“ The Resistance”
• To discuss the issue of the French Resistance appropriately, we need to look at how the French themselves perceived it. They would have to consider whether their memories of past events are intact or have been filtered to repress or retain selected facts and behaviors. Part of what is now seen as the “myth of French resistance” became a psychological strategy that the people used to balance conscience with self-perspective.
• As a way of dealing with the humiliation of defeat, the French appeared to take the surrender in stride and went about the business of trying to survive. To maintain a degree of honor, they began the serious business of “forgetting” and adopted en masse the “national myth” – that the majority of French citizens resisted the enemy in a variety of ways. They looked to outside influences as a place to lay blame for the tragic Vichy years. Political figures like Charles de Gaulle, head of the post-war provisional French government, did nothing to change this misconception.
• One impact of such thinking led the French to come down hard on suspected collaborators. The women were paraded through town with their heads shaved and in some cases with swastikas painted on their breasts. The men were simply executed.
• It usually takes writers and historians a long time to gain a proper perspective of momentous historical events. It is an arduous process to digest and interpret the actions, feelings, and responses of all the documented witness accounts. But Némirovsky was not to be intimidated into waiting. She knew she had no time. She wrote her story as it happened; she wrote as she experienced it, and she interpreted and made judgments even as she observed them.
4. Since the war, the French have lived with the myth of a valiant French Resistance movement in the face of a devastating German attack and occupation. This myth exploded in the late twentieth century and was shown to be false. Yet, Némirovsky wrote, “And to think that no one will know, that there will be such a conspiracy of lies that all this will be transformed into yet another glorious page in the history of France.” (p.143) How was Némirovsky able to predict that the world would come to this conclusion? What other predictions does she make in her novel?
5. The Resistance movement grew better organized after 1941, and there were many positive actions performed by the French. Némirovsky has been criticized for being too hard on the French and too easy on the Germans. Considering the timing of this novel and Némirovsky’s experiences, what is your reaction to this comment?