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4.0 out of 5 stars
And The Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-occupied Paris
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on 27 March 2018
A fascinating subject well covered - but so many names to take in.
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on 11 March 2016
Intriguing.A really interesting read. Highly commendable.
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on 3 September 2014
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on 11 March 2014
I have read a few books about France in WW2 and this is by far the best on cultural life. Well written and very well researched it will form part of my permanent collection even though I first found it in my local library. It's the sort of book that you will re-read.
4 people found this helpful
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on 5 November 2013
Loved the non judgemental way in which the author presented the facts. What indeed represented collaboration? A very eye opening account of what life was in Nazi occupied Paris for the residents and more so the intellectuals under the regime. Also a very true account of the run up to the armestice of France. Good historical facts presented in a readable fashion.
6 people found this helpful
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on 14 October 2014
a dense, meticulously researched history, finely-structured and beautifully written, with comprehensive notes & apparatus. (the map, however, is primitive.) the last few chapters, as the resistance rose up and liberation got closer, are quite exciting. the first chapter is the only dull & difficult one, laying out all the political pre-history to the period; necessary, certainly, but perhaps better labelled "Introduction"? don't give up! this is one of the best history reads you'll have, filled with fascinating characters & anecdotes as well as insightful analysis. a keeper.
4 people found this helpful
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on 6 October 2011
Alan Riding's meticulously researched and documented account of what happened to the French cultural scene under the German occupation and Vichy regime (1940-mid-1944) presents a vast amount of information about the intellectual movers and shakers of the period. More interestingly, it lays out at least two major historic points about the French and German societies of the time. Riding's detailed account of French high culture and its leading figures is framed by well-explained descriptions of the political and military realities of the same period.

French cultural heavyweights reacted to the swift defeat of the French Army in 1940 in one of several ways: they fled the country, laid low or tried to function within the new political context, or actively and openly collaborated with the occupying Nazi forces. A surprising number were in the latter category. But Riding points out that, in fact, collaboration often had its basis in a vigorous anti-semitism which had been strong in France even before Hitler and the Nazis adopted it as a national policy akin to religion. Which is also one of the reasons so many prominent cultural figures were in the first category and left the country to save their lives. Much of Riding's book is devoted to the collaborators who shared the Nazis' political philosophy and the fence-sitters who tried to carry on as though the occupation were a temporary state of affairs.

A second interesting idea that the author argues in "And the Show...", is that the conquering Germans actually felt, in general, culturally inferior to the French, and worked assiduously throughout much of the occupation period to get the French elites and intelligentsia to accept and extoll the merits of German culture, if not its superiority. A strange position for the conquerors to be in, but a sentiment shaped by a long history of relations between the Germans and French.

"And the Show..." chronicles the reaction of each cultural form to the occupation, including classical music, film, ballet, literature, painting and criticism exhaustively in individual chapters. There is somewhat less information on popular culture, perhaps because music hall performers, jazz musicians, radio actors, comics and writers of middle-brow fiction left less of a written record of their personal adjustment to the political climate to research. (In this context, I was disappointed not to know more about just how American popular music remained so widely performed and recorded during the occupation; and how did someone like guitarist Django Reinhardt with a gypsy background survive the racial purges; and why Georges Simenon's wartime Maigret detective novels were so completely absent any reference to the war or occupation.)

Author Riding includes chapters on two Americans who were important figures to the wartime cultural scene in France. One was literary journalist Varian Fry, who came to France after its partition in mid-1940 at the head of an Emergency Rescue Committee and managed to help more than 2000 imperiled French and other European "cultural" personalities escape the country. Many of these refugees were Jewish or had dangerous political associations. A second American of importance, in Riding's estimation, was Florence Gould, wealthy Franco-American, who set up a literary salon in Paris that brought together French intellectuals of all political stripes, as well as members of the occupying Nazi administration.

The book concludes with the observation that the war and the experiences of the occupation served to move the center of artistic innovation out of Paris and France permanently, with much of it winding up in New York. Whatever the more lasting effects, the war period certainly smoked out the extreme right-wing elements in French culture and robbed anti-semitism of any sense of public respectability to this day

"And the Show Went On" is quite an achievement as a piece of wonderfully detailed modern history. It isn't without a few missing pieces (in my opinion), but its massive assembly of facts and insights by a learned observer, makes it an important and interesting chronicle of a painful period of European history.
10 people found this helpful
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on 11 November 2011
There are 3 recent excellent books on life in occupied Paris-
1. And the Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris (Vintage) by Alan Riding (Oct 4, 2011)
2. The Shameful Peace: How French Artists and Intellectuals Survived the Nazi Occupation Frederic Spotts (March 30, 2010)
3. Americans in Paris: Life and Death under Nazi Occupation 1940-44 by Charles Glass (4 Feb 2010)

Riding's book covers a wider ground compared to the two other books.
He starts with the entry of the Nazis into Paris on 14 June 1940. He surveyed how life was like for the writers, artists and cultural elite in occupied Paris. One will find interesting nuggets like the American Varian Fry who was sent by the Emergency Rescue Committee based in New York to help writers and artists flee to the United States in Aug 1940.

Despite opposition even from his own American embassy and the State Department, Fry and his team managed to bring out around 2000 refugees. Sadly according to this book it was only in 1967 , just months before Fry's death, that one of those he saved Dina Vierny persuaded France's Culture Minister to name Fry as a chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur. ( P 89 Vintage 2001 ed ).

Equally sadly, Riding sets out how the Jewish novelist Irene Nemirovsky
who was planning a five-part epic called Suite Francaise , inspired by War and Peace, could only finished the first two volumes before she was taken by French gendarmes and sent to the Nazi camp in Auschwitz where she died. The unfinished manuscript of Suite Francaise was kept by her 2 children who were hidden by the locals and only published 62 years later. ( P 137 ).

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in how the cultural
elites coped with living and working in Occupied Paris. This is no easy story. It is not so clear-cut as either working for or against the Nazis. Riding has pointed out the many complexities and shades of ambiguities of resistance and collaboration in Occupied France as well as Vichy France.
12 people found this helpful
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on 6 November 2015
A truly excellent account, both scientific and highly readable. It was of great help to me in my 13,000-word essay for Global War Studies entitled "Everyday life in Paris under the German occupation, 1940-1944".

David Wingeate PIKE
Distinguished Professor Emeritus, The American University of Paris
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on 14 July 2017
I found that parts of this book shone an interesting light on the occupation.Other parts were really hard going.
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