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n French Studies in Southern Africa - de Vercors : 'métaphore filée' de la France sous l'Occupation

Volume 2006, Issue 36
  • ISSN : 0259-0247
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Abstract

by Vercors is a short novel initially published in secret in 1942 by the famous underground publishing-house Les Editions de Minuit, while France, defeated in 1940, was under German occupation. The story is set during during WW II in rural France. An old man living with his niece is requested to provide accommodation for a German officer. Upon taking residence in the house, the well-mannered officer soon discovers that his hosts remain defiantly silent. Yet a love story develops between the young man and the girl via their body language. This study argues that the novel's enduring success is due to its exceptional literary qualities, which allow for layered messages to be conveyed in intricate ways unlikely to have been understood by the majority of readers at the time. Under the scrutiny of literary analysis the narrative fabric of the novel reveals its sophisticated weaving. The novel is interpreted as a pictogram proposing the hypothesis that what is said is not what is meant. Below the most accessible meaning of the story line, which seems at first to be at odds with the tragic predicament of occupied France, lies the true meaning of the book. Vercors' resistance to the national humiliation reveals the danger of the Nazi's strategy of politeness, which was aimed at coercing the French people into collaboration.

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/content/french/2006/36/EJC34094
2006-01-01
2016-12-10

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