The Statement by Brian Moore
A voluminous literature has accumulated on Vichy France and on the story of French collaboration with the Nazis during World War II; but there have been remarkably few attempts, either scholarly or artistic, to get into the mind of the ordinary foot soldier of evil. Louis Malle’s 1973 film, Lacombe, Lucien, remains, more than twenty years after it came out, a solitary work. All the more reason, then, to welcome The Statement, in which the Irish-Canadian novelist Brian Moore examines the relationship of the French Catholic Church to the legacy of Vichy through a fictional recreation of the real-life affair of Paul Touvier.
A middle-ranking member of the milice, the Vichy regime’s homegrown counterpart to the Gestapo, Touvier was tried for treason in absentia after the war and condemned to death. For decades he eluded capture, thanks to a right-wing campaign mounted on his behalf and to the complicity of certain ultra-orthodox (intégriste) Catholic circles with connections high up in the Church hierarchy. Even after being finally arrested in 1988, he was able to exploit legal obfuscations and the French government’s own reluctance to move forward; not until 1994 was he tried, and found guilty, on fresh charges of crimes against humanity. He was condemned to life imprisonment amid an ongoing national controversy over the behavior of French institutions and individuals during the war. Touvier died in prison this past July, aged eighty-one—just as The Statement was being published in the United States.
About the Author
Roger Kaplan has written widely on French politics and on Algeria’s Islamist insurgency of the 1990’s.