And the Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-occupied Paris

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Oct 19, 2010 - History - 416 pages
3 Reviews
On June 14, 1940, German tanks rolled into a silent and deserted Paris. Eight days later, a humbled France accepted defeat along with foreign occupation. The only consolation was that, while the swastika now flew over Paris, the City of Light was undamaged. Soon, a peculiar kind of normality returned as theaters, opera houses, movie theaters and nightclubs reopened for business. This suited both conquerors and vanquished: the Germans wanted Parisians to be distracted, while the French could show that, culturally at least, they had not been defeated. Over the next four years, the artistic life of Paris flourished with as much verve as in peacetime. Only a handful of writers and intellectuals asked if this was an appropriate response to the horrors of a world war.

Alan Riding introduces us to a panoply of writers, painters, composers, actors and dancers who kept working throughout the occupation. Maurice Chevalier and Édith Piaf sang before French and German audiences. Pablo Picasso, whose art was officially banned, continued to paint in his Left Bank apartment. More than two hundred new French films were made, including Marcel Carné’s classic, Les Enfants du paradis. Thousands of books were published by authors as different as the virulent anti-Semite Céline and the anti-Nazis Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre. Meanwhile, as Jewish performers and creators were being forced to flee or, as was Irène Némirovsky, deported to death camps, a small number of artists and intellectuals joined the resistance.

Throughout this penetrating and unsettling account, Riding keeps alive the quandaries facing many of these artists. Were they “saving” French culture by working? Were they betraying France if they performed before German soldiers or made movies with Nazi approval? Was it the intellectual’s duty to take up arms against the occupier? Then, after Paris was liberated, what was deserving punishment for artists who had committed “intelligence with the enemy”?

By throwing light on this critical moment of twentieth-century European cultural history, And the Show Went On focuses anew on whether artists and writers have a special duty to show moral leadership in moments of national trauma.


From the Hardcover edition.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - KimSmyth - LibraryThing

An interesting read. Many of us like to think that if "evil came to town" we would be the first ones to fight it off or join the resistance. This factual telling of the Nazi occupation of Paris gives ... Read full review

Review: And the Show Went On

User Review  - Zohar - ManOfLaBook.com - Goodreads

“And The Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris” by Alan Riding is a non-fiction book which tries to investigate the glimmering nightlife in an occupied city. Mr. Riding was the Paris ... Read full review

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About the author (2010)

For twelve years, Alan Riding was the European cultural correspondent for The New York Times. He was previously bureau chief for the Times in Paris, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Mexico City. Riding is the author of Distant Neighbors. He continues to live in Paris with his wife, Marlise Simons, a writer for the Times.


From the Hardcover edition.

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