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Introduction N EARLY FIFTY YEARS after its conclusion, the German Occupa­ tion of France during the Second World War continues to haunt the French national conscience. The trial of Klaus Barbie during the mid-1980s, the dismissal of charges of crimes against humanity against the former milicien Paul Touvier in spring 1992, and the contro­ versy surrounding the upcoming trial of the former Secretary General of Vichy police, René Bousquet, have stirred bitter memories and old antagonisms. The Touvier and Bousquet affairs leave the impression that the nation’s highest courts are unable or unwilling to come to terms with the injustice and shame of the Vichy period. At the same time, former Vichyites and collaborators are becoming highly visible in the media for their increasing involvement in Le Pen’s Front National as well as their efforts to rehabilitate Pétain and his National Revolution in magazines such as Le Choc du Mois and in “ scholarly” works such as the Sorbonne Professor François-Georges Dreyfus’Histoire de Vichy. The Occupation simply refuses to go away, and the nation’s frustrations—its inability to resolve once and for all the dilemmas associated with the period and to eradicate the reactionary and racist views which helped make it possible in the first place—are best summed up in the title of the May 1992 issue of Esprit devoted to the recent controversies: “ Que faire de Vichy?” As Henry Rousso’s The Vichy Syndrome has recently demonstrated, the current controversies are merely the latest manifestations of a national malady that has affected France since the Liberation. Earlier “ flareups” include the debates surrounding the screenings of films such as Marcel Ophuls’ Le Chagrin et la Pitié, Louis Malle’s Lacombe Lucien and, more recently, the cinematic adaptation of Marcel Aymé’s Uranus. Indeed, the cinema and the arts in general have played an important role in shaping and reshaping the nation’s memory of and attitude toward the Occupation. This is as it should be, since despite hardship and oppres­ sion, the period itself was characterized by a remarkable vitality in the theater, cinema, and the arts in general. Several of the essays in this issue have been chosen to reflect the artis­ tic and philosophical richness and diversity of works produced during the period. Others examine more recent aesthetic and intellectual efforts to give the past a coherent meaning or, at least, voice the lessons the Occu­ pation can teach the present. The last two essays, less articles than Vo l. XXXIII, N o. 1 3 meditations, attempt, in the first instance, to trace significant connec­ tions between the Occupation and the spirit of revolt in post-1968 cinema, and, in the second, to examine the atmosphere of a nation that cannot escape from its past. All the essays confirm that, despite the horrors of les années noires, the period has produced a cultural legacy of great value whose interpretation is crucial to an understanding of modern France. 4 Spr in g 1993 ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 3-4
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
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