Saturday, 15 January 2011

Œdipe Adroit

Why is this man smiling?

In France, he's under attack from almost all sides. His new book, Des gens très bien has been out just a few days ago. Oh, the man is Alexandre Jardin, he's a self-described purveyor - until now - of 'lightweight literature'.

The book is about Jules Jardin, Alexandre's grandfather. Grandpa was  a high ranking officer in the cabinet of Pierre Laval, the french collaborationist prime minister. He was at his post when episodes like the roundup of Jews at the Vel d'Hiver took place. Jardin wants to expresshis  'cry of conscience', his 'shame' and his 'slow awakening' to his family responsabilities (at 46 years of age). But the book has stirred up quite a controversy in the Hexagone. 

Take for example (pardon their French)  'Le nouvel Observateur', a leftist magazine:
Or turn slightly to the center with Le Monde:

Le Figaro, France main right-wing daily newspaper, is a bit more explicit:
Basically, Jean Jardin wasn't particularly responsible for the crimes against the Jews, which were obviously perpetrated by others. This controversy is not very different, if not in intensity, from other similar recent controversies about people (especially Catholics like Pope Pius XII) who, in the eyes of some commentators, sinned by omission, not doing everything that they (supposedly) could to stop the massacre.

It's not unlikely that Jardin Jr. will find some other types ready to support him. The Guardian, of all newspapers, has recently published an english translation of Mr. Jardin's response to his critics. It was brought to my attention by, of all people, Nahum, the 'funny yid from London' (did I ever call him this way before? I don't think so) who always reads this blog, He, at least, will be happy to hear Jardin's story.

Alexandre Jardin is of course happier than ever, or at least he's crying all the way to the bank. His book (buy it here, make him happier!) won't sell less copies because of this kind of criticism. It's all kabuki to me, but Jardin could have tried harder.

You can read a brief excerpt (again, in French) of the book here at L'Express.

"Même si, bien sûr, il ne m'a pas échappé que les vrais commanditaires de l'horreur furent avant tout des Allemands : Heinrich, Oberg, Dannecker, Knochen et d'autres.  "

"Pourquoi Jean n'a-t-il pas démissionné ce 16 juillet 1942 ? 

Sans doute - aussi révoltant cela puisse-t-il paraître - parce qu'il crut faire le bien, selon son code éthique aussi rigoureux qu'éloigné du nôtre ; ou le moindre mal qui lui semblait alors ressortir à une forme atténuée de la grandeur. Génétiquement catholique, il fut ce qu'on appelle une conscience démangée par une morale exigeante. Une sorte de bloc d'innocence qui le rendait d'autant plus dangereux. Rien à voir avec un gestapiste de cinéma ; rien chez lui des claqueurs de talons qui aboyèrent à Vichy des opinions hargneuses. "

"Even if, surely, it did not escape me that the people responsible for the horror where before all some Germans: Heinrich, Oberg, Dannercker, Knochen and others"

"Why Jean didn't quit that July 16th 1942?"

"Without doubt, as revolting as it may seem, because he believed to do good, according to his ethical code, as rigorous as it was far from ours, or to exert the least damage. Something that seemed to attain to an attenuated form of granderu. Genetically cathlic, he was what could be called a conscience itched by an exigent moral. A sort of innocence block that rendered him even more dangerous. Nothing to do with a movie gestapo man, by him there was nothing of the heel-clackers who shouted with their aggressive opinions during Vichy"

Apparently this makes automatically his grandpa 

"un acteur capital, sans jamais se renier par la suite, de l'un des plus criminels régimes de l'Histoire de France. Jusqu'à se hisser vers les sommets de la honte d'Etat ;"

"a main protagonist, without ever going back on his opinions , of one of the more criminal regimes in the history of France. Up to elevate himself to the pinnacle of infamy in State'

So he didn't quit, he had his reasons to do so, but he was guilty anyway. But it's useful for grandpa to be guilty, at least for the moment. 

I wonder if, 50 o 60 years from now, there wil be stil a market for such a 'guilt lightweight literature'. I don't know: 'My grandpa knew all about the massacre in Gaza and did nothing'. 'My mother supported the Second Gulf War', or more modestly, 'My grandfather thought Sarkozy's pension cuts were a good idea' and so on..

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