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Response to Review of French Crime Fiction and the Second World War: Past Crimes, Present Memories

Michelle Emanuel’s review offers a comprehensive appraisal of my book and its interdisciplinary study of memories of the Second World War in France. As Emanuel rightly highlights, my work aims to generate discussion on the intersections between war studies, memory studies and popular culture. It makes the case for the critical insights that accrue from paying greater attention to discourses and genres which are traditionally seen as peripheral to historical study, such as crime fiction. Indeed, throughout Emanuel’s review, she notes how French crime fiction returns repeatedly to issues of resistance and collaboration, guilt and responsibility, national identity and cultural legacy, all themes and debates that resonate with established models of memories of the Second World War in France, such as Henry Rousso’s The Vichy Syndrome(1) Reading Emanuel’s meticulous assessment of my work, I have been struck again by the sensitivity of crime fiction as a cultural barometer of the war past and its ‘crises of memory’ as Susan Suleiman has termed them. Work could – and is – being undertaken on French crime fiction and the legacies of the First World War, as well the role of popular culture, including crime fiction, in the ‘knotted histories’ and multidirectional memory of the Holocaust and French colonisation. The work of Michael Rothberg is seminal in this respect. Such pioneering work demonstrates the cultural purchase of popular literary forms and norms and their ability to influence historical and cultural understandings of the past. As Emanuel notes in the conclusion to her review, crime fiction and their authors offer up a ‘portrait’ of the Second World War in France which enriches the historical record and allows voices little studied elsewhere to be heard.

Notes

  1. Henry Rousso, The Vichy Syndrome: History and Memory in France Since 1944 (Cambridge, MA, 1987).Back to (1)