Home | Reviews | Blog | Daily | Glossary | Orrin's Stuff | Email

I've seen this short scathing novelization of events leading up to the Anschluss referred to as satire, but it's more sarcasm. Mr. Vuillard, a French filmmaker, makes the case for the contingency of history by illustrating various points where resistance to Hitler and the Nazis could have succeeded because they were so weak. But German industrialists, British politicians, and Austrian leaders all acquiesced.

His most enduring social commentary is aimed at the 24 industrialists who met with Hitler on February 20, 1933 and proceeded to fund his party. He denies that they are even men in any meaningful sense and are instead simply corporate tools:
As such, these twenty-four men are not called Schnitzler, or Witzleben, or Schmitt, or Finck, or Rosterg, or Heubel, as their identity papers would have us believe. They are called BASF, Bayer, Agfa, Opel, IG Farben, Siemens, Allianz, Telefunken.
As such, there is nothing unique about the decision to collaborate with the Nazis: it was only business and any business anywhere would do the same.
Cavalier though it was, the invitation was hardly novel to these men, who were used to kickbacks and backhanders. Corruption is an irreducible line item in the budget of large companies, and it goes by several names: lobbying fees, gifts, political contributions. Most of the guests immediately handed over hundreds of thousands of marks. Gustav Krupp gave a million, Georg von Schnitzler four hundred thousand, and so they raked in a hefty sum. That meeting of February 20, which might seem to us a unique moment in corporate history, an unprecedented compromise with the Nazis, was in fact nothing more for the Krupps, Opels, and Siemenses than a perfectly ordinary business transaction, your basic fund-raising.
Harsh, but as one watches American businesses reconcile themselves to Donald's anti-capitalism, fair.

The more devastating attack is leveled at the British diplomats, like Lord Halifax, for whom Hitler's racial theories were hardly shocking. After all, Nazism has been appropriately referred to as Applied Darwinism and it owed a considerable debt to Anglospheric eugenics.

Vuillard's serio-comedy peaks in the section on German "negotiations" with the Austrian Chancellor, Kurt von Schuschnigg. He labors under the delusion that the meeting consist of give-and-take, when the reality is that Hitler has only one end in mind. There's a bit where the Fuhrer rants about how worthless Austria is and challenges von Schuschnigg to offer evidence to the contrary. The hapless Chancellor brings up Beethoven for goodness sake.

Finally, the vaunted Nazi war machine rolls over the border, but rather than mounting a blitzkrieg, it breaks down on the road. And Vuillard details just how feeble its armaments--tanks in particular--really were. But the reality did not matter:
What’s astounding about this war is the remarkable triumph of bravado, from which we can infer one lesson: everyone is susceptible to a bluff. Even the strictest, most serious, most old-world souls: they might not give in to the demands of justice, they might not yield to an insurgent populace, but they'll always fold before a bluff.
One is reminded of how many in the West convinced themselves that the Soviet Union was a peer or today pretend that China is a serious rival. the old-world souls still yearn to fold before a bluff allowing evil to advance.


Grade: (B)


