Monday, March 10, 2008

Guest Blog--Is Paris Burning? by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre

Since we lived in Paris last fall, we have spent a lot of time watching and reading subtitles for French movies. You will notice that I have to read the subtitles. My French is not on a level that I can actually listen to a movie in that language and follow what is going on.

Not long ago we watched the movie Is Paris Burning? The movie came out in 1966 with a cast of dozens of well-known stars from America, Britain, France, and Germany. Inspired by the movie, I decided that I was going to read the book. I have no idea when I last read a history book. This one did not disappoint me though. For me it was a wonderful journey into the past.

Despite the fact that the authors interviewed over 800 people and included the experiences of 536 of them in their history of the last few days of German occupation in Paris in August 1944, the story was both exciting and coherent. After introducing one character, the next reference to that individual refers back to an incident that will refresh the reader’s memory. For example: “Lieutenant Bob Woodrum, the American pilot, heard it as he sat on the steps of Louis Berty’s back porch wondering if his pork-butcher friend and host was still alive.”

I found myself deeply concerned about individuals who were mentioned only briefly. Even though I know that the veterans of WW II are dying of old age now, I cared very much as I read about moments in their lives over 60 years ago.

When I was surprised by historical facts new to me, I rushed to my husband (who just happens to have done his Ph.D. dissertation on Franco-Russian relations under de Gaulle) for more information. Had the Allies really preferred having the Communists take charge of France rather than de Gaulle? Apparently.

Lapierre and Collins succeed in making the events of that August come alive. I found myself respecting and admiring both French and German soldiers and at other times despairing over the cruelty of some members of both nations. More than anything I realized how grateful I am to Dietrich von Choltitz who courageously refused to destroy Paris when there was no military advantage in doing so. I have fond memories of looking out the bedroom window last fall and seeing the Eiffel Tower which stands today because of this man.


Wanna-Be Lit said...

Is this a guest blog? Or is the Blogger married to a French expert?

Blogger said...

Thank you for your sass. If only I were married to a French expert--or married at all.