French subscription literature
9. Les amants d'Avignon
Reasons to study the work
For anyone studying the occupation this is a must read which gives a really good feel for what it was like to live through; it would be useful to study alongside something like La rafle which deals exclusively with the persecution of the Jews.
The interest of the work
Elsa Triolet, hard line communist and wife of Louis Aragon the poet published this short novel as part of a larger collection which won the Prix Goncourt in 1945.
The novel was published by the clandestine Éditions de minuit in 1943 at a similar time to the more well-known Le silence de la mer by Vercors. Unlike the latter this riveting story traces the life of one of the brave women who carried out the day to day work of the resistance, finding places to hide those who needed hiding, transporting blank ID and ration cards and generally acting as a go-between for the leaders. Women and especially attractive ones such as Juliette Noel were very much used in order to distract the enemy. The narrator makes much of Juliette's attractions and her irresistibility to men, indeed this becomes the central theme-what is this impossible occupation situation that gets in the way of such a beautiful person enjoying a romantic attachment. Love is something that existed before the war for which there is no place now.
The author has a sharp ear for the concerns of the time which she evokes in conversations to which Juliette is witnesses in the train; the sense of immersion in the period is very strong as specific events, song and film titles are referred to. She avoids stereotypes with the German agents being like the French men around around her enraptured by her charms.