1893 - 1958
Éditeur : Books on Demand
Date de parution : 12.06.2013
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Des études dans le climat agité du début du siècle,à la Grande Guerre.
De la Préfecture de la Seine à la direction du
Réseau de l’Etat, berceau de la SNCF.
De la direction de la Cie Générale Transatlantique du temps du Normandie, au Ministère de l’Armement à l’heure de la Drôle de Guerre.
De Marseille à Alger.
De la Libération à la Reconstruction.
French History (2015) 29 (3): 407-408. doi: 10.1093/Fu/crv038
This article appears in: Special Issue: Voting and Electoral Culture from the ancien régime to the Present Day
Souvenirs 1893–1958. By Raoul Banet-Rivet. Paris: Books on Demand. 2012. 287 pp. £20.50. ISBN: 978 28106 2475 1.
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Throughout this book, Raoul Banet-Rivet conveys his fascinating and eventful life to the reader. He begins with the story of his childhood and sketches a complete picture of a young life shared between the city and the coast, which would create a great fascination with the latter. Following his studies in law and his entry into the Seine prefecture, the First World War marked a hiatus in his career. Once civilian life was resumed, he quickly began to climb the ladder, owing in part to his encounter with Mr Dautry. He joined the Réseau de l’Etat, the French state-owned railway company, then, through his connections, in 1932, he became part of the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique, known as the French Line in English. In this role, he would be involved in the construction of the SS Normandie. When the Second World War broke out, he was attached to the Ministry of Munitions, where Dautry was in charge at the time. Under the Vichy government, Banet-Rivet became the head of the Merchant Navy in Marseille before leaving for Algiers. During the Liberation, he obtained the post of General Inspector of Maritime Transport, then went on to run the Compagnie Chérifienne de Navigation (Moroccan Shipping Company) in Morocco.
Using a style which is clear, considered and easy to read, the author highlights the major events of his life, in particular those which happened during his time with French Line and during the Second World War. In comparison to these two periods, the Great War is somewhat forgotten. Throughout this narrative, some characters are described in more detail, such as Dautry, who played a crucial role in the author’s life, as well as Charles de Gaulle, whom he admired greatly. The author also recounts some anecdotes about some very important political and military figures, with whom he was able to rub shoulders in his professional life. In Souvenirs, the author endeavours to describe the behind-the-scenes tension and intrigue which was present in the French military, political and administrative circles at the time.
However, as with any autobiographical work, the personal commentary, value judgments and personal critiques, especially with references to the events described, make it a work which needs to be handled delicately, at least for historical purposes. This autobiography is testimony to the first half of the twentieth century, a period which was tormented by two world wars. This work is interesting and enriching on many levels, but equally reflects the thoughts of a man who was greatly immersed in Gaullism and the French post-war situation, which the reader can see in the author’s wording and observations. This book was written in 1960 and provides an anachronistic interpretation of the defeat in 1940 and demonstrates a certain mistrust of the Americans. Nevertheless, this is a captivating and enlightening read in many ways and provides a lot of useful knowledge about the mood in different places and different periods.
© The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for the Study of French History. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org