cover image C'est La Guerre

C'est La Guerre

Louis Calaferte. Marlboro Press, $66 (130pp) ISBN 978-0-8101-6032-3

Like Calaferte's (1928-1994) previous novel newly available in English, The Way It Works with Women, this story about the brutal course of WWII in provincial France is told entirely through impressions and dialogue. The unnamed narrator is a young orphan boy who lives in a village with a ""skinny little woman"" and ""the big man of the house."" The boy becomes aware that war has broken out when the tocsin sounds one September afternoon. The conversation among the adults is filled with words and concepts he does not understand--the portentous comparison with the ""war in '14,"" bombardments, civic duty and communism. Gradually, the situation becomes more dire, as strangely dressed transports (Alsatian Jews) arrive in the village and the peasants' horses are requisitioned by the army. Without explanation, the narrator moves to a larger town and lives with a widowed dressmaker named Mama Guite. There, entering adolescence and working in a warehouse, he witnesses the escalating atrocities inflicted by the occupying Germans, the local vigilante thugs in the collaborationist Milice, and the racist mob blindly devoted to Marshal P tain. The boy does what he can to survive, losing his innocence in the process. In compact and visceral detail, Calaferte succeeds in portraying this terrifying and shameful period in French history, when nearly everyone--especially seemingly innocent villagers--is guilty of crimes against humanity. (Aug.)