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30.5.04

Paris during the Occupation

Available from Amazon.fr:
cover
Jacques Yonnet, Rue des Maléfices: Chronique secrète d'une ville (2004)
A review (Les enchantements d'un Paris méconnu [The delights of an unknown Paris], May 28) by Pierre-Robert Leclercq in Le Monde des Livres got me interested in an older book that has just been published in a new edition: Jacques Yonnet's Rue des Maléfices: Chronique secrète d'une ville. This account of Paris during the Nazi occupation, with photographs by Robert Doisneau and some of the author's drawings, was originally published in 1954 as Enchantements de Paris. This version restores to the book the title originally desired by Yonnet. Here is an excerpt from the review (my translation):
An event. A masterpiece. Unique. Exceptional. These are words one should use sparingly so as not to cheapen them. Then two, five, ten pages make them necessary, all the way up to the last. An exceptional author is making a comeback, and he is truly unique, his work being only this one masterpiece whose republication is an event. [. . .] As soon as this book appeared, Queneau, Audiberti, Prévert and several others of clear judgment did not hesitate to declare that we were taking part in the birth of a great among greats. [. . .]

This prodigious chronicle of a population that, without being separated from the events in an occupied capital, taking part or simply witnessing, is no less individual, outside of time and space, in the closed universe of its alleys, its shop, its street people, and its bistrot people. It's a fascinating voyage at night's end between the Place Maubert ("la Maube") and the Mouffetard neighborhood ("la Mouffe"): if Céline, from whom we take so much, has an heir, it must be Yonnet!
This book is on my Christmas list.

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