“Le Rire ou la vie”, by Alya Aglan: funny Resistance

“Laughter or Life. Anthology of resistant humor. 1940-1945”, by Alya Aglan, Folio, “Histoire”, unpublished, 296 p., €9.20, digital €9.

The resistant night was strewn with bursts of laughter. Between 1940 and 1945, humor was a ” grain of sand (from) disrupt the legal system of occupation and domination”, as historian Alya Aglan shows in a magnificent anthology of texts and drawings from the Resistance. Some are well known, like Pierre Dac’s broadcasts on British radio, fiercely mocking supporters of collaboration with Germany. But many are real unpublished nuggets, tracts and caricatures from collections of departmental archives and museums.

The whole shows the precocious and tenacious effort of the resistance fighters, from London or in hiding, to oppose Vichy and the Nazis with a laugh of defiance. To the concrete battle against the occupiers and their henchmen they added a fight of words to give courage to the overwhelmed and to taunt the powerful of the hour before being able to overthrow them.

Resistant humor has two targets. First Nazi Germany, of course. In a leaflet probably written in 1941, resistance fighters write: “For a long time, Hitlerism was believed to be incurable. Some said that this terrible epidemic would win the whole world! A new therapy makes it possible to fight effectively against the scourge. It is the distribution in massive and repeated doses of prunes from Doctor RAF. » The pikes against Vichy remain the most remarkable, as their corrosive tone contrasts with the ambient obsequiousness around Philippe Pétain and his regime. The motto “Work, Family, Fatherland” becomes “Tracas, Famine, Patrol”, and Laval, “vile jackal”, concentrates the jokes.

“Hello Rommel, what news? »

Many of the texts collected remain funny eighty years apart, but their interest also lies in the light they shed on the underground life of resistance fighters. Pastiche and concealment of intentions hold a large place in this production, where double meanings abound: a wise Ode to the Marshal in twelve hidden verses, in acrostic, a “Shit Hitler”. The songs of the time lend themselves to numerous diversions, such as, to the tune of Everything is fine, Madame la Marquisein 1944: “Hello Rommel, what news? What, Bayeux, taken today? Explain, model tactician, how did this happen? »

On these resonances with the ordinary registers of humor in times of peace, as with the uses of the joke in dictatorship, many analyzes can be prolonged. In the meantime, we bet that more than one reader will be surprised, once the book is closed, humming the devious words of the famous Marshal, here we come : “Marshal! Stop there! You couldn’t take away our hope. The Fatherland will survive. Marshal, Marshal, stop there! »

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