The Saboteur: The Aristocrat Who Became France's Most Daring Anti-Nazi Commando

The Saboteur: The Aristocrat Who Became France's Most Daring Anti-Nazi Commando

In the tradition of Agent Zigzag comes this breathtaking biography, as fast-paced and emotionally intuitive as the very best spy thrillers, which illuminates an unsung hero of the French Resistance during World War II—Robert de La Rochefoucald, an aristocrat turned anti-Nazi saboteur—and his daring exploits as a résistant trained by Britain’s Special Operations ExecutiveA...

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Title:The Saboteur: The Aristocrat Who Became France's Most Daring Anti-Nazi Commando
Author:Paul Kix
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The Saboteur: The Aristocrat Who Became France's Most Daring Anti-Nazi Commando Reviews

  • Amy Layton

    If you're feeling upset about the general state of the world right now, I'd definitely recommend this book to you.  If you like WW2 nonfiction, I'd definitely recommend this book to you.  If you like French histories and biographies, I'd definitely recommend this book to you.  If you........okay.  I'd recommend this book to everybody.  

    Let's begin just with the factual stuff: this biography is well-researched, to the point of Kix reaching out to de la Rochefoucald's surviving family and Skyping

    If you're feeling upset about the general state of the world right now, I'd definitely recommend this book to you.  If you like WW2 nonfiction, I'd definitely recommend this book to you.  If you like French histories and biographies, I'd definitely recommend this book to you.  If you........okay.  I'd recommend this book to everybody.  

    Let's begin just with the factual stuff: this biography is well-researched, to the point of Kix reaching out to de la Rochefoucald's surviving family and Skyping with them.  Kix researched different articles about de la Rochefoucald, watched documentaries, and garnered as much information as he possibly could about this little-known spy.  I mean, after all, he was a spy, and why would his information about his missions just be floating around?  So, Kix does a pretty dang good job at constructing a timeline and narrative for him.

    Next--holy cow.  Obviously spies are daring and incredible and do things that no average human could do but...damn.  I mean, the descriptions of torture aren't enough to make me turn away from the page, but the idea of it made me want to vomit.  The descriptions of how he had to lie about his age just in order to become a spy and how many different bureaucratic and intensive, secretive steps he had to take just to get into the training in which people sometimes died??  Or how he faced his fears of parachuting??  Or how he had to go undercover through a secret passageway out of France into Spain without being caught???  Or how his most daring and greatest plot was achieved through disguise and infiltration???  Or how he had to just hope that a shopowner was part of the resistance???  Okay.  You get the idea. 

    This book will immediately capture your attention and will keep it.  It'll make you feel motivated and inspired and completely desperate for a rich person who feels the same way.  Because let's face it.  Robert de la Rochefoucald could have spent a life in luxury--or as close to luxury as you can get when you're being food rationed and there's a hole in your roof--but instead decided to devote his life to France and a staunchly anti-nazi position.  Just...this book is great.  Please read it.

    Review cross-listed

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  • Elizabeth Theiss

    During the World War II Nazi occupation of France, some two percent of the French population were actively engaged in resistance. Robert de la Rochefoucauld was one of the most remarkable of the resistants. Denounced for his antipathy to the occupiers, at the age of nineteen Rochefoucauld fled to Britain and, with the approval of General de Gaulle himself, trained as a saboteur. After parachuting into France, he worked with secret cells of resisters to blow up factories, bridges, and railroads,

    During the World War II Nazi occupation of France, some two percent of the French population were actively engaged in resistance. Robert de la Rochefoucauld was one of the most remarkable of the resistants. Denounced for his antipathy to the occupiers, at the age of nineteen Rochefoucauld fled to Britain and, with the approval of General de Gaulle himself, trained as a saboteur. After parachuting into France, he worked with secret cells of resisters to blow up factories, bridges, and railroads, and to disrupt Nazi operations using guerrilla war tactics. Captured and imprisoned three times, he resisted torture and engineered daring escapes.

    The Saboteur reads like a heart pounding spy thriller but is in fact a painstakingly researched account of one exceedingly brave man’s war. At the end of his life, Rochefoucauld wrote an account of his exploits for his family and Kix has done the hard work of filling in gaps and corroborating the story wherever possible.

