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Thursday, August 26, 2010

"An Ordinary Camp"

by Micheline Maurel, 1958, 141p, rating=5

(I own this book and this is my scanned copy of the cover)
"Micheline Maurel is one of the spokesmen of whom Francois Mauriac speaks. For this book is her testimony to the dignity and the courage of the human soul in the face of apparently unsurmountable obstacles. It is the story of one woman's attempt to retain her humanity in the midst of the most pervasive and obscene corruption the world has ever seen." (Goodreads...which btw I added to their book list since this edition was not there and I added this synopsis as well which I copied from the book front flap; you will find it in Goodreads under the French name, Un camp tres ordinaire)

Rephrased from the book's synopsis:
Mlle (mademoiselle) Maurel, a 32yo French woman who was active in the Resistance movements was captured by Vichy government in the summer of 1943.  She was sent to Neubrandenburge concentration camp for women (22,000 prisoners, some Poles, Czechs, Russians, a few French).  This is her memoir of her two year stay there.  She describes brutalization such as daily forced marches, long hours at attention on the parade ground, and constant beatings.  She also tells of the battle against filth and lice, mysterious disappearance of the very sick to unnamed "rest camps", and thieving and cheating over tiny luxuries ...
"But woven into the story of cruelty and brutality is another theme:  that of the few women who fought boldly and tirelessly, in spite of shaved heads and inedible food and humiliations of every kind, to retain some remnant of human decency and dignity; the story of women who shared their last scrap of bread with the dying, who wrote birthday poems to keep up their fellows' spirits, who sang the 'Marseillaise' on the march to work when they new it could only bring them a violent beating.  It is this account of unflagging courage and endurance that given An Ordinary Camp its special, compelling quality." (book back flap)
This is definitely a moving book.  I cried from the depth of my soul...  My sincere appreciation Mlle Maurel for sharing your life with us.

A couple of attributes of dark stories are that they help us to realize how good we really have it and give examples of what men are capable of enduring.  Mlle Maurel's story certainly has done those and so her invitation for all to be happy and to live comes from understanding.

A truly must read book!  ...Thank you Honey for having this in your library.

My quote-ables:
"Just think, there are people who are eating, Michelle would mutter.  People who eat and who think they are badly off!  Imbeciles!" pg 97
"I fumed at myself for all my former depressions, sadnesses and all my blue moods.  How could anyone, in the outside world, be unhappy?  Oh, if we were to go back now, I would know how to live.  I wouldn't be stupidly sad.  I wouldn't let a single moment be spoiled by the sorrows of love or by metaphysical anxieties.  I know now what I would do:  I would live." pg 97

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