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by Alice Kaplan
ISBN 0743254244 / 9780743254243 / 0-7432-5424-4
Publisher Free Press
› Find signed collectible books: 'The Interpreter'
No story of World War II is more triumphant than the liberation of France, made famous in countless photos of Parisians waving American flags and kissing GIs, as columns of troops paraded down the Champs Elysees. Yet liberation is a messy, complex affair, in which cultural understanding can be as elusive as the search for justice by both the liberators and the liberated. Occupying powers import their own injustices, and often even magnify them, away from the prying eyes of home. One of the least-known stories of the American liberation of France, from 1944 to 1946, is also one of the ugliest and least understood chapters in the history of Jim Crow. The first man to grapple with this failure of justice was an eyewitness: the interpreter Louis Guilloux. Now, in "The Interpreter," prize-winning author Alice Kaplan combines extraordinary research and brilliant writing to recover the story both as Guilloux first saw it, and as it still haunts us today. When the Americans helped to free Brittany in the summer of 1944, they were determined to treat the French differently than had the Nazi occupiers of the previous four years. Crimes committed against the locals were not to be tolerated. General Patton issued an order that any accused criminals would be tried by court-martial and that severe sentences, including the death penalty, would be imposed for the crime of rape. Mostly represented among service troops, African Americans made up a small fraction of the Army. Yet they were tried for the majority of capital cases, and they were found guilty with devastating frequency: 55 of 70 men executed by the Army in Europe were African American -- or 79 percent, in an Army that was only 8.5percent black. Alice Kaplan's towering achievement in "The Interpreter" is to recall this outrage through a single, very human story. Louis Guilloux was one of France's most prominent novelists even before he was asked to act as an interpreter at a few courts-martial. Through his eyes, Kapl [via]