Eric Vuillard Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Éric Vuillard
    -TWITTER: @EricVuillard
    -WIKIPEDIA: THe Order of the Day
    -BOOK SITE: The Order of the Day by Éric Vuillard, Translated by Mark Polizzotti (Penguin Random House)
    -BOOK SITE: The Order of the Day Eric Vuillard, Translated by Mark Polizzotti (Pan MacMillan)
    -BOOK SITE: The Order of the Day by ÉRIC VUILLARD, Translated by MARK POLIZZOTTI (THe Other Press)
    -ENTRY: Eric Vuillard (Historical Novel Society)
-AWARD: Eric Vuillard wins Prix Goncourt for best French book 2017 (Cristina Burack, November 6, 2017, Deutsche-Welle)
    -EXCERPT: A Secret Meeting ( Eric Vuillard, The Order of the Day)
    -ESSAY: New Caledonia: 'No colonial society can last forever': Writer Eric Vuillard expresses his alarm at the French authorities' reaction to what is happening in the archipelago and deplores the French president's blindness to the Kanak. (Eric Vuillard, May 28, 2024, Le Monde)
    -ESSAY: Sitting Bull, Buffalo Bill and the circus of lies: A new book describes how Native American culture was consumed and repackaged by show business. Its author, Eric Vuillard, explores into the relationship between two of the main characters in this travesty (Eric Vuillard, 24 August 2016, Independent)
    -LETTER: In response to:The Reich in Medias Res from the December 6, 2018 issue (Eric Vuillard, 2/07/19, NYRB)
    -INTERVIEW: The Waterstones Interview: Eric Vuillard (Martha Greengrass, 3rd October 2019, Waterstones)
    -INTERVIEW: Éric Vuillard and Mark Polizzotti on The War of the Poor (Booker Prizes)
    -VIDEO INTERVIEW: Eric Vuillard (Berbard Martin)
    -VIDEO INTERVIEW: Revisiting Colonialism: In Conversation with Éric Vuillard & Natalya Benkhaled-Vince (Natalya Benkhaled-Vince, Jun 1, 2023, French Institute, London)
    -ESSAY: Learning the Lessons of History and Literature: The Case of Éric Vuillard's L'Ordre du jour (Nathan Bracher, Spring/Summer 2019, History and Memory)
    -ESSAY: Author Spotlight: Eric Vuillard, another way of telling history (Hector Perrotto, Jul. 25, 2022, The Boar)
    -ESSAY: Recourse to History (PATRICK LYONS, 07 OCTOBER 2022, Sidecar)
    -ESSAY: The Art of Writing History: A Satirical Approach: A Meditation on Éric Vuillard’s The Order of the Day (Cynthia D. Bertelsen, Feb 17, 2024, Medium)
    -ESSAY: Vichy as Syndrome and as Literature (Jacob Hamburger, 27 July 2018, Tocqueville21)
    -WIKIPEDIA: Kurt Schuschnigg
    -REVIEW: of Austrian Requiem, by Kurt von Schuschnigg (Kurt List, October 1947, Commentary)
    -ARCHIVES: Eric Vuillard (Internet Archives)
    -INDEX: Eric Vuillard (NYRB)
    -VIDEO ARCHIVE: Eric Vuillard (YouTube)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVES: Eric Vuillard (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of The Order of the Day by Éric Vuillard (Steven Poole, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Order of the Day (Andrew Hussey, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Order of the Day (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Order of the Day (Gerald Jacobs, Jewish Chronicle)
    -REVIEW: of Order of the Day (Malcolm Forbes, Star Tribune)
    -REVIEW: of Order of the Day (Robert Tombs, TLS)
    -REVIEW: of Order of the Day (Edward Ousselin, World Literature Today)
    -REVIEW: of Order of the Day (James Campbell, WSJ)
    -REVIEW: of Order of the Day (Rhea Rollmann, Pop Matters)
    -REVIEW: of Order of the Day (Eileen Battersby, Financial Times)
    -REVIEW: of Order of the Day (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Order of the Day (Robert O. Paxton, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Order of the Day (INDIA EDGHILL, Historical Novel Society)
    -REVIEW: of Order of the Day (John Cunningham, Workers' Liberty)
    -REVIEW: of Order of the Day (Ron Slate, On the Seawall)
    -REVIEW: of Order of the Day (Resolute Reader)
    -REVIEW: of Order of the Day (Aneesa Abbas Higgins, EuroLitNetwork
    -REVIEW: of Order of the Day (Mary Whipple, Seeing the World Through Books)
    -REVIEW: of Order of the Day (Gaby Levin, Ha'aretz)
    -REVIEW: of Order of the Day (Neal Gendler, American Jewish World)
    -REVIEW: of Order of the Day (Martha Anne Toll, Millions)
    -REVIEW: of Order of the Day (David Mills, Times uk)
    -REVIEW: of Order of the Day (Alastair Mabbott, Herald Scotland)
    -REVIEW: of Order of the Day (Mal Warwick Blog on Books)
    -REVIEW: of The War of the Poor by Éric Vuillard (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of The War of the Poor (Rhea Rollmann, PopMatters)
    -REVIEW: of The War of the Poor (Mary Lawrence, Historical Novel Society)
    -REVIEW: of The War of the Poor (warm days will never cease)
    -REVIEW: of The War of the Poor (Lonesome Reader)
    -REVIEW: of The War of the Poor (michael Schmitt)
    -REVIEW: of The War of the Poor (ashramblings)
    -REVIEW: of An Honorable Exit by Eric Vuillard (NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of An Honorable Exit (Miriam Bridenne, Albertine)
    -REVIEW: of An Honorable Exit (Sophie Joubert, France-Amerique)
    -REVIEW: of An Honorable Exit (Francis P Sempa, Asian Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of An Honorable Exit (Ben Bergonzi, Historical Novel Society)
    -REVIEW: of An Honorable Exit (Jude Cook, TLS)
    -REVIEW: of An Honorable Exit (Bram Presser, A Book for Ants)
    -REVIEW: of An Honorable Exit (Graham Robb, The Spectator)
    -REVIEW: of An Honorable Exit (Thomas Filbin, ArtsFuse)
    -REVIEW: of An Honorable Exit (Stuart Kelly, The Scotsman)
    -REVIEW: of Sorrow of the Earth by Eric Vuillard (Book Around the Corner)


    -FILMOGRAPHY: Eric Vuillard (IMDB)

Book-related and General Links: