Monday, April 25, 2005

Vichy Patriots

The last issue of the New Yorker contained a collection of letters written by the late Saul Bellow to the just-barely-on-time Philip Roth. In one of them, Bellow very succinctly explains the origins of French anti-Americanism (he was living in Paris during the period described):

O.K., the Americans had liberated Paris . . . The city lay under a black depression. The year, if I haven’t said so before, was 1948. The gloom everywhere was heavy and vile. The Seine looked and smelled like some medical mixture. Bread and coal were still being rationed. The French hated us. I had a Jewish explanation for this: bad conscience. Not only had they been overrun by the Germans in three weeks, but they had collaborated. Vichy had made them cynical. They pretended that there was a vast underground throughout the war, but the fact seemed to be that they had spent the war years scrounging for food in the countryside. And these fuckers were also patriots. La France had been humiliated and it was all the fault of their liberators, the Brits and the G.I.s.

I frequently hear people ask, “why do the French hate us? After all, we’ve saved their asses in two world wars.” What we need to realize is that they hate us precisely because we’ve saved their asses in two world wars. We did for them what they were too impotent to do for themselves. This fact drives the proud frogs nuts.

1 comment:

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