New York is fascinating, Paris is fascinating, and Paris-on-the-Hudson, while it lasted, was twice as fascinating
Consider the oddly juxtaposed eminence of those in attendance: Wartime New York was the city where French Symbolism, in the person of Maurice Maeterlinck, came to live out its last productive years; where French surrealism, in the person of André Breton, came to survive; and where French structuralism, in the person of Claude Lévi-Strauss, came to be born. From the largely forgotten prewar visit to the city of Pétain and Laval to the seizing, burning, and capsizing of the Normandie, France's floating museum, in the Hudson River, Jeffrey Mehlman evokes the writerly world of French Manhattan, its achievements and feuds, during one of the most vexed periods of French history.
In Emigré New York, a series of surprising and expertly etched portraits emerge against the backdrop of an overriding irony: the United States, the world's principal hope in the battle against Hitler's barbarism, was for the most part more eager to deal with Pétain's collaborationist regime than with what Secretary of State Cordell Hull called de Gaulle's "so-called Free French" movement.
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