The Forests of the Night

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The Forests of the Night (1947; French: Les Forêts de la nuit) is the second novel by French author Jean-Louis Curtis. His best-selling novel, it is also considered his best,[1] winning the 1947 Prix Goncourt, France's most prestigious literary prize.[1] Set in Curtis's native region of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, the novel is the story of a village under Nazi occupation, centering on the fortunes of French resistors and collaborators.

The historical context is that in the years immediately after the war, the myth in France was that most Frenchmen had been resistors to the Nazi occupation, fighters who took up arms or committed acts of civil disobedience and noncooperation. This was in contrast to collaborators, who supported the occupation.[2][3] The mythology of a nation of resistors would be seriously discredited and revised in the early 1970s through the work of historian Robert Paxton,[2][3] but Jean-Louis Curtis's 1947 novel was one of the first to raise some doubts,[2] to expose cracks in the lie, thus winning it the attention of France's literary establishment and earning it the Prix Goncourt. The Forests of the Night was the first post-war novel to portray France during the war as it really was,[1] as James Kirkup observed, an "acid portrait of those who played at being members of the [French] Resistance".[4]

The novel's theme and title come from the opening lines to William Blake's poem "The Tyger": "Tiger, tiger, burning bright - in the forests of the night."

The Forests of the Night was translated in 1951 into English by Nora Wydenbruck; it has not been re-printed since.

See also[edit]

  • Boule de Suif, another critical look at French society set in the Franco-Prussian War


  1. ^ a b c Martin Seymour-Smith, The New Guide to Modern World Literature, 1985, p. 498.
  2. ^ a b c Charles Sowerwine, France Since 1870, 2001.
  3. ^ a b John M. Merriman (Open Yale Courses). HIST 276: France Since 1871, Lecture's 18 "The Dark Years: Vichy France" and 19 "Resistance".
  4. ^ James Kirkup, Obituary, The Independent, 14 Nov 1995.

External links[edit]