I'm currently in the process of researching a new novel. It will be set in Nazi-occupied France, mostly Paris. Some flashbacks will involve Spain and the Spanish Civil War. I am looking for information about life in the French Resistance, and some logistical details such as train schedules in and around Paris (very important), plus streets that might be used for escapes, and the overall feel of life cerca 1940-1944 especially. The flashbacks for the Spanish Civil War will be roughly 1936-1938.
I also need some general information regarding French aristocracy during WWII. A comte and comtesse will be main characters.
Would greatly appreciate any help along these lines. :)
Thanks in advance . . . .
I've researched this subject for several years (in separate decades and for two different novels; my first, The Man from Marseille, was partly set during that time), and I think I can help. If you can read French it would be an immense help, as so much has not been translated into English.
There are some very good books in English, however (some out of print and probably available through abebooks):
Richard Cobb, French and Germans, Germans and French
Alice Kaplan, The Collaborator
Pascal Jardin, A Vichy Boyhood
Richard Vinen, The Unfree French
Ted Morgan, An Uncertain Hour
In French, to get a sense of the texture of life, a great many novels by Patrick Modiano are astonishingly accurate, especially as he was born after the Occupation. His father was involved in black-market activities, and Modiano's debut novel, La Place de l'?toile, is set in the heart of Occupied Paris. He also deals with the aristocracy, most of whom, not surprisingly, were collaborators. (As were many actors and entertainers--Maurice Chevalier and Edith Piaf, to name two.)
Also in French:
Henri Michel, Paris Allemand
Gerhard Heller, Un Allemand ? Paris
Pascal Ory, Les Collaborateurs
Also rent Marcel Ophuls's classic documentary The Sorrow and the Pity.
There are obviously very many more sources, but these will give you a sense of that world.
And if you can find it, Pryce-Jones's Paris in the Third Reich has some astonishing color photos of Occupied Paris, as well as a very good text to accompany them, and will give you a fine overview of the time and place.
Rail schedules may be found probably in the archives of the Museum of the City of Paris. Street names really haven't changed that much, and I can tell you that there were no real standard escape routes; one used public transportation and moved from safe-house to safe-house as one could.
Hope this helps! (Please PM me if you have any other questions. I'll do what I can to help.)
Thank you. That was very, very helpful. Lots to look into a think about.
It's going to be a tall order, to get this right, to make it authentic. But I think I can make of this a special novel.
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