As Allied troops landed in Normandy in 1944, members of the local French Resistance in the small town of Saint-Amand-Montrond embarked on an ill-fated attempt to liberate their town. Based on noble but politically questionable motives, and failing to inspire broader support, the incident quickly devolved from confrontation to a stand-off and ultimately to a tragedy. Resistance forces took and subsequently executed hostages; their opponents, the milice-collaborationist French police-and German soldiers rounded up 70 Jewish adults and children in retaliation and put many to a horrible death. Eminent literary and cultural critic Tzvetan Todorov examines the episode as history but also as a moral paradigm. Finding similar failures on both sides, he also cites "a qualitative difference between the two, an irreducible asymmetry, which resides in their ideals, in totalitarianism versus democracy." Suspenseful, compelling, and uncompromisingly honest, A French Tragedy goes beyond the events themselves to ponder the nature of sacrifice, of suffering, and of individual responsibility in a world where civil war still thrives.
About the Author
TZVETAN TODOROV is Research Director, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris. Among his many books translated into English are Facing the Extreme (1996) and The Morals of History (1995). MARY BYRD KELLY has taught French at the universities of North Carolina and Kansas. RICHARD J. GOLSAN is Professor of French at Texas A&M University and editor of Fascism, Aesthetics, and Culture (UPNE, 1991).