    As a student of the French resistance, I found the book both riveting and provocative in its evocation of the moral dilemmas of war. Rochefoucauld never quite forgave himself for the lives he took, sometimes with his bare hands. France continued to contend with its collaborators into the twenty-first century. Some of its citizens played ambiguous roles as both collaborators and resisters. How can culpability be established? Reading Kix’s excellent narrative made me wonder whether a Truth and Justice Commission would have served France better than using criminal trials to determine guilt and punishment.

  • Steven Z.

    It is very rare when a work of non-fiction approaches a work of fiction. For a book to tell a story that is true, but keeps you riveted as if it were a spy novel, is special. Such is the case with Paul Kix’s first book, THE SABOTEUR: THE ARISTOCRAT WHO BECAME FRANCE’S MOST DARING ANTI-NAZI COMMANDO which tells the story and exploits of Robert de Rochefoucauld, the scion of a rich French family who at the age of sixteen escaped to England, to be educated as a soldier, spy, and safe cracker in the

    It is very rare when a work of non-fiction approaches a work of fiction. For a book to tell a story that is true, but keeps you riveted as if it were a spy novel, is special. Such is the case with Paul Kix’s first book, THE SABOTEUR: THE ARISTOCRAT WHO BECAME FRANCE’S MOST DARING ANTI-NAZI COMMANDO which tells the story and exploits of Robert de Rochefoucauld, the scion of a rich French family who at the age of sixteen escaped to England, to be educated as a soldier, spy, and safe cracker in the service of British intelligence during World War II. He would return to France to organize Resistance cells to harass, bomb, and kill Germans, and at the same time save as many of his countrymen that was possible.

    Rochefoucauld, henceforth Robert’s life lends itself to an amazing biography of a man who joined the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) at the age of seventeen, underwent extensive training, and worked with the French Resistance from 1943 to the end of the war. He was part of a group that parachuted behind German lines to assist the allied landing at Normandy by sabotaging German railroads, munitions dumps, and the harassment of German soldiers. For those who question the role of the SOE and the Resistance, General Dwight D. Eisenhower summarized their effectiveness as he later estimated that “after D-Day it was the equivalent of fifteen extra divisions, or up to 375,000 soldiers.”

    The shame and humiliation felt by the La Rochefoucauld family after the French capitulation to the Germans in June, 1940 became a burden as the family had to escape south to their grandmother’s Maille estate, at the same time as their father, Olivier was taken to a German POW camp. Kix provides the reader with just enough of the historical material to place Robert and his compatriot’s actions in their historical context, particularly stressing the motivations for their decision making. Robert’s first major decision was to leave the family and try and make his way to London after listening for months to radio broadcasts by General Charles de Gaulle. Robert felt that family honor rested upon his shoulders and grew angrier by the day when faced with the capitulation of his countrymen. By the time he turned nineteen he was anonymously denounced as a supporter of de Gaulle and against collaboration. He left his family immediately from their estate in Saissons taking with him a false identity to try and get to Paris and on to London to join the Free French. Kix will describe in detail Robert’s harrowing journey across the Pyrenes assisted by the fact that he had a French-Canadian passport as he traveled through Vichy France.

    If there is a theme to Kix’s biography apart from Robert’s bravery in the face of capture and torture, it would be how he led a charmed existence throughout the war. Whether it was the assistance of British officials, French farmers, Resistance members, local merchants, and others or just plain luck, Robert was able to usually be successful in his operations. Upon arriving in London and meeting with de Gaulle who suggested his decision was correct in joining the SOE, Robert’s career as a saboteur begins. Kix takes the reader through the vigorous and often dangerous training that included how to deal with torture, safe cracking, parachuting, killing with one’s hands, explosives, as well as physical preparation. Perhaps one of Kix’s best chapters is his description of how the British developed asymmetrical warfare, a strategy that was implemented by Neville Chamberlain right before he was replaced by Winston Churchill as Prime Minister. Churchill’s own life story as a guerilla fighter and observer of asymmetrical strategy played into his increasing support and equipping the SOE with weapons, planes, and money despite opposition from the British air force. This would be the first time the British engaged in subversion and sabotage against the enemy overseas, and Winston “loved it.”

