Paris Under the Occupation

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Now and Then Reader LLC, Nov 15, 2011 - History
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As Hitler armed in the mid-1930s, Europe prepared for war. With its sophisticated series of fortifications called the Maginot Line, France expected to thwart any rapid German advance from the east so that, with England, the countries could fight an updated version of their World War I experience. But Hitler's blitzkrieg ("lightning war") tactics, based upon rapid tank and troop movements, overran the powerful French army. In 1940 France fell in just six weeks. Churchill's anticipated bulwark against Nazi aggression on the continent disappeared as Hitler marched into Paris, the city largely intact. For more than four years, France lived under a German occupation that reinforced its shame and sapped its energies. Afterward, the renowned French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre attempted to explain France's experience under the occupation and repair the nation's now tarnished reputation.

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Paris Under the Occupation
About JeanPaul Sartre
About Lisa Lieberman

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Sartre is the dominant figure in post-war French intellectual life. A graduate of the prestigious Ecole Normale Superieure with an agregation in philosophy, Sartre has been a major figure on the literary and philosophical scenes since the late 1930s. Widely known as an atheistic proponent of existentialism, he emphasized the priority of existence over preconceived essences and the importance of human freedom. In his first and best novel, Nausea (1938), Sartre contrasted the fluidity of human consciousness with the apparent solidity of external reality and satirized the hypocrisies and pretensions of bourgeois idealism. Sartre's theater is also highly ideological, emphasizing the importance of personal freedom and the commitment of the individual to social and political goals. His first play, The Flies (1943), was produced during the German occupation, despite its underlying message of defiance. One of his most popular plays is the one-act No Exit (1944), in which the traditional theological concept of hell is redefined in existentialist terms. In Red Gloves (Les Mains Sales) (1948), Sartre examines the pragmatic implications of the individual involved in political action through the mechanism of the Communist party and a changing historical situation. His highly readable autobiography, The Words (1964), tells of his childhood in an idealistic bourgeois Protestant family and of his subsequent rejection of his upbringing. Sartre has also made significant contributions to literary criticism in his 10-volume Situations (1947--72) and in works on Baudelaire, Genet, and Flaubert. In 1964 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and refused it, saying that he always declined official honors.

Lisa Lieberman's writings on French postwar film and literature and their efforts to come to terms with the Holocaust have appeared in a variety of media. She is the author of Leaving You: The Cultural Meaning of Suicide, which addresses the suicides of notable Holocaust survivors including Primo Levi, Bruno Bettelheim, and Jean Améry. Trained as a modern European cultural and intellectual historian, she studied at the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University and has taught at Dickinson College. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.

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