Lisa's Reviews > Résistance: A Woman's Journal of Struggle and Defiance in Occupied France

Résistance by Agnès Humbert
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's review
Sep 19, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: 2009
Read in September, 2009

Agnes Humbert was an art historian turned member of the Resistance after Paris fell to the Germans in June, 1940. She, her family and much of the population of Paris fled the city as the Germans approached. Scenes of horror unfolded as she walked with masses of people from Paris to south of Limoges. Her account of her journey is immediate and heartrending.

Humbert was languishing in the countryside and sinking into despair when she heard a broadcast by General de Gaulle exhorting the French soldiers and people to rally round him and carry on the struggle. She wrote of her reaction: “A feeling I thought had died forever stirs within me: hope.” Humbert was further buoyed by radio broadcasts recounting that the people of Paris were tearing down German posters as quickly as they were posted. The people of Paris were rebelling! She waded through the bureaucracy to obtain the papers that allowed her to return to Paris in August, 1940. Thus began her journal and memoir of her life as a member of the French Resistance and political prisoner subjected to forced labour in German prisons.

The book is two parts journal and one part memoir. Until two days before her arrest on April 15, 1941, Humbert maintained a journal. After she was liberated from the German prison in April, 1945, her journal commenced again. The story she told of the time in between was from memory. It was vivid.

Journal and memoir—throughout, the reader feels the author’s sense of humor, sense of the absurd, and courage. One gains an acute understanding of the strength of conviction of Humbert and of her fellows, and further, of the risks they undertook both before and after their arrests. The reader will cringe at the descriptions of the abuse and deprivation Humbert suffered while in prison, and cheer her efforts to sabotage the enemy’s war efforts in the small ways that were available to her.

I will not soon forget this book; it is incredible to me that it was published in 1946 but not published in translation until 2008.

I have only one other comment and that is about the translation. I believe the spirit of the book and the language of the book were accurately translated, so I am being a bit picky to say that the voice of the author does not come through as a French voice. The French have a certain way of expressing themselves that is different from the way we English speakers do. I would like to read it in French to see if it is just that much better.


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