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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Panache and Pathos in World War II France

I am very selective about the fiction taking place in Europe during World War II that I read.  It is such a popular subject, but few writers deal with it in a manner that feels genuine.  Frederik Nath is one of those few.  So I am glad that I chose to review his novel, Farewell Bergerac, for The Bookplex.


 Farewell Bergerac is the second in UK neurosurgeon Frederik Nath’s World War II trilogy that began with The Cyclist.  Yet it stands on its own.  It’s not necessary to have read The Cyclist beforehand.  The book takes place in the Dordogne in France. As the narrative opens the protagonist, François Dufy, has submerged himself in grief and alcoholism due to the loss of both his wife and his only son.  When the war comes to France, it alters his life in ways that are wonderful and terrible. Readers will come to care about François, and the remarkable individuals with which he surrounds himself.  Due to the struggle of the French people against the German occupation, there is a strong thriller component to this book that involves a great deal of action and suspense.  The plot is well-paced with a generous dollop of bittersweet character interaction and a surprising soupçon of humor that appears when you least expect it.

Although François does occasionally exhibit sexist attitudes, I recognized that this was an accurate portrayal for a man of this period.  For him, an attitude of protectiveness toward a woman who can certainly defend herself is a measure of his affection for her.  It doesn’t indicate any lack of respect for the woman involved.

Nath is evidently a Francophile who loves French culture and literature.  Each chapter is prefaced by a quote from Paroles, an insightful book of poetry by Jacques Prévert.   Yet there is another literary association in the choice of Bergerac as a setting.   For me, it is inextricably connected with the play Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand. Like Cyrano, François often fought against impossible odds.  So I feel that “Bergerac” is a very apt metaphor that refers to Rostand’s famously heroic character.


If you want to know more about the author Frederik Nath  and his other books go to his website at

For further information about Jacques Prévert  and his work see the following websites:

Biographical article on Wikipedia
Homage Website with English and French Versions
His Page on Poem Hunter 
Links to Youtube Videos 

For more on the play  Cyrano de Bergerac and its filmed versions see these websites:

Cyrano de Bergerac on Wikipedia
 Complete text of the play on Project Gutenberg
The new Broadway production of Cyrano de Bergerac
IMDB Page on the Film Starring Gerard Depardieu
IMDB Page on the Film Starring Jose Ferrer


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