Le Déserteur

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"Le déserteur" (The Deserter) is a famous anti-war song written by French singer Boris Vian and released on May 7, 1954 during the Battle of Dien Bien Phu.

It was first sung by Marcel Mouloudji, in 1954. Subsequently, it was forbidden by the French censor to be sold or broadcast until 1962. It was later translated into English, Italian (by Luigi Tenco, Ornella Vanoni and Ivano Fossati), Spanish, Swedish ("Jag står här på ett torg", Lars Forssell), Dutch ("De deserteur" by Peter Blanker), Catalan and Danish and then many other languages.[1] In the United States, it was a major anti-war song by Joan Baez during the Vietnam War.

The song is in the form of a letter written to the French President by a man who states that he is going to refuse his call to arms and desert, and explains his reasons for doing so.

In the late 1970s, the song was covered by nuclear protesters in Brittany, as a direct apostrophe to the fierce pro-nuclear French president Giscard d'Estaing in the Plogoff struggle.

A stanza of the song appears in Thomas Pynchon's novel V.[2]

The last stanza of the song was altered to complete the idea that the "Deserter" is asking for peace by recommendation of Mouloudji. In the original stanza, he is armed when he faces pursuers. [3] Below is the original French stanza and its English translation.

French English (Prescott/Prager)
Si vous me poursuivez

prévenez vos gendarmes
Que je n'aurai pas d'armes
et qu'ils pouront tirer.

If you pursue me,

warn your policemen,
that I won't be carrying any weapons,
and that they'll be able to shoot.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Delrue, Dries. "Boris Vian, Le déserteur". New Folk Sounds (in Dutch). Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  2. ^ Pynchon, Thomas (1963). V. J. B. Lippincott Company. pp. 18–19. 
  3. ^ http://www.poetica.fr/poeme-426/boris-vian-le-deserteur/

External links[edit]