The Foundling’s War
Michel Déon; Julian Evans (translator)
Gallic Books, Feb 10 2015, $16.95
In the summer of 1940, the French psyche is devastated but with the party must go on attitude in spite of the Nazi blitzkrieg leading to the abject surrender at Vichy. At a “victory” parade in Clermont-Ferrand honoring Sergeant Tuberge with the Croix de Guerre, an irate Palfy the con artist shouts out that the recipient is a coward and other epithets. Patriots are irate at the interruption while the cops go to arrest Palfy and his companion twentyish Jean Arnaud. They flee the scene with Palfy musing one day having the sergeant’s guts and Jean fantasizes about having just met one of the women of his dreams (along with Chantal and other mademoiselles) Claude.
After hiding in a brothel, the trio flees Clermont-Ferrand for Paris where they find the city keeping the lights on during the German occupation. In the former capital, they meet the gamut of black market entrepreneurs, but it is Claude who carries danger with her that places the two buddies and her in life threatening situations.
The sequel to The Foundling Boy is a unique intriguing glimpse into French endurance especially embraced by the less scrupulous during the Nazi occupation. The likable leads make the tale as still somewhat innocent Jean and his unflappable roguish mentor Palfy never take life serious even when trapped in a perilous situation. Their penchant for diving head first into the fire is over the top of the Eifel Tower, but also enables the reader to understand survival of the fittest, which rarely is the most moralistic or altruistic, during an oppressive reign.