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Book Review: Bad Faith by Carmen Callil

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Bad Faith chronicles the life and times of Louis Darquier de Pellepoix, one of the most vile, base, and idiotic Nazi collaborators in Vichy, France.  While Carmen Callil's connection to Darquier (who added "de Pellepoix" himself to make his name sound more regal) via his daughter should make the book more interesting, it instead smacks of a very long personal quest with little outside interest.

Callil, the Australian author and founder of Virago Press, began to see a psychiatrist in 1960 after a failed suicide attempt.  She was referred to Dr. Anne Darquier in part because Dr. Darquier was part Australian, although born and raised in London.  After a decade of three times a week sessions, Callil went to her appointment one day and the doctor was not in.  Anne Darquier de Pellepoix (Calill saw her full name on her funeral program) had indeed committed suicide herself.

Needless to say, when Callil saw this name while watching a television documentary about Vichy, France (Marcel Ophuls' The Sorrow and the Pity: The Story of a French Town in the Occupation) and knew this surname to be connected to an official of the Vichy government, she was intrigued.  When this man was shown in the film "respectfully" greeting Rienhard Heydrich, the Nazi head of France's Reich Central Security Office, Callil knew there was a story to tell.

Similar to Adolf Hitler, Louis Darquier was not the smartest or most motivated kid. While his bothers excelled in school and business, Louis spent a lot of time drinking, carousing, playing around, and then getting angry because his work wasn't getting done and his grades were bad or he wasn't making any money.  As Callil shows, he married his Australian actress wife while she was still married to another man, and proceeded to physically and psychologically abuse her while they both stayed drunk most of the time and begged money from family.  Like Hitler, who blamed the downfall of the German economy on the Jews, Louis Darquier blamed his own economic downfall on Jews who happened to do better business than he did.

Men like Darquier bloomed during the occupation of France, collaborating within the Vichy government and drinking in as much power, wealth, and alcohol as humanly possible.  Suddenly, stupidity was actually the rule of the day, and men like Darquier had the means to exact revenge on anyone they felt had wronged them in the past, especially if they happened to be Jewish.

While Callil's research is impeccable and she approaches her subject with fervor, I could not share her excitement.  Darquier is yet another stupid idiot who floated to the top of the heap when idiots ruled the world.  Witness his treatment of his daughter Anne, raised by a nanny far away from home and never seen by her parents, who assumed that sending a teeny bit of money and asking for a photo once in a while constituted care.  He apparently didn't even believe that Jews were being sent to die; he just wanted them out of his backyard and enjoyed the power conferred on him by the Nazis.  It is even worse that he outlived his wife and daughter, moving to Spain where he died in 1980, denying the holocaust all the way.  

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