    Kix describes in detail many of Robert’s important missions. During his first mission he parachuted into central France behind German lines as a nineteen year old and set up a training cell for the French Resistance who were surprised by his age and ability to equip them. Soon his bravery and tenacity would gain their respect. Kix details of these experiences are so exact, much of which is based on Robert’s memoirs and interviews with family members that the reader can feel as if they are alongside of him during his experiences. The success of the Resistance prods the Germans to bring in the SD/Gestapo and the Abwehr resulting in numerous arrests and executions in the winter of 1943 (over 500 by the war’s end). Robert will be captured and sentenced to death on March 20, 1944 after months of torture by Dr. Karl Haas in the notorious Auxerre prison. Robert’s application of his training as explained by Kix reflects his resolve and ability to escape. Kix provides an effective approach in highlighting what it was like to be a Resistance fighter during the war, in fact over 75,000 were killed by 1945.

    Kix describes the progression of Resistance successes through 1944 and another wonderful chapter narrating how Robert organized another SOE cell and with his men were dropped behind enemy lines on June 7, 1944. The cell coordinated its rebellious acts with the Resistance and inflicted tremendous damage against the Nazis. Unfortunately, Robert was captured again, but was rescued in a hail of bullets. Perhaps Robert’s greatest escape took place when he was recaptured and sent to the notorious prison at Ft. Du Ha with its reputation for torture under the aegis of Frederick Dohse a member of SD-IV that cleared the Resistance from southwest France. After contemplating suicide he devised a plan that resulted in walking right out of the prison’s front gate!

    Robert’s last mission perhaps was his most dangerous. After Paris was liberated the haughty de Gaulle refused to give the Resistance fighters credit for their effort. He demanded they be dispersed, and if they wanted to continue to fight they had to join the Free French Army, which 200,000 did, including Robert. His final operation was to blow up a German artillery casement on a beach in southern France. His superiors reluctantly approved his plan which in the end was successful. Robert’s war came to an end when he stepped on a mine and injured his knee which resulted in a slight limp for the remainder of his life.

    Kix explores the contentiousness in French society in the decades that followed the war. In fact, only 2% of Frenchmen actually fought, and about 20% were collaborationist. These figures reflect the fissures in French society as postwar trials and some executions resulted. Though Kix has not written a long narrative, it covers a great deal of material and presented with an eye for what is most historically important. If you want to gain a sense of what it was like to resist the Germans during the war and its impact on family and the larger French society it is worth consulting.

  • Cheryl

    Author Paul Kix’s extensive research into the life and times of French aristocrat Robert de La Rochefoucauld provides a close up look at the activities of the members of the French resistance during World War II.

    When the Nazis invaded France, Rochefoucauld was eighteen years old. He had lived a privileged and comfortable life. But when his father was arrested and imprisoned, he decided that it was time to take action against the invaders. He made his way to England where he was trained alongside

    Author Paul Kix’s extensive research into the life and times of French aristocrat Robert de La Rochefoucauld provides a close up look at the activities of the members of the French resistance during World War II.

    When the Nazis invaded France, Rochefoucauld was eighteen years old. He had lived a privileged and comfortable life. But when his father was arrested and imprisoned, he decided that it was time to take action against the invaders. He made his way to England where he was trained alongside other resistance fighters. After parachuting back in to France his activities earned him the respect and admiration of his fellow commandos as well as the wrath of the Germans. After being arrested and imprisoned twice, he was sentenced to death. Determined to continue the fight to free his beloved country, he plotted escapes that were nothing short of miraculous!

    This fascinating story is hard to put down. It is yet another of the unknown stories of heroism during the Second World War that are finally coming to light. After the war he was awarded the War Cross, the Medal of Resistance, a medal for escaping German imprisonment, four commendations, and France’s highest military award, the Legion of Honor. As with many of history’s heroes, Robert de La Rochefoucauld remained humble throughout his life and never sought recognition. This is a story about determination, bravery, courage, and love of country that is well worth reading.

  • Kathryn Bashaar

    My husband loves war stories, and I bought this book for him as an Easter gift. When he finished it, he said he thought I might enjoy it, I don't usually enjoy this kind of story, but I gave it a try and, to my surprise, found it very engrossing.

    It is a biography of a member of the French resistance during World War Two. Aristocratic young Robert de la Rochefoucauld was only a teenager when the Germans invaded France. He was filled with a passion to fight them, and eventually found his way to t

    My husband loves war stories, and I bought this book for him as an Easter gift. When he finished it, he said he thought I might enjoy it, I don't usually enjoy this kind of story, but I gave it a try and, to my surprise, found it very engrossing.

    It is a biography of a member of the French resistance during World War Two. Aristocratic young Robert de la Rochefoucauld was only a teenager when the Germans invaded France. He was filled with a passion to fight them, and eventually found his way to the resistance movement. His story is so full of heroism, daring escapes and near-misses that, if it were fiction, you'd think it was over the top.

