Sunday, December 17, 2017

Paul Kix's "The Saboteur"

Paul Kix is a deputy editor at ESPN the Magazine. His work has appeared in the New Yorker, GQ, New York, Men’s Journal, and the Wall Street Journal, among others.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Saboteur: The Aristocrat Who Became France's Most Daring Anti-Nazi Commando, and reported the following:
From page 99:
The cold forced La Rochefoucauld more than he liked from the woods into a rural society where every glance, every smile, carried possible malevolence. Who would help him? Who would betray him? The questions were infinite and without answer, and so he spent what time he could in the barn, trusting only himself. But seclusion invited contemplation, and that was no better than strolling through Quarré-les-Tombes in a worker's costume. Alone, fighters dealt not only with the paranoia of Am I next? but with the guilt of Why have I been spared? The Resistance leader Henri Frenay put it best: "I felt overcome with fatigue. Crushed, oh, I was utterly crushed!...One by one faces of all those dear comrades rose up to haunt me...I felt ashamed to be free..."

It seemed it would be December forever.

One night in the barn, fast asleep on a bed of hay, something jostled La Rochefoucauld awake. He blinked and saw a half circle of uniformed Milice men and the overcoats and felt hats of SD officers. For a moment, no one moved. Robert tried to hide the fear already warming his cheeks. The Nazis looked at him, curious. Then the blows fell. After a stretch, "They tied me up like a sausage," Robert said, and then began searching the barn. They seemed to know what they were looking for, and in a moment they found the guns.

"I had nothing to do with that," La Rochefoucauld said. "I was sleeping here because I was tired."

The Nazis didn't buy it. They put him in the back of a vehicle idling outside and headed out.

His mind raced: How did they know where to find the arms? Who had given him up? Someone in the village who'd tracked him? Another résistant? But soon those thoughts gave way to darker ones: Where were they taking him? And what would they do to him when they got there?
On page 99, the protagonist of the book, Robert de La Rochefoucauld, deals with the repercussions of a series of successful sabotages against the machinations of the Nazis' war. Occupied France in the winter of 1943 was a paranoid and even frightening place, where résistants who'd escaped arrest silently awaited it.
Visit Paul Kix's website.

--Marshal Zeringue