1 November 2013
The English and their cousins the Americans have long found the French and their ways by turns appealing and infuriating. In 1945, these cultural differences became a matter of military importance…
When American troops arrived in Paris to help maintain order at the end of the Second World War, the initial euphoria with which they were received soon gave way to a rapid deterioration in allied relations.
The local population resented the Americans’ display of wealth and brashness, while the US soldiers found the French and their habits irritating and incomprehensible. To heal the breach, the American generals came up with an innovative solution: they commissioned a book which collated common ‘gripes’ about the French, and supplemented them with answers aimed at promoting understanding of the French and their country. This wonderfully candid collection responds to qualms such as ‘The French drink too much’, ‘French women are immoral’, ‘The French drive like lunatics!’, or ‘The French don’t bathe’.
Written in a direct, colloquial style, the book offers an unusual insight into topics as diverse as night-clubs, fashion, agriculture and sanitation. It also touches on the reality of daily life immediately after the war, evoking the shortage of food and supplies, the acute poverty and the scale of the casualties and destruction suffered by France during six years of conflict.
Initially aimed at American troops in the period after the liberation, many of the preconceptions about the French echo stereotypes that have survived to this day. Making a valiant stand against prejudice and cliché, 112 Gripes about the French strives to ‘bring into reasonable focus those irritations, dissatisfactions and misunderstandings which arise because it is often hard for the people of one country to understand the people of another.’
Illustrated with evocative period cartoons, this forgotten gem captures the spirit of Paris in 1945 and charms its readers with its curious accusations, amusing advice, and thought-provoking revelations. This compendium of complaints against the French, along with candid rejoinders setting the record straight, will delight Francophiles and anti-French alike!
- The French and Us
- The French (Characteristics; Customs and Manners; Cleanliness and Sanitation; Work and Laziness; Morals; Automobiles and Locomotives)
- The French and the Germans
- The Black Market
- Those French Soldiers
- French Collaboration
- “They got off Pretty Easy in this War”
- French Politics