There has been much discussion about French writers of the Resistance during the Nazi occupation. Probably the most interesting irony that emerges is one of an inverse relationship between active participation in the Resistance and postwar zeal in hounding writers who collaborated. Among the most vengeful were Jean-Paul Sartre, his longtime companion Simone de Beauvoir, and the Communist husband-wife team of Louis Aragon and Elsa Triolet. Yet all four made negligible contributions to the Resistance and, as Tony Judt points out, were often accused of being “heroes after the fact.”

By contrast, Albert Camus and François Mauriac had impeccable Resistance credentials. Camus edited the underground paper Combat, while Mauriac’s activities gave him a moral authority that helped cleanse the stain on Catholicism left by such as the pétainiste Cardinal Suhard, barred by de Gaulle from celebrating mass at...


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