Black Market Fictions

Au bon beurre, La traversée de Paris, and the Black Market in France

in French Politics, Culture & Society
Author:
Kenneth Mouré

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Jean Dutourd's novel Au bon beurre (1952) and Claude Autant-Lara's film La Traversée de Paris (1956) offer the best-known depictions of black market activity in Occupied France, appreciated by audiences who had lived through the war. This article looks at the black market stories they tell and their reception in France in the 1950s. It focuses on the fictional stories in relation to the historical experience from which they were drawn, and analyzes their selective representation of behaviors and the key relationships on which black market activity relied. Both works capture widely shared Occupation experiences of food shortages and exploitation. They highlight popular resentment of profiteers, the ability of the wealthy to escape wartime hardship and postwar justice, and the corruption and incompetence of the state in managing shortages and postwar purges.

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