paris and a bitter commentary on literary life in those years, it has also been called "a remarkable essay on courage and cowardice" (Caroline Moorehead, Wall Street Journal). Here, David Ball provides not only the first English-translation of this important historical document, but also the first ever annotated, corrected edition. Guéhenno was a well-known political and cultural critic, left-wing but not communist, and uncompromisingly anti-fascist. Unlike most French writers during the Occupation, he refused to pen a word for a publishing industry under Nazi control. He expressed his intellectual, moral, and emotional resistance in this diary: his shame at the Vichy government's collaboration with Nazi Germany, his contempt for its falsely patriotic reactionary ideology, his outrage at its anti-Semitism and its vilification of the Republic it had abolished, his horror at its increasingly savage repression and his disgust with his fellow intellectuals who kept on blithely writing about art and culture as if the Occupation did not exist - not to mention those who praised their new masters in prose and poetry. Also a teacher of French literature, he constantly observed the young people he taught, sometimes saddened by their conformism but always passionately trying to inspire them with the values of the French cultural tradition he loved. Guéhenno's diary often includes his own reflections on the great texts he is teaching, instilling them with special meaning in the context of the Occupation. Complete with meticulous notes and a biographical index, Ball's edition of Guéhenno's epic diary offers readers a deeper understanding not only of the diarist's cultural allusions, but also of the dramatic, historic events through which he lived.


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Jean Guéhenno's Diary of the Dark Years, 1940-1945 is the most oft-quoted piece of testimony on life in occupied France. A sharply observed record of day-to-day life under Nazi rule in Paris and a bitter commentary on literary life in those years, it has also been called "a remarkable essay on courage and cowardice" (Caroline Moorehead, Wall Street Journal). Here, David Ba Jean Guéhenno's Diary of the Dark Years, 1940-1945 is the most oft-quoted piece of testimony on life in occupied France. A sharply observed record of day-to-day life under Nazi rule in Paris and a bitter commentary on literary life in those years, it has also been called "a remarkable essay on courage and cowardice" (Caroline Moorehead, Wall Street Journal). Here, David Ball provides not only the first English-translation of this important historical document, but also the first ever annotated, corrected edition. Guéhenno was a well-known political and cultural critic, left-wing but not communist, and uncompromisingly anti-fascist. Unlike most French writers during the Occupation, he refused to pen a word for a publishing industry under Nazi control. He expressed his intellectual, moral, and emotional resistance in this diary: his shame at the Vichy government's collaboration with Nazi Germany, his contempt for its falsely patriotic reactionary ideology, his outrage at its anti-Semitism and its vilification of the Republic it had abolished, his horror at its increasingly savage repression and his disgust with his fellow intellectuals who kept on blithely writing about art and culture as if the Occupation did not exist - not to mention those who praised their new masters in prose and poetry. Also a teacher of French literature, he constantly observed the young people he taught, sometimes saddened by their conformism but always passionately trying to inspire them with the values of the French cultural tradition he loved. Guéhenno's diary often includes his own reflections on the great texts he is teaching, instilling them with special meaning in the context of the Occupation. Complete with meticulous notes and a biographical index, Ball's edition of Guéhenno's epic diary offers readers a deeper understanding not only of the diarist's cultural allusions, but also of the dramatic, historic events through which he lived.

30 review for Diary of the Dark Years, 1940-1944: Collaboration, Resistance, and Daily Life in Occupied Paris

