- Y a-t-il un antisémite en France? par Jean Amado
Jean Amado begins his text with the question posed by the book’s title and provides his own answer: ‘je n’en ai jamais rencontré’ (p. 11). Drawing on his own personal experiences before and during the Second World War, Amado attempts to explain the dissonance between the absence of anti-Semitism in his own life and the dominant interpretation of significant racism, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism in France. The result is a series of auto- biographical vignettes that Amado analyses for their potential influence on his interpretation. He focuses on his early family life, his deep attachment to France, and the actions of non-Jews in Niort during the Occupation; and continually returns to the ques- tion of ‘Mais où sont donc les antisémites en France?’ in his analysis of the events (p. 71). The book allows readers a glimpse into the life of an assimilated Jewish family in the interwar years as well as into daily life under the Nazis. Amado recounts in detail the first day he attended school in Niort wearing the yellow star and the kindness with which he was met. The reader also learns of the complicated network of acquaintances that warned the Amado family of an impending round-up. For Amado, these events provide evidence of the lack of anti-Semitism in French society. While the first portion of the book focuses on these personal experiences, Amado reflects further on anti-Semitism in general and offers potential explanations as to why he has apparently never met an anti-Semite in the last three chapters. He clearly acknowledges, however, that each proposed answer is insuf- ficient with statements such as ‘[c]e serait parfaitement exact si ce n’était totalement faux’ (p. 79). In the end, he asserts that the reason why he has supposedly never met an anti- Semite is simple: ‘Parce que le “racisme” à l’état pur n’existe pas, et ne saurait davantage exister’ (p. 89). He sees racism as the search for a scapegoat in response to society’s own fears and weaknesses and the construction of the ‘Other’. This interpretation fits with scholarly work on race as a cultural construct, but some readers will take issue with Amado’s conclusion that people should learn the ‘codes’ of the dominant society and be both tolerant and respectful in order to be tolerated and respected. For Amado, ‘[e]st exclu celui qui se croit exclu’ (p. 107). Written in a conversational and colloquial style, [End Page 491] Amado’s text does more to highlight than to resolve the many complex issues — about inclusion and exclusion, antisemitism and racism, and French society — that it raises.