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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 8 December 2015
If several books on the Nazi Occupation touch on the plight of French intellectuals/writers/artists, Spotts has written the strongest historical analysis through a combination of rigorous research, and organising his material with intelligence and flair. There are separate chapters dealing with writers, novelists, artists, composers, and theatre folk – although this work avoids sensationalism and celebrity gossip, while attempting to develop a systematic view of the creative discipline being discussed.

For example, in his chapter analysing how visual arts were affected by the Occupation, Spotts has - much like other books - sections dealing with Picasso (in Paris) and then Matisse (in Vichy France). But he goes much further in detailing the experiences of the rising young painter Andre Fougeron, a proactive member of the Resistance; as well as the leading critic and museum curator Jean Cassou; the major gallery owner Daniel-Henri Kahnweiler; the small time art dealer Maurice Laffaille; then several art agents who fronted for the Nazis; before rounding off with certain French artists who fled to America. In this way the author gives a clear and detailed overview of how the Occupation impacted upon the art scene in its broader sense.

Spotts fixes on the moral problems individuals faced (or chose to ignore), not just what their experiences were. The stress throughout is on establishing contrasts, and using individuals to cumulatively build a big picture. Mind you, some profiles of how cultural celebrities fawned over Nazi officials are scandalously entertaining (Jean Cocteau is roasted to a self-serving crisp). Spotts also explains well how resistence could be manifested via creative works. Many books on the Occupation mention Clouseau's cryptic 1943 film "Le Corbeau", but this book explains far more fully how it came to be made, the symbolism (including slang phrases used), cinematic content, and then the angry reception.

This is an exemplary, reader-friendly and jargon-free book: I have learned much.
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on 7 March 2009
Spotts is right to call his book The Shameful Peace. The four years of German occupation remain the darkest years in modern French history. Spotts stresses that France's `greatest psychological need in the wake of the ignominious debacle was to regain a measure of self-respect - the very honneur and gloire that de Gaulle invoked in his broadcasts from London - and that the French cultural heritage was all there was to provide it.' Hitler, the artist manqué, understood that maintaining an active French cultural life was a good a way to drug France while bleeding her dry. So the Germans encouraged a rich artistic life in France, boasting `that no victor had ever treated a defeated nation so leniently.'
Hitler also wanted to make France acknowledge German cultural, as well as military, superiority. The result was a profusion of German institutes, lectures, concerts and exhibitions, culminating in the grotesque show by Arno Breker, Hitler's favourite sculptor, in May 1942 in the Louvre Orangerie. French people visited such shows for many reasons - curiosity, opportunism, simply to keep warm. But in doing so they laid themselves open to the charge of collaborating.
What made someone a collaborator? Spotts examines this crucial question carefully and sympathetically. Obviously artists like Vlaminck and Despiau, who visited Germany as the Nazis' guests in 1941, were collaborators, and both suffered for it after the war. But what of the publishers of books and magazines, or of playwrights like Sartre, who needed to `collaborate' to work at all? What of people running businesses of any kind?
Spotts provides a very good synoptic overview of occupied France, glancing at life in Marseilles and Lyons if focusing, inevitably, on Paris. Considering the overall gloominess of the subject, he can be remarkably amusing. An omission is any real mention of the actions of French intellectuals - writers such as Albert Camus and Vercors - who resisted from the start. Their heroism counters the shamefulness of the collaborators. More on the extreme hardships facing ordinary Frenchmen might have been useful too. Even Picasso nearly froze to death due to the fuel shortages. (Spotts underestimates Picasso's precariousness in occupied Paris. Only with hindsight can we see how fame protected the painter. Already noted as an anti-fascist and dubbed a `degenerate artist' by the Nazis in their 1937 exhibition, Picasso was a Spanish national when the government of Spain was Francoist.)
Spotts at the end shows how Paris, earlier the 'talisman that could transform artists' dreams into reality', never fully recovered its prewar fame and prestige. A final plus: the illustrations (b/w photos) are well-chosen, often novel. Amazing to see Picasso painting in hat and coat (against the cold). Hard to recognise the grand conductor Karajan from the 1942 photograph of a young, rather nervous-looking Nazi visiting Paris.
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on 9 May 2010
for the artists writers and poets of France collaboration in WWII was a fine line and a constant battle this book details the daily struggle that many who collaborated and those that did not faced, well written and informative its well worth the money and a very good read.
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on 8 October 2015
As described. Would use again.
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on 17 January 2015
Why can you order the 2010 Kindle version from amazon.com but only the 2009 Kindle version from amazon.co.uk? The 2009 edition is poorly produced but you can't buy Kindle books for the U.S. if based in the UK.
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on 7 August 2013
This is a widely-researched and fascinating account of the moral compasses and behaviour of artists, writers and musicians at the time of the German Occupation, from the pacifists and the Left Bank intellectuals who would have nothing to do with the Germans or the Vichy regime, to the out-and-out collaborators.
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