À la recherche de la France perdue: An examination of private diaries written during the Occupation of 1940-1944
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis is a study of private diaries written during the Occupation of France, 1940-1944. The authors are not necessarily of French origin and did not always directly experience the Occupation. What they all provide is an insight into the period at the individual level. The aim of this thesis is to see how these individual testimonies contribute to a more comprehensive portrait of how the French lived during this period, and suggest new approaches for the historiography of the Occupation period. Although the analytical focus of this study is predominantly textual, there is, nevertheless, a determination to place this textual analysis in an historical, rather than a literary, context. This study privileges the diaries of Léon Werth, Charles Rist, Jean Guéhenno and Andrzej Bobkowski because these selected diarists provide the greatest historical insight into the Occupation period. In order to appreciate why these diarists are more historically relevant than the other selected diarists, it is necessary in the introductory chapter to first examine the process of writing the private diaries. The first chapter demonstrates that the Occupation was from the outset a heterogeneous experience for all the diarists. The overall aim of this thesis is to demonstrate what divides the selected diarists as well as what unites them. The second chapter illustrates how History from above endeavours to categorise these individual experiences in order to impose a sense of order on them. The perspective of history from below reveals that for all the developments throughout the Occupation that had a universal impact on shaping attitudes and behaviour, there were just as many forces acting against these general trends to prevent a uniform experience. The third chapter demonstrates that the examination of life at the everyday level is just as important, if not more so, in gaining a comprehensive understanding of life during the Occupation period. These areas of inquiry combine to yield a portrait of a highly complex testimonial genre, where the ambivalence and the ambiguity of the period are reflected in the contrasting and often conflicting views of the authors.