Monsieur Le Commandant-Romain Slocombe; Jesse Browner (translator)

Monsieur Le Commandant
Romain Slocombe; Jesse Browner (translator)
Gallic Books, Mar 18 2014, $14.95
ISBN: 9781908313508

In the early 1930s in France, Académie Française author Paul-Jean Husson is a highly successful writer who along with wife Marguerite raised two healthy children. The WWI hero believes the French Republic is doomed to failure as he adheres to the tenet that human rights breed corruption and anarchy. Instead Paul-Jean supports the Nazis especially when it comes to the loathsome Jews.

In 1934, his son Olivier the violinist performs in Berlin with the Paris Symphony. When he returns home, German actress Ilse Berger accompanies him. Though attracted to her, Paul-Jean is elated with Olivier’s choice as he believes Germanic blood much stronger than that of watered down French. When Ilse gives birth to a daughter, Paul-Jean’s admiration turns to fear as the newborn does not look like either of her parents. Instead he wonders whether his daughter-in-law is Jewish or had a tryst with a Jew just before meeting Olivier. As such he concludes mother and daughter place the Husson family in danger especially when the Nazis take Paris. A supporter of Petain’s Vichy government, in 1942 Paul-Jean writes a confessional to his hometown German occupying force Monsieur Le Commandant.

Based on true events, Monsieur Le Commandant provides readers with a horrifying, timely look at collaboration by a French Nazi sympathizer. Paul-Jean cloaks himself with outraged moral indignation enhanced by his rationalization that he must save the French culture from Jews, Freemasons and liberals. In spite of his shocking confession to Monsieur Le Commandant, Paul-Jean never comes across as fully developed beyond his prejudices. Still readers will appreciate this insightful tale of a person who prefers excluding select groups from basic rights rather than expanding to include all.

Harriet Klausner


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