The Patagonian Hare by Claude Lanzmann

The Patagonian Hare by Claude Lanzmann

French Non-fiction biography

Translator – Frank Wynne

Making a history was not what I wanted to do .I wanted to construct something more powerful than that – Claude Lanzmann on Shoah

Where to start with Claude Lanzmann ,he is maybe one of the most interesting figures in France .He hid as a jew from the Nazis ,then joined the french resistance during second world war post war he joined Sartre as editor of the magazine Les temps Mordernes and also he made the film Shoah .That is Just the tip of the iceberg ,this guy has really lived a number of lives in one life time .

Anyway so we move on too  The Patagonian Hare is his autobiography ,to a Life that has touch every part of french history and Jewish history since the second world war .He begins talking about his family ,what his father imagines for him in the future  a postman but boy how different his life was ,how they had to escape and hid at first in the second world war in france ,then how he joined the resistance movement in france fighting the Nazis .He did this with the communist ,this maybe served him well later when he made Shoah behind the Iron curtain .The style of telling his personal story is very personal almost throwaway. This is an interesting life, but he tells it with out glamour or the seeming need for praise from you as a reader thus drawing you into his life I like his wartime experiences but  for me the most interesting part of the book is after the war when he joins Sartre at les temps Modernes the lit magazine that shaped Sartre’s view of lit in france and maybe lead french lit , Lanzmann edited from the early days and still does  . The look inside the magazine his involvement  with the founder and his Girlfriend  and lover Simone de Beauvoir ,the way the opposed the Algerian war in the 1960 joining the anti-war movement and the fallout from this decision also how they viewed various figure in french lit in the fifties and sixties most of which I knew very little about (this is a dream for googling and learning about french lit ).

It is here that the adventure of Shoah begins :my friend Alouph Hareven ,director-general of the Isareli ministry of foerign affairs invited me in and spoke to me with gravity and a solemneity I had never experienced from him .Having congratulated me on Pourquoi Isarel ,this is in substance what he said to me “there is no film about the shoah ,no film that takes what happened in all its magnitude ,no film that shows it from our point of view ,the viewpoint of the Jews .

How he decided to make the film Shoah !!

Then you come to  the last third of the book as thou the first two-thirds were not enough of a life lived  is mainly dealing with his epic film Shoah for those of you who haven’t seen it you should Shoah is the film that examine the holocaust and is a bit like the world at war as it is mainly eyewitness testament, as at  the time when Lanzmann started making the film a lot of people involve with the holocaust where still alive to give their stories over to him for posterity .He spent years filming people getting them to open up and visiting the sites across Europe involved (yet again for the third book some figures from Treblinka are mentioned ) also getting Nazis to admit what  really happened in the camps . I personally would put any one that ever denies holocaust in a chair for nine hours to watch this and then still denied  what happened during the second world war  .I loved his descriptions of making the film this is where you felt this guy’s passion flow of the page this was more than a project it became a mission to him to get across what had really happened . Then when it was made we saw how people reacted and how he tried to get it to as wide as audience as possible .Also we get a chunk of the writers own insight into his own sex life  through out the book ,you have a rare book indeed .

I find it hard to fault this book I m not a big non fiction reader ,but when I see a book I d like to read ,like this I know I love it even before I open the cover . I  even asked  for a copy of this from the publisher, after its translator Frank suggested I read it ,needless to say frank has made the book seem as thou it was written in english the actual writing by Lanzmann involved him dictating too two women Juliette Simont a Sartrianne and Lanzmann own secretary Sarah Strelinski a writer in her own right  they manage to pull together his memories of a life live into a book that has been described rightly so as a master piece by Le monde, Der Spiegel and FAZ .  Lanzmann is one of those rare people who has made a difference  and this book shows a man  close up from the french left-wing and literary world .

Have you seen Shoah ?

Have you heard of him before ?


May 2012


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