The Laurels of Lake Constance

Marie Chaix, Author, Harry Mathews, Translator
Marie Chaix, trans. from the French by Harry Mathews. Dalkey Archive, $14.95 trade paper (254p) ISBN 978-1-56478-723-1
Open Ebook - 277 pages - 978-1-56478-882-5
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This unflinching biopic of a French collaborationist and his family through the eyes of young Marie, born in 1942, shines as much for its depictions of her father, Albert, and the fascist leader Doriot as for its subtle contextualizing of this dark episode in French history. Men like Albert’s authoritarian father, Louis, brilliantly rendered, were hard-working patriots and war heroes whose fervent anticommunism aligned them with Pétain and his “National Revolution” and ultimately resulted in much suffering. Marie’s loyal, pious mother Alice is a touching archetype—a devoted apolitical woman who never grasped what her husband was up to when he joined the notorious FPP and went on to become Doriot’s right-hand man. Though the prose is often stiff, and historical documents, such as passages from Albert’s trial diary and newspaper quotes, seem like an easy way to avoid dealing with the sordid implications of Albert’s political engagement on a more personal level, this groundbreaking book, published in France in 1974, is a thrilling, uncompromising, and disturbing foray into French fascism. This heartfelt first English translation by Mathews is long overdue. (July)
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