Subtle and interesting chronicle of a small Jura village under occupation, A French village 1941, written by Alain Ade is the sequel to the novel A French village 1940, adapted from the television series of the same name. The opportunity for an adventure full of twists and turns under the German Occupation when the Russian front has just opened.
The action began in June 1941. The inhabitants of Villeneuve, sub-prefecture of Jura, suffered the effects of the German occupation. Rationing, scarcity, privatizations, requisitions and reprisals are the daily lot of a hungry population as the black market is in full swing. The pressure on Jews is growing, hostage raids are on the increase, Nazi brutality going as far as torture is no longer in doubt. It is therefore time to make your choice and choose your side between collaboration and resistance.
Integration and organization of a clandestine network for the sharecropper Marie Germain alongside the upright commissioner Henri de Kervern; engagement in the armed struggle for Marcel Larcher and his communist comrades; love and passion for Lucienne, the young teacher with the German soldier Kurt are just a few of the stories presented in this novel revealing a rich palette of characters.
A palette of men and women under the Occupation
We like to follow the multitude of characters in the series, for the most part with the most interesting and ambivalent profiles. Despite the many clichés inherent in each character, it is thus with undisguised pleasure that we follow their various adventures. Let us take the example of the two Larcher brothers who are opposed to everything, Daniel the mayor working with the occupier to try to preserve his village and its inhabitants against Marcel, a Communist having gone into the armed struggle and therefore into terrorism. Collaborative on the one hand and resistant on the other hand, their relationship is no less deep and worked. And what about the mayor's intriguing wife, Hortense, who seems to succumb to the SS uniform, or Raymond who chooses the risky path of collaboration to preserve his factory and his interests? A french village is a tale rich in twists and turns and events. The book does not deal less with a number of historical subjects.
A true historical treatment
The main and considerable asset of ’A French Village, it is because it addresses a large number of historical themes over this period, most of which remain relatively little or little known. We can think in particular of the phenomenon of Aryanization of Jewish property. While the spoliation of these assets is well known, its process and the role played by the Vichy government are often much less so. This is indeed a field of research that had been fairly neglected until the 1990s. We can also cite the theme of the condition of women under occupation, in particular those who had a relationship with the occupier. German, those Franco-German loves which were an important phenomenon. Let us also mention the themes of the black market, the entry into the war of the USSR in 1941, the question of hostages in which the Communists will therefore be the main concerned, etc. A french village thus allows a large number of important historical themes to be addressed. As such, we could have asked for additional information on these subjects such as a bibliography or historical comments, similar to the television series which has documentaries on these themes.
The book A French village 1941 is of course intended for fans of this series. It is also an opportunity for those who do not know the series of the same name to discover it on a medium other than television. We can however regret the literary style of this novel. Indeed, due to a most faithful adaptation, the writing undeniably lacks character and depth. It is, so to speak, a writing down of images. Therefore, we will not hide our preference for the original version, that of the small screen.
Alain Ade, A French village 1941, Le Tigre bleu, Paris, 2010.