Book Review: And The Show Went On by Alan Riding

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I bor­rowed this book.

My rat­ing for And The Show Went On — 4

“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 bureau chief of the New York Times.

Get a dis­count on "And The Show Went On" through the
ManOfLa­Book affil­i­ate account on:
Ama­zon |Book Depos­i­tory US | Book Depos­i­tory UK

“And The Show Went “on by Alan Rid­ing is a well researched, read­able nar­ra­tive of a big story within a big war. I must admit that when I first heard of this book, my ini­tial reac­tion was “who cares” with an expres­sive shoul­der shrug. How­ever, the more I thought about it the more the sub­ject seems to be intrigu­ing.
Early in World War II Ger­many invaded France, who after some brief resis­tance sur­ren­dered and installed a col­lab­o­ra­tive gov­ern­ment known as the Vichy. The cul­tural world for which France was known had to respond and some strange dynam­ics were doc­u­mented.

As an enter­tain­ment enthu­si­ast (not the TMZ style but there are sev­eral movies, more than you think, that I can run through my head frame-for-frame) I started think­ing about the great World War II movies which are cur­rently pro­duced, and those great movies which have been pro­duced dur­ing the war (thanks Net­flix). The French artists, actors, writ­ers, pro­duc­ers, direc­tors and more must have been itch­ing to get out the cre­ative­ness which must have been sti­fled when the Ger­many invaded.

The book focuses mostly on writ­ers and artists even though sev­eral of the stars and star­lets of the era also grab the nar­ra­tive (Mau­rice Cheva­lier, Édith Piaf, Amer­i­can liv­ing in Paris Josephine Baker and more). For years, even decades after World War II the French kept insist­ing that they resisted the Ger­man inva­sion – how­ever hon­est his­tory, of any coun­try, is bru­tal and usu­ally does not agree with how we see our­selves.
France is no different.

Mau­rice Cheva­lier and Josephine Baker with the troops

Dur­ing the war out­right col­lab­o­ra­tion or, at best, com­pla­cency were the rule, they became the excep­tion only towards the end. The duti­ful French police were very accom­mo­dat­ing, and the Vichy gov­ern­ment very proac­tive, when it came to round­ing up the Jews. The first large scale rafle was in May of 1941 – and more fol­lowed.
The ambi­gu­i­ties and com­plex­i­ties which are pre­sented in this book when it comes to the artists resist­ing the occu­pa­tion are astound­ing. A famous anti-Semite kept insist­ing after the war that he hated the Ger­mans as well. The Paris night­clubs made a killing amus­ing Ger­man soldiers.

One, of course, could ask what col­lab­o­ra­tion is and what is resis­tance?
Mr. Rid­ing doesn’t judge but he quotes oth­ers who do.
The book is not con­cerned with the broad impli­ca­tions of his­tory, but with the per­sonal sto­ries of artists and their response to the Ger­man inva­sion. Even though this is a well writ­ten book, at some parts the names and works get thrown at the reader so fast the read­ing becomes almost ency­clo­pe­dic – how­ever the sharpen anec­dotes more than make up for that.

We’ll always have Paris” takes on quite a dif­fer­ent mean­ing after read­ing this book.

Each chap­ter in the book is devoted to a dif­fer­ent art, music, opera, dance, film, the­ater, lit­er­ary world and more. The book also goes into some detail about the col­lab­o­ra­tive French Vichy gov­ern­ment as well s the reprisals which hap­pened after World War II ended and for some years after wards.
The exam­i­na­tion of occu­pied life under the Nazis makes a very inter­est­ing book.

Get a dis­count on "And The Show Went On" through the
ManOfLa­Book affil­i­ate account on:
Ama­zon |Book Depos­i­tory US | Book Depos­i­tory UK

Zohar — Man of la Book

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