  1. 5 out of 5

    Eugenia Tellechea

    2.5

  2. 4 out of 5

    Pj

    This is what I would call a typically male diary. Little space is given to observations of the eye. Mostly its pages are full of abstract intellectual responses to the war. It’s very interesting to hear what he has to say about Hitler’s speeches, all of which he listens to. His insights into Hitler’s base appeal are incredibly perceptive. They are also eerily similar to things now said about Donald Trump. Also fascinating is his disdain for the slavish capitulation of the majority of the French This is what I would call a typically male diary. Little space is given to observations of the eye. Mostly its pages are full of abstract intellectual responses to the war. It’s very interesting to hear what he has to say about Hitler’s speeches, all of which he listens to. His insights into Hitler’s base appeal are incredibly perceptive. They are also eerily similar to things now said about Donald Trump. Also fascinating is his disdain for the slavish capitulation of the majority of the French population – “robots serving the machine to enslave others.” Guehenno was a teacher during the war and among his pupils were informers. In other words he was at the mercy of some of the kids he was supposed to be inspiring. It’s an interesting book though I was hoping to learn more about the daily life of the French people under Nazi occupation.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Moore

    A chilling diary of a writer living in Nazi occupied Paris. An inside look at the psychological conditions of people under a dictatorship and seeking to find ways to resist and live another day. A compelling examination into the psyche of those who support the repression and those who device means to subvert the occupiers.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Reese Hogan

    The definitive bible on occupied France from a man who was actually there. Not a textbook, but—as the title indicates—a detailed diary on daily life under German rule. Guehenno paints a comprehensive portrait of the shame, the terror, the disgust, and the anger the average Parisian endured during the four years of the country’s confinement. He discusses former colleagues who chose to collaborate with their captors, in order to hold onto their prestige in the community; and he shares the stories The definitive bible on occupied France from a man who was actually there. Not a textbook, but—as the title indicates—a detailed diary on daily life under German rule. Guehenno paints a comprehensive portrait of the shame, the terror, the disgust, and the anger the average Parisian endured during the four years of the country’s confinement. He discusses former colleagues who chose to collaborate with their captors, in order to hold onto their prestige in the community; and he shares the stories of students of his who fled to the countryside to join the rebellious armed resistance known as the maquis. He relates his own subtle methods of rebellion in his role as a university teacher, and the ways he and others like him learned to recognize each other under the constant vigilance of Nazi and Vichy soldiers. Diary of the Dark Years offers a vivid and thorough experience of this pivotal time in history in a way no textbook or research paper could come close to. For anyone interested in World War 2, France, or puppet governments, this is a must-read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Allyson

    I am not sure what to say about this other than it was exceedingly chilling but also challenging to read this book. The author was an intellectual and mused upon many subjects beyond my experience and comprehension. So while it was engrossing reading, I also felt very stupid. I wished for more personal information and found it very strange how little mention there was of his daughter who was 18 at the time of the occupation. He also infrequently mentions the roundups of the Jews but spends much I am not sure what to say about this other than it was exceedingly chilling but also challenging to read this book. The author was an intellectual and mused upon many subjects beyond my experience and comprehension. So while it was engrossing reading, I also felt very stupid. I wished for more personal information and found it very strange how little mention there was of his daughter who was 18 at the time of the occupation. He also infrequently mentions the roundups of the Jews but spends much time discussing the deportations of non Jewish French to Germany for work details. And also much discussion of communism so I believe I have an inadequate understanding of his specific history and how it coloured his diary entries. The majority of my reading about the Vichy regime and the Occupation of France has always predominantly featured the Jewish experience and I found this very odd to have that feel secondary in this diary's edition.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Johannes

    Read it pencil in my hand, and spent quite a lot of time marking thought-provoking, historically interesting, extremely funny or immensely beautiful passages. I'll give some, chosen randomly: "J'ai employé à me battre pour l'amour de l'humanité les années qui m'avaient été offertes pour gentiment et modestement aimer quelques créatures." (p.84) "Nous n'avions pas assez conscience de la chance que c'était d'être né dans un noble pays dont toutes les paroles trouvaient un écho dans le monde." (p.12 Read it pencil in my hand, and spent quite a lot of time marking thought-provoking, historically interesting, extremely funny or immensely beautiful passages. I'll give some, chosen randomly: "J'ai employé à me battre pour l'amour de l'humanité les années qui m'avaient été offertes pour gentiment et modestement aimer quelques créatures." (p.84) "Nous n'avions pas assez conscience de la chance que c'était d'être né dans un noble pays dont toutes les paroles trouvaient un écho dans le monde." (p.125, France of course) "Le seul moi qui vaille se construit et se veut." (p.142) "Et notre curiosité m'a paru vaine, et je me suis demandé si nous ne donnions pas trop de nous-mêmes aux événements; si grands qu'ils soient, notre vraie vie n'est pas là." (p.312)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Luc Antoine