    It was surprising to me to learn that the resistance, especially in the early days of the occupation, was very small. Most French citizens despaired and either collaborated or at least cooperated. The few who did fight back mostly faced torture and death, often betrayed by their own countrymen and women. Their courage is awe-inspiring, and today there are memorials to them all over Paris.

    Definitely worth reading outside my usual genres.

    Like my reviews? Check out my blog at

    Author of The Saint's Mistress:

  • Charles

    This is the story of a man—Robert de La Rouchefoucauld, scion of one of the oldest noble families in France, who lived from 1923 to 2012. He led a life in full; the focus of this book is his three years fighting against the Germans in France, as a résistant. It is a tale of bravery and derring-do, and it is gripping. But even more, it is terribly sad, because reading about this past makes us realize how masculinity and duty as exemplified by La Rouchefoucauld are no longer celebrated, but rather

    This is the story of a man—Robert de La Rouchefoucauld, scion of one of the oldest noble families in France, who lived from 1923 to 2012. He led a life in full; the focus of this book is his three years fighting against the Germans in France, as a résistant. It is a tale of bravery and derring-do, and it is gripping. But even more, it is terribly sad, because reading about this past makes us realize how masculinity and duty as exemplified by La Rouchefoucauld are no longer celebrated, but rather denigrated, to the detriment of all of us.

    La Rouchefoucauld, who was barely sixteen when the Germans invaded, living in a luxurious chateau among his extended, wealthy, and prominent family, ground his teeth for two years and then joined the Resistance. Making his way to London, through Spain, to see Charles de Gaulle, he joined the British Special Operations Executive, in a branch that coordinated closely with de Gaulle. Parachuting back into France, he engaged in various sabotage operations and was captured, betrayed by his countrymen. Held and tortured for four months, he was sentenced to death, but escaped on the way to the firing squad. Returning to fighting, he was captured again, and escaped again, this time by faking a seizure, killing the guard who came to help, and walking out of the prison complex in the guard’s uniform. He ended his service fighting as a French commando in reducing the Royan pocket, where the last Germans in France were holed up in what was left of the Atlantic Wall, performing feats such as hanging upside down from a camouflage net and cutting the throat of a strongpoint’s sentry.

    Then he retired back to private life, having been awarded various military honors, among them the Légion d’Honneur and the Croix de Guerre. He remained obscure, for like so many men of that time, he was not a self-promoter (no more so than my wife’s grandfather, who as an Australian soldier fought the Japanese in jungle warfare in Papua New Guinea, a more terrible war than that in Europe, and would not talk about it). In 1996, however, he came to public notice, as a defense witness for Maurice Papon, accused of deporting Jews to their deaths while serving as a police functionary in Bordeaux, in Vichy France. La Rouchefoucauld seems like an odd choice for a defense witness, but he swore that Jews he fought with had told him that they had escaped, to be able to fight at all, because Papon had warned them of coming deportations. Since the Papon trial was an excuse for collective French self-flagellation over their conduct during the war, La Rouchefoucauld was (literally) spat upon, and retired to obscurity again. While La Rouchefoucauld wrote a short autobiography before he died, the author of "The Saboteur," Paul Kix, also relied heavily on interviews with La Rouchefoucauld’s children and others who had teased out parts of his story over the years, as well as archival material, compiling what is, as I say, a gripping story, well worth reading.

    Beyond simply entertaining ourselves, what can we learn from this book? Not much new about Nazis, or the French, or the French Resistance. Those topics have much to teach us, but not much new to teach us. Rather, what I want to focus on here is how La Rouchefoucauld’s public life demonstrated his commitment to masculine virtue and to aristocratic obligation. In La Rouchefoucauld’s time, and in every society in every time before our own late modern time, men were expected to be men. A man who refused to live up to the requirements of masculinity disgraced and isolated himself. (Not to mention he was expected to grow up to be a man quickly—La Rouchefoucauld was killing men was he was nineteen, and to take a less violent example, Orson Welles was twenty-five when he wrote, directed, and starred in Citizen Kane.) And, closely tied to the requirement to be a man, the ruling class was expected to contribute in proportion to the fact that it ruled. We can learn, most of all, by simply observing how far away then seems from now, and realizing what changes need to be made today.

