A Word from the Editor
As a “holiday special,” we offer more reviews than usual. Three focus on the Occupation, and two on the Napoleonic period writ large. Howard Brown argues that Balzac’s novella Colonel Chabert successfully straddles the Empire and the Restoration, but that the movie adaptation does this even better. Michael Sibalis revisits Napoleon’s image through the 1953 popular classic Désirée and its 1954 Hollywood adaptation. In both, Désirée Clary stands for revolutionary ideals, undermined at every turn by Napoleon, to whom she was briefly betrothed, and eventually betrayed even by her Republican husband Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, once he becomes King of Sweden.
The Occupation remains a popular subject in literature and film. The 2014 screen version of the successful play Diplomatie is the most conventional of the three works examined here. Matthew Cobb wonders about the longevity of the myth that Hitler ordered the destruction of Paris and that only the intervention of the Swedish consul Raoul Nordling stopped the German commander, Dietrich von Choltitz, from carrying it out. Sandra Ott reviews Romain Slocombe’s riveting Monsieur le commandant, recently translated into English, a short epistolary novel that addresses Franco-German relations during the war and the sad consequences of a French academician’s rabid anti-semitism. The third work, Le terroriste noir by Guinean novelist Tierno Monénembo takes as its subject a real person, Addi Bâ, a Guinean who moved to France in his twenties, joined the Tirailleurs sénégalais at the start of the war, and, after escaping the Germans, was one of the founders of the Vosges maquis. His story, Tyler Stovall points out, is a much-needed reminder of the transnational dimension of the Resistance and of the complicated engagement of Black Africans with the metropole.
University at Buffalo, SUNY
Table of Contents
Kaboom! Diplomatie (2014) and the destruction of Paris, by Matthew Cobb
A Transnational Struggle for National Salvation: Tierno Monénembo’s Le terroriste noir and the history of the French Resistance, by Tyler Stovall