cover image Paris 1944: Occupation, Resistance, Liberation

Paris 1944: Occupation, Resistance, Liberation

Patrick Bishop. Pegasus, $32 (400p) ISBN 978-1-63936-703-0

Historian Bishop (Operation Jubilee) contends in this splendid chronicle that the 1940 Nazi occupation and 1944 Allied liberation (which he calls “the party of the century”) of Paris carried heavy symbolic weight. He uses the City of Light’s “mythic” status as the backbone for a fine-grained narrative of life before and during the war, showing how a sense of exceptionalism permeated the thinking of Nazi occupiers, fascist sympathizers, and resistance fighters alike. Leaders on both sides of the conflict treated the city with kid gloves: the Nazi regime permitted the city’s vibrant arts and cuisine to flourish, while the Allies were careful to organize a resistance that wouldn’t tip into outright rebellion and anarchy. Bishop tracks how this exceptionalism was a pitfall as much as an inspiration—for instance, Nazi leniency toward artists drew many into complicity with the regime. This theme is adhered to with a light touch, as Bishop’s portraits of major and minor figures develop into arresting subplots freighted with their own symbolism (the last performance that literary critic and outspoken fascist sympathizer Robert Brasillach attended before he went into hiding in 1944 was Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit). This is a revelation. (Aug.)