    At the broadest level, what used to be, and should be, expected of men is modeling proper masculine behavior. Doing that makes society work. If men stop acting like men should, it throws sand in the gears of society. So what are these masculine virtues? They are a set of positive virtues, required behaviors, towards which men as men are aligned by nature and which need to be encouraged and polished, and negative virtues, behaviors to avoid, attractive as those might be to any given individual man.

    The positive virtues are those La Rouchefoucauld exemplified: physical bravery ranging towards aggression, self-reliance, protection at any cost of his family, friends, and others deserving of protection, the handling and use of physical things, the creation of order, tight control of emotion, provision for his family, and bold, quick action. They are not the feminine virtues: nurture, kindness, grace, empathy for people and creatures, the creation and formation of life, counsel before action, cooperation, and passing wisdom down through the generations. Together, in different measure for different people, across the whole range of humanity, all these virtues form a coherent human whole, a functioning society, to which each person contributes what he or she does best. But when these virtues are denied, confused, ignored or blurred, chaos and evil result. As I tell my three boys (my girls listen, hear, and learn, such that they may choose rightly themselves, though they are also given their own lessons), a man’s job, boiled down to its essence, is “to be the first to fight and the last to flee.” More simply, I also lecture the boys every day, “Don’t be a pansy.” It is old school around our house. Or, as the worm turns, is it new school around our house?

    The positive masculine virtues overlap heavily with something laughed at today, chivalry. Of course, chivalry was a system of mutual obligations and support among men and women. It was in part a natural system, and in part the enforced semi-artificial superstructure of a highly developed and successful culture. You have to remove the knights-and-armor overlay through which we tend to think of chivalry, but to a man of the 1940s, chivalry was an understandable, coherent, accepted ideal. This was especially true among the aristocracy, which has always refined the transmission of the high masculine virtues to a greater extent than other segments of society.

    And what are the negative masculine virtues, the behaviors to avoid? Really, they are twofold. First, avoiding the extremes of the positive virtues, which, when taken to the lengths of caricature, become damaging. This is a problem today among those men striving to recover the masculine virtues, since self-teaching outside a reinforcing system of transmission is a poor substitute for the old method where everyone, from parents to teachers to shopkeepers, by increments taught a boy or a young man how to behave properly. Second, avoiding giving in to his baser instincts, which for all men are not far below the surface. If, when given the chance, you act like a degenerate rock star, you have failed the test.

    Few would disagree that all these masculine virtues are today held in contempt by our elites, those who have the power to form and guide our culture and society. It is not just contempt, though—our elites actively demand that men not only not act like men, but demand they act like women, in order to be praised and held up as role models. Examples of such feminization abound. My wife has been complaining for some time about the “pussyfication” of men that she sees everywhere. (She is not complaining about me—I am, let me assure you, so, so very, masculine. Also note, by the way, the term “pussy” here has nothing to do with Donald Trump’s vulgarisms; Webster’s tells me it means a “weak, cowardly, or effeminate man.”) You just have to look around you. The male models at Target flounce from their posters, wearing gauzy scarves and smiling soft smiles. Obama’s propaganda team thinks that simpering Pajama Boy resonates with men. The New York Times writes article after article about how men are eagerly choosing to portray themselves as, and to act, feminine. Schoolteachers strive to repress any boisterousness from boys, demanding they reeducate themselves to present as sugar, spice, and everything nice. (Much of this is actual child abuse, with strong overtones of totalitarianism, farthest advanced and best seen for what it is in Sweden.) And that’s before you even get to the ideologists, the grim, hatchet-faced women with cropped hair and the fattish, mincing men with soft hands, who howl at us about imaginary “toxic masculinity” and demand we believe that at their option, men can choose to be women, and women men, or something in between, on alternate Tuesdays.

    You may respond that this is an exaggeration, that masculinity survives just fine in strongholds outside the grasp of the cultural elite. Maybe, though there is little evidence of that in national public life. I certainly know many men who reject these dictates of the elite—but they are besieged, and they know it, that masculine virtues are most definitely not permitted to be celebrated, or even acknowledged, in any professional or corporate environment. Perhaps new beachheads are being formed, as I discuss below. Possibly proud old-style masculinity survives in certain small areas of the military, and among the deplorables who do not read the New York Times. But in the military, what small area is left is under brutal siege, like the Royan pocket, by pinched-looking women who risibly claim the title “General.” And as to the broader culture, our rulers know that over time the deplorables will comply due to indoctrination or punishment, or they can be safely ignored, left to commit suicide or descend into opiate addiction in desperation at their lot.

