Monsieur le Commandant, Paperback Book
5 out of 5 (1 rating)


French Academician and Nazi sympathiser, Paul-Jean Husson, writes a letter to his local SS officer in the autumn of 1942.

Tormented by an illicit passion for Ilse, his German daughter-in-law, Husson has taken a decision that will devastate several lives, including his own. The letter is intended to explain his actions. It is a dramatic, sometimes harrowing, story that begins in the years leading up to the war, when following the accidental drowning of his daughter, Husson's previously gilded life begins to unravel. And through Husson's confession, Romain Slocombe gives the reader a startling picture of a man's journey: from pillar of the French Establishment and World War One hero, to outspoken supporter of Nazi ideology and the Vichy government.


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The best novel I have read this year, and at times, not easy reading. Paul-Jean Husson is a writer, a member of the Academie Francaise, and a believer in the values of "Old France", a France that has long since disappeared. He is also an anti Semite - but an anti semite based not on race hatred per se, but as he sees it, based on on what he sees as sound intellectual analysis even if he can't help referring to Jews - other than those he personally knows of course - as kikes, hooknoses, and Israelites. His world starts to come apart as he feels increasingly attracted to, and then obsessive about, his daughter in law Ilse, a former German actress. As the attraction becomes deeper he is torn between his need to protect her (in order to exploit her later) and his anti semitic views and the commitment to the Vichy regime. In the end of course the reality of his intellectual choices are brought into the open in a horrible scene involving the French Gestapo, possible resistance operatives, and a deserted cottage. But the horror of this scene does not change his views, and lead to an astounding betrayalThis is a wonderful book. In modern literature, the French narrative of the war has focused on the Resistance. Slocombe has no time for this - of course there were many brave Resistance fighters but there were an awful lot of others who were either "11th hour resisters" or truly believed that collaboration with Germany represented the best hope for a revived France. It is this group that Slocombe mercilessly pursues. His book is not subtle but it feels honest and true. If you read nothing else this year, read this. Remarkable

Also by Romain Slocombe