With personal and colourful reflections on tracking down resisters to the Nazi occupation of France, The French Resistance and its Legacy offers a captivating set of insights into the very substance of resistance, and the challenges it poses. The book uses a wealth of stories and testimonies to foreground the importance of imagination and inventiveness at the heart of resistance.
The book insists on the primacy of context, not just the contexts of the creation and development of resistance but also those of historical debate at different moments since the war. The language in which we talk about resistance is shown to be enriched and challenged by Holocaust research, by the necessity of gender studies, and by the significance of place and time, of myth, legend and exile. Disguise and secrecy were necessities for those creating resistance in France and still have an alluring mystery, but this book is designed to open up that mystery, and not allow it to be used to keep resistance in the footnotes of military history. Rod Kedward argues with conviction that emergence from the shadows is a vital role of resistance research and, not least, of resistance testimony, whether written or spoken.
The scattered extracts from the author's interviews to be found throughout are a pointer towards specific personalities and circumstance at both the time of resistance and the time of the testimony. Kedward does not interrogate the importance of this time distinction. Instead he implicitly suggests that there is an oral history to all events, whether captured at the time or later, and this should be seen as relevant to our talking and our understanding. The book as a whole celebrates where history, literature, film and testimony interact, to make talking about resistance both an art and a discovery. It ends with a challenging conclusion that is of seminal importance for the history of resistance in and beyond France, across both time and place.