    So the question then is, why are we subjected to this torrent of malevolent stupidity, unknown in human history before our time? The prime reason is because the foundation of the malign ideology of the modern Left, the Apollyon of the age, is that reality is malleable, and most of all, that human nature is a construct, which we can mold as we will, to achieve the perfect world. The Left knows that if anyone is allowed to believe that men and women are different, then it also will be believed that reality exists, humans are what humans are, and we must all struggle forward together to build an imperfect world. These beliefs cannot be permitted, so the propaganda and conformity machine must be deployed to enforce compliance. The Emperor does too have clothes, peasant!

    There is a secondary, related reason that the masculinity of La Rouchefoucauld’s time has been driven from public life. Choosing to act as a virtuous man is hard. It requires conditioning from parents and from society, as well as tough personal choice and discipline. In the society the Left has built today, emancipation of every person, man and woman, from the burden of unchosen obligation is the greatest sacrament of all. Even leaving aside the constant indoctrination, masculinity, which at its core is a set of non-negotiable duties, is neither recognized nor rewarded when unfettered freedom is the only goal. Instead, what is celebrated is a man’s freedom to be a coward, to live in his parents’ basement, to abandon his wife and children, to bawl at minor setbacks, and to be vacillating and indecisive. Those vices, those failures to be a man, are what is rewarded and never punished, and since they are easy and pleasurable ways to live, part of a man’s baser instincts, in a world of emancipation they tend to replace the old virtues without even the need for indoctrination from above.

    What is the long-term effect of this coerced denial of reality as regards men and women? I’m not sure. Certainly, something not based in reality cannot last, but it can cause fatal damage to any given society before it burns itself out. And like all high culture, developed masculine virtue is partially an artificial structure bolted onto society; you do not find it in primitive societies, although you always find its building blocks. Without maintenance, it can’t grow, and it is hard to recover. There is some evidence that men are struggling to recover masculine virtues, even though the only prominent public person today, left or right who will speak the truth about masculinity, over and over, is Jordan Peterson. The response to his message suggests a groundswell to recover a proper place for the masculine virtues. But it is extremely difficult to recover a complex cultural artifact that has been destroyed, even if based firmly in nature, and much more so when it is under constant attack. My guess is that absent some extreme challenge to our society that demands the masculine virtues be placed front and center, some disastrous event, this decay of masculinity is permanent and feeding on itself, such that we will end up like Sweden, South Korea, or Japan in this regard—a dying society, but one where manufacturers of cosmetics for men do a booming business, until there are no more boys to whom to sell makeup.

    In the very short term, paradoxically, I think some of this benefits conservatives politically, though that is a modest benefit, akin to rearranging the proverbial deck chairs. Still, hatred of masculinity, combined with ugly ideological farces such as the transparent lies rolled out about Brett Kavanaugh, seem to me to risk tuning the Democratic Party into a party confined to some combination of rigid Left ideologues, not-very-bright liberal women, and feminized men. That offers pretty narrow appeal to the polity as a whole (probably part of why the leftist censorship/propaganda machine of the Lords of Tech has fired up its afterburners). The storied “white working class,” comprised largely of men who are still men and women who are not fooled by, or attracted by, hatred of men and masculinity, isn’t coming back to the Democrats. Nor are Latino men, or African American men, or other men from cultures largely outside the gelatinous cultural elite that celebrate a man being a pansy, likely to respond positively to this increasingly rancid flavor of the Democratic Party.

    Of course, to take advantage of this political opportunity, the Republicans would have to offer a strong alternative, a firm stand in reality, and you’d be hard pressed to find a Republican politician, all conditioned to not give offense to the mouthpieces of the cultural elite, and all deathly afraid of the mob, who will even say a woman is a woman and a man is a man. This suggests that a new party, with a strong overlay of Jordan Peterson, has a real potential future, and perhaps that will form in front of our eyes. One can hope.

