C'est la Guerre by Louis Calaferte, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
C'est la Guerre

C'est la Guerre

by Louis Calaferte
     
 

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The novel opens with the confused perceptions of an eleven-year-old boy who, while playing in the village square, hears the tocsin sounding, then a medley of voices announcing the general mobilization. A profoundly isolated youth, he is witness to the paroxysmal events marking the Occupation in a provincial city. In a succession of hallucinatory monologues, vivid

Overview

The novel opens with the confused perceptions of an eleven-year-old boy who, while playing in the village square, hears the tocsin sounding, then a medley of voices announcing the general mobilization. A profoundly isolated youth, he is witness to the paroxysmal events marking the Occupation in a provincial city. In a succession of hallucinatory monologues, vivid dialogues, and haunting descriptions, we see a young mind at first bewildered by adult rhetoric, and then, as it grows in understanding, made conscious of an evil without bounds. Struggling to exist, and forced to adapt to an environment evolving ever further toward corruption, violence, and baseness, the young boy discovers himself lost in a universe of black-market transactions, sordid sexual manipulations, killings, and deportations. "I am getting to know mankind, " the young narrator concludes. "Mankind is mostly shit."

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Like Calaferte's (1928-1994) previous novel newly available in English, The Way It Works with Women, this story about the brutal course of WWII in provincial France is told entirely through impressions and dialogue. The unnamed narrator is a young orphan boy who lives in a village with a "skinny little woman" and "the big man of the house." The boy becomes aware that war has broken out when the tocsin sounds one September afternoon. The conversation among the adults is filled with words and concepts he does not understand--the portentous comparison with the "war in '14," bombardments, civic duty and communism. Gradually, the situation becomes more dire, as strangely dressed transports (Alsatian Jews) arrive in the village and the peasants' horses are requisitioned by the army. Without explanation, the narrator moves to a larger town and lives with a widowed dressmaker named Mama Guite. There, entering adolescence and working in a warehouse, he witnesses the escalating atrocities inflicted by the occupying Germans, the local vigilante thugs in the collaborationist Milice, and the racist mob blindly devoted to Marshal P tain. The boy does what he can to survive, losing his innocence in the process. In compact and visceral detail, Calaferte succeeds in portraying this terrifying and shameful period in French history, when nearly everyone--especially seemingly innocent villagers--is guilty of crimes against humanity. (Aug.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Narrated by an 11-year-old boy in provincial France, this novella from playwright and poet Calaferte presents the French experience of World War II from the outbreak of hostilities through the Occupation to the eventual liberation by the Americans. The boy has neither identity nor family and lives essentially hand to mouth. His emotions range from na ve confusion (not even understanding what Jews are) to a growing awareness of evil as he does what others tell him to do. The utter horror of war is revealed as he graphically describes what he sees and what he hears people say. Black market corruption and the readiness of women to save themselves by using sex are detailed. Though the setting is World War II, the description of the misery of war could easily be transposed to more contemporary settings. Recommended primarily for academic audiences.--Ann Irvine, Montgomery Cty. P.L., Silver Springs, MD Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
C'est la guerre ( paper Jul.; 130 pp.; 0-8101-6032-3; paper 0-8101-6068-4): This 1993 novel from the French author of The Way It Works with Women (1998) is an impressionistic picture of street life in Paris under German occupation during WWII. The story's a collection of fragmentary observations made by its nameless narrator (he's 11 in 1939, when it begins); a mélange of experiences, overheard conversations, dreams, and fantasies. The matériel of the wartime experience—economic deprivation and black marketeering, the formation of the Resistance movement, wholesale sexual exploitation and irregularity—is quite effectively conveyed by a skillful alternation of (nicely translated) explosive sentence fragments with long, meandering, run-on revelations of its anonymous (in fact, generic) protagonist's gradually developing predatory amorality, his realization that "If you know the tricks wartime's a happy hunting ground." A grim and powerfully convincing picture of ordeal and survival, all the more effective by virtue of its sedulous understatement.

From the Publisher

"Bracingly unsentimental, [it] is a remarkable song of innocence sung in perfect pitch." —St. Petersburg Times

"In compact and visceral detail, Calaferte succeeds in portraying this terrifying and shameful period in French history, when nearly everyone—especially seemingly innocent villagers—is guilty of crimes against humanity." —Publishers Weekly

"One's will can be deployed at others' expense, a fundamental ambivalence that Calaferte . . . often brought to light. Because of this excruciating honesty, he produced some of the most troubling writings of recent times." —Times Literary Supplement

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780810160682
Publisher:
Northwestern University Press
Publication date:
06/30/1999
Edition description:
1
Pages:
196
Product dimensions:
5.75(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Louis Calaferte was born in Turin in 1928. He was a playwright, poet, and writer of prose. The Way It Works with Women, published by the Marlboro Press/Northwestern in 1998, was the first of his many novels to be translated into English.

Austryn Wainhouse is the founder of the Marlboro Press and has translated the works of the Marquis de Sade and Simone de Beauvoir, among others.

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