French novella written in 1942 by Jean Bruller and published secretly under his pseudonym, "Vercors". Which is just as well, as it quickly became a symbol of mental resistance
against the German occupation.
The story centres on an elderly man and his young niece, who are forced to share their home with a German officer named Werner Von Ebrannac, and though they are unable to hinder him directly, they resolve to show resistance by never saying a word to him. The uncomfortable arrangement is complicated by the fact that Werner is a polite Francophile
who genuinely desires amity with his unwilling hosts and between their two warring nations.
A 1946 English TV adaptation was one of the first programmes broadcast by the BBC after the end of World War II
. The book has also been adapted into two French-language films - one of them Jean-Pierre Melville's feature-length debut - and several stage plays.
This work contains examples of:
- Alas, Poor Villain
- Attempted Rape: Pascal attacks Jeanne in her home when she refuses his advances, but her screams alert Werner.
- Break Them by Talking: Inverted. The uncle and the niece break the officer by not talking.
- Elective Mute
- Elegant Classical Musician: Jeanne and Werner
- External Combustion
- Final First Words: "Adieu."
- Gentleman and a Scholar: Werner positively gushes when he sees his hosts' library.
- Heel Realisation: Happens during Werner's time in Paris.
- La Résistance: Naturally, as the author was a member of the French resistance when he wrote the book.
- No Name Given: In the original novel, the two principal characters are known only as "the uncle" and "the niece".
- Officer and a Gentleman: Werner to a tee. As André says, "He seems decent, thank God."
- Pay Evil unto Evil: Werner has Pascal arrested by the Gestapo after the latter assaults Jeanne.
- Place Worse Than Death: When Werner reveals that he has requested a transfer to the Eastern Front, he remarks to his hosts that he is "Off to Hell".
- Polite Villains, Rude Heroes: Although Werner barely qualifies as a villain.
- Raised by Grandparents: Jeanne in the 2004 TV film, which changed the relationship of the two main characters to a grandfather and granddaughter.
- Reassigned to Antarctica
- Revenge by Proxy: 99 French hostages are shot in retaliation for a Resistance attack that kills two German officers.
- Thinking Out Loud: Werner, frequently, as he attempts to fill the uncomfortable silence, and connect with his hosts.
- Title Drop
- Tranquil Fury: The humiliated anger of the uncle and niece is palpable, but never finds expression, except maybe in a few Death Glares. In the 2004 film, Werner's reaction when he prevents Pascal's Attempted Rape of Jeanne also qualifies.
- World War II
- Worthy Opponent: How Werner views France.