Understanding the French
: A reader and friend emailed me to ask about a book on France I had recommended a while ago. The reader, reacting to all the news these days about France, Germany and Iraq, said he finally wants to “figure out what’s going through their f&*cking frog heads.” ...
... Here it is: William Shirer’s “The Collapse of the Third Republic: An Inquiry into the Fall of France in 1940.”
I highly recommend it, though it’s long and dense. Having spent a lot of time in France and West Africa (France’s neocolonial, hypocritical stomping grounds to this day), it really gave me a greater understanding of the French mind and character. Shirer, best known for his classic “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” doesn’t just explore the immediate events leading up to 1940. He goes back to when the Third Republic was founded, how it survived through World War I, and the disastrous post-war military and diplomatic decisions by the French. Warning: It’s not as good as Shirer’s “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.” What could be? But it’s still excellent. ...
... On the same subject, I’ve noticed that Josh Marshall
is a sort of military/diplomatic history buff too. There’s a newer book out, “Strange Victory,”
by Ernest May, also about the fall of France in 1940. Here’s Josh’s mini-review of the book
. I haven’t read it, but think I will. One thing about Josh’s review that caught my attention: How the French and English had more and better weapons facing Hitler in ‘40. Probably true. Recall Shirer saying the same thing. But Shirer makes clear -- and maybe May does too -- how many of those weapons were bought from the Americans at the last minute, just prior and after Poland’s fall in ‘39, and how the French didn’t have a clue how to use and deploy them properly.
-- Was over at Downtown Crossing and purchased a copy of "Strange Victory," written by Ernest R. May, who, by the way, is a Harvard prof and Cambridge resident. A blurb on the jacket praises the book as a 'splendid revisionist work.' Hmmmm. Now I'm really interested. A 'revisionist history' perhaps at odds with Shirer's conclusions? Should be fun. Get back to you on it later, probably in a few weeks.