1940, from the abyss to hope (Max Gallo)

January 1940, a freezing winter sweeps across Europe. Since the crash of Poland four months ago, it was the "funny war". Are we at war? And yet this France which refuses to "die for Danzig" and which cannot resign itself to a new bloody conflict is heading straight, like a drunken boat, towards the abyss, without paying attention to those, rare, who ring the bell. alarm. 1940, from the abyss to hope, or the chronicle of a foretold disaster, kept month by month by a fit and angry Max Gallo.

Editorial presentation of the book

The fate of France and Europe was played out in 1940. Seventy years later, Max Gallo brings back those terrible and ultimately unknown twelve months. January 1940: it's the "funny war" between France and Germany, an interminable wait conceived by Hitler as a trap in which the Allied armies are stuck. In May, it is the "lightning war", the assault, and France crumbles like a house of cards. The people flee on the roads of exodus.

This is the abyss, the strange defeat.

Through the account of these tragic twelve months, Max Gallo makes the voices of all the actors of history heard. These French generals locked in their past. These politicians taking advantage of the defeat to settle their old scores. Hitler jubilant, Rommel rushing forward with his panzers. Marshal Pétain, however called a savior, who requests an armistice.

The abyss. And yet hope is rising, even in the midst of disaster. The Saumur cadets fight for honor as everything falls apart. General de Gaulle proclaimed on June 18: "The flame of the French resistance must not be extinguished. And then there is Churchill, an angry embodiment of English determination, who urges combat and raises all courage.
History is there, alive, and its witnesses are reborn under the vibrant pen of Max Gallo. A story like a tour de force, dark and dazzling.

The chronicle of an announced disaster

With his inimitable style, Max Gallo chronicles the twelve months that turned the fate of France. AT aboard this boat France which sails out towards the abyss, Max Gallo storms against the actors of the tragedy that is looming. Against the French political personnel who refuse to see the rise of the Nazi peril and the rearmament of Germany, and repeatedly capitulate to Hitler, of the reoccupation of the Rhineland to Munich. Against the French soldiers, petrified in a criminal conservatism and incapable of taking initiatives and adapting to a form of war which is no longer that of the great war.

Against Paul Reynaud, the one who could have been the French Churchill, but who surrounds himself with defeatists and supporters of the armistice who have long been preparing for their accession to power. Against French generals, such as Gamelin, who disdainfully ignore the role of armored divisions or bombing aviation. Against those partisans of order, like Weygand, who keep proclaiming the imminence of a Bolshevik revolution that will never happen ... Everyone takes it for their rank.

Inaudible to others, there are those who sound the alarm from the top of the lookout. There is Churchill, who lucid, announces the day after the Munich agreements "They have chosen dishonor to avoid war, they will have dishonor and war". De Gaulle, who from 1937 castigated the political leaders who allowed Hitler to reconstitute a strong and modern military force in a spirit of revenge, noted that France cannot oppose it militarily, and announces the invasion of France and the occupation of Paris. A de Gaulle who read "Mein Kampf", and whose treatises, notably on the modern role of mechanized divisions, were read with attention… by the German generals.

But nothing can prevent the unthinkable from happening, and on May 10, 1940, the fate of France rocking. The German armored vehicles pierce at Sedan, taken from the rear, the French army breaks down despite a few isolated acts of heroism, the Germans enter Paris, France is in shock, Parisians commit suicide so as not to see the winner parade in the capital. And from this announced disaster emerges the worrying Vichy regime and its senile marshal, but also the beginnings of a hope that is slowly rising from the ashes of May-June 1940.

Let's be clear, unlike previous works on the same theme, such as Claude Quétel's “unforgivable defeat”, this is not the work of a historian - this book does not include any notes or quotes - but well of a chronicle of these twelve months of 1940, which is here held like a serial by Max Gallo more scholarly novelist than historian. And with his talent, Max Gallo expresses very well the rage and incomprehension that one can still feel today in the face of this disaster of many times announced.

Max Gallo, 1940, from the abyss to hope. XO Editions, March 2010.

Video: Max Gallo 4et feat Scott Hamilton Autumn Leaves (December 2021).