    I increasingly suspect that much of this idiocy only exists because our society is so wealthy. You can paper over a lot of unreality with money, especially when you can steal money from others who produce value to live your fantasy life. As a man, you can get a job as a Gender Studies professor, contradicting reality twenty-four hours a day, being paid enormous sums (and getting a free education, with money thieved from actual value producers). And you will not, unfortunately, be slapped across the face and told to go get a real job, that you, as a man, are a disgrace to masculinity, not fit to be allowed in public or to seek the attentions of a woman (if that’s what you like, which you probably don’t). This is a new thing, made possible by wealth. I’m not sure what to do about this. I like wealth, and what it can enable a society to do. But if every society that is rich chooses to be stupid, then wealth doesn’t have all that much to recommend it in the long run, not to mention that with this approach wealth will, through stupidity, inevitably evaporate.

    We have not really covered the other virtue exemplified by La Rouchefoucauld, aristocratic duty. Even more was required of La Rouchefoucauld than masculine virtue, because he was an aristocrat. He knew that, he acknowledged that, and his whole society acknowledged that. The old rule, that from those who have much, much shall be required, was still in full and unquestioned effect. A system that recognizes an aristocracy, whose members are acknowledged to be leaders to whom some degree of deference is owed, is the only system that make sense. Every society has an aristocracy, even America today, because hierarchies are both natural and inevitable, as Jordan Peterson, again, is fond of reminding us. The default is the “mass man” of José Ortega y Gasset; the cream that rises to the top is those who seek excellence, demanding it from themselves, and as a class, it is from them that excellence is demanded. The opposite is Ortega’s “barbarism,” “the absence of standards to which appeal can be made,” where a man’s “ideas are in effect nothing more than appetites in words.” The problem is that our aristocracy, our ruling class, is not actually elite, in the formal meaning of that term. It merely rules. It is a conglomeration of Ortega’s mass men. It is hopelessly awful and corrupt, parasitical and vice-ridden, lacking in either merit or accomplishment, deriving its power and its pay from controlling and bloating the government pushing policies that destroy the common good, and it should be thrown out with the trash. As with masculinity, "The Saboteur" brings this second difference between now and then into sharp relief.

    So there you go. I wanted to cry after reading this book, but I restrained myself, because I am a man. Now I will go and think what can be done.

  • Johnstonrw

    ATTENTION: there are spoilers below that will not ruin reading the book.

    This is a book that deserved to be written, but by a better writer and scholar, with better editing and proofreading. Let's start with the last first: "chateaux" on the dust jacket is used as the singular, whereas the correct form is "chateau" or properly "château." Perpignan is a city in southwest France, not southeast. The famous French composer is "Gounod," not "Guonod." But enough of these minor quibbles.

    With the endnote

    ATTENTION: there are spoilers below that will not ruin reading the book.

    This is a book that deserved to be written, but by a better writer and scholar, with better editing and proofreading. Let's start with the last first: "chateaux" on the dust jacket is used as the singular, whereas the correct form is "chateau" or properly "château." Perpignan is a city in southwest France, not southeast. The famous French composer is "Gounod," not "Guonod." But enough of these minor quibbles.

    With the endnotes the author admits to not being fluent in French and having had to rely on translators. Even not knowing this fact until after reading the main text I had the impression some of the conclusions were second-hand. I grew weary of many non-standard expressions like "He could not help but..." that reveal a certain subjectivity you don't usually see in a book based on solid research. The repeated references to La Rochefoucauld's state of mind seemed like overextending and speculation. Even reliance on his diary would not really support these assertions. The writer is struggling to make a simple story more dramatic. We have to believe his own account of the meeting with DeGaulle. The author seems to have struggled to make an essay into a book, and still managed only 222 pages.

    Robert's experience is exciting and having made two miraculous escapes is noteworthy, meriting perhaps the subtitle "... France's most daring anti-Nazi commando." There were plenty of others just as brave, a few of whom survived, some of whom were more effective but perhaps less daring; and they got in the fray much earlier. Robert joined it more then two years on, when there was better support. I'm not sure I can believe he could not get to London for all that time. The author notes with some chagrin that there is no confirmation in England of his having been trained there at all, and has to resort to rationalizations and secondary evidence. Is that story all cocked up?

    I suspect the family resorted to this writer to tell their hero's story because no one in France would handle it. La Rochefoucauls should have had his Légion d'Honneur revoked for lending Maurice Papon, the convicted war criminal, his passport to escape briefly to Switzerland, and that the Swiss extradited him swiftly confirms that conviction. Robert seems to have had a contrary streak all along. Perhaps the subtitle would more accurately have read "... France's most eccentric anti-Nazi commando."