    4ème de couverture : 3 mars 1942 On les avertit dès le matin du lundi qu'ils allaient être fusillés. Vildé vit sa femme dans la matinée et eut la force de ne rien lui dire. L'après-midi, on les conduisit de la prison de Fresnes au mont Valérien. Ils traversèrent tout Paris entassés dans un camion avec leurs gardes. Ils chantaient. On épingla à chacun un carré de papier blanc à la place du coeur et ils furent tués presque à bout portant. Vildé, comme il l'avait demandé, fut exécuté le dernier. " U 4ème de couverture : 3 mars 1942 On les avertit dès le matin du lundi qu'ils allaient être fusillés. Vildé vit sa femme dans la matinée et eut la force de ne rien lui dire. L'après-midi, on les conduisit de la prison de Fresnes au mont Valérien. Ils traversèrent tout Paris entassés dans un camion avec leurs gardes. Ils chantaient. On épingla à chacun un carré de papier blanc à la place du coeur et ils furent tués presque à bout portant. Vildé, comme il l'avait demandé, fut exécuté le dernier. " Une prise de conscience " (Gaétan Picon).

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    I was looking for a book that chronicled the daily life under occupation. Unfortunately, this book was not that. There were some references to what life was like but there was also quite a bit of philosophy and rumination, which I really distances the reader from the experience.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    I have not read this book but accidently gave it five stars, a mistake which Giodreads will not allow me to undo on my mobile.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Peter Bradley

    My Amazon review - http://www.amazon.com/review/R138E6WN... My Amazon review - http://www.amazon.com/review/R138E6WN...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dorothy

    The French just surrendered - how are we ever to understand why? Are they that weak and spineless???? And why did Eisenhower let the French go in first to free Paris??? Startling.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lehtomaki

    Nonfiction-history

  13. 5 out of 5

    Don Morrison

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kges1901

  15. 5 out of 5

    Stewart Ross

  16. 4 out of 5

    Isabelle Coja

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey Otto

  18. 4 out of 5

    Danielle Cecchine

  19. 4 out of 5

    Michael Emonds

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nissa

  21. 5 out of 5

    frank

  22. 4 out of 5

    Derek Laxton

  23. 5 out of 5

    Maureen Bornstein

  24. 4 out of 5

    John

    intense read!! history unfolding!!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Mabrey

  26. 5 out of 5

    Genevieve Montcombroux

  27. 5 out of 5

    Gin

  28. 5 out of 5

    Helena

  29. 4 out of 5

    Adrian

    Academic Guehenno's diary for the years of Nazi-occupied France was published there in 1947. Only in the last few years has it been translated into English. He made his living as a university lecturer in philosophy or French literature and was demoted in 1943 to teach school children. He committed himself to not publish anything in Vichy France. Interesting when he deals with the repression of those years or his view of German soldiers in the street many entries involve the life of the mind. Bei Academic Guehenno's diary for the years of Nazi-occupied France was published there in 1947. Only in the last few years has it been translated into English. He made his living as a university lecturer in philosophy or French literature and was demoted in 1943 to teach school children. He committed himself to not publish anything in Vichy France. Interesting when he deals with the repression of those years or his view of German soldiers in the street many entries involve the life of the mind. Being more of a life of the belly kind of guy I skipped a lot reading in total perhaps half the book. So a very qualified recommendation here.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Debi Wingate

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