    I do not want to gainsay Kix's diligence and commitment. He did do a lot of work researching and interviewing, and the story is compelling by fits and starts, so it's worth reading. It is episodic perhaps by the very nature of its subject but the story could flow better. The end comes quickly as Bordeaux is liberated in August 1944 after the signature St. Médard operation. The book lacks the index most self-respecting works of this nature would typically contain.

  • Nigel

    This is the story of Robert de La Rochefoucauld. It opens with an introduction to Robert and states that it is a work of "narrative non fiction". When the war starts Robert, a teenager, escapes to the UK via the Pyrenees and Spain and in the company of some UK pilots for a time. There he is recruited by SOE and trained in killing and sabotage. He is parachuted back into France in 1943.

    The book covers the period of Robert's war in the main. The author has done a great deal of research on his subj

    This is the story of Robert de La Rochefoucauld. It opens with an introduction to Robert and states that it is a work of "narrative non fiction". When the war starts Robert, a teenager, escapes to the UK via the Pyrenees and Spain and in the company of some UK pilots for a time. There he is recruited by SOE and trained in killing and sabotage. He is parachuted back into France in 1943.

    The book covers the period of Robert's war in the main. The author has done a great deal of research on his subject and the book contains numerous footnotes on sources etc. It is one of those stories of "daring do" in the war (the second world war) and I've read a number of them over the years. There are highs and lows and some parts are far more interesting than others. Some of the narrative on Robert's time in the Resistance felt brief. The story of SOE, de Gaulle and Churchill in London felt far more drawn out for instance.

    I found the writing style here rather strange. It felt rather padded out to me and some good editorial work might have made for a sharper offering perhaps. There are some factual mistakes here too which is a pity. A relatively modern court case starts this book and is referred to again at the end. Robert chose to actively support a Nazi sympathiser and one wonders whether the motivation for this book was to try and balance the less good publicity.

    Robert definitely comes over as a character. He was certainly active in the Resistance and carried out acts of sabotage which make for interesting reading. However, objectively, he was arrested quite often and spent time as a prisoner of both the Spanish and the Germans (and was held by the English in a sense for a while). I would imagine there are many other stories that remain untold of people who did more. This is not a bad book however I cannot really recommend it.

    Note - I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review

  • Peter Tillman

    A remarkable story, although not quite as good as I had hoped. Still, worth reading, especially for French Resistance and WW2 history buffs. 3.4 stars

    Robert de La Rochefoucauld was an impulsive youth, and got into the Resistance almost by accident, at age 18. He turned out to be very good at escape, evasion, and sabotage, especially after his SOE training in Britain, and had some remarkable adventures, detailed in the NYT review cited below.

    In later life, he was a stylish and well-preserved man

    A remarkable story, although not quite as good as I had hoped. Still, worth reading, especially for French Resistance and WW2 history buffs. 3.4 stars

    Robert de La Rochefoucauld was an impulsive youth, and got into the Resistance almost by accident, at age 18. He turned out to be very good at escape, evasion, and sabotage, especially after his SOE training in Britain, and had some remarkable adventures, detailed in the NYT review cited below.

    In later life, he was a stylish and well-preserved man, who came forward to defend a Vichy official accused of shipping Jews off to their deaths. The prosecution evidence was weak, the former police prefect was convicted, but later released on appeal. Robert de La Rochefoucauld was vilified for his defense of the man, who he had never met.

    Like his father before him, he spoke but seldom about his wartime experiences, but opened up some to his children near the end of his life. He died in 2012, at age 88.

    New York Times review:

    "A warning: This section of “The Saboteur” is very explicit in its description of the tortures — beatings and water boardings among them — endured by prisoners at Auxerre. In time, he was sentenced to death, but La Rochefoucauld was not prepared to die, and decided to take his chances and escape, jumping off a truck on his way to an execution site, but then he realized he was about to run past Gestapo headquarters: “La Rochefoucauld decided to continue down the street, despite his heart’s drumming in his rib cage. He walked as casually as a man trying to escape his execution could walk. As he approached the building, he saw a Citroën sedan with swastika pennants on the fender, parked nearby. He stole a glance inside the car — keys in the ignition. He looked around and saw a driver, maybe 30 feet away, pacing back and forth, waiting for someone to emerge from the building. Just then La Rochefoucauld heard distant shouting, The truck! Now — he had to decide now. He moved closer to the car, swung the door wide and threw himself in.”

    This is first-class adventure writing, which, coupled with a true-life narrative of danger and intrigue, adds up to all-night reading. ..."

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