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Cowardice

Saturday 23rd January 2010

This Christmas, I asked my parents for quite a few books. One of the ones that I asked for – and received – is The Grand Prix Saboteurs. This is a book about a few pre-WW2 Grand Prix drivers who served during the war as British secret agents. Despite the name and the fact that some of the main characters are people who were involved with Grand Prix racing, this book is absolutely not about racing. It’s mostly about the lives of the secret agents who worked in France during WW2, and it is an absolutely fascinating book. I urge everyone to find a copy and read it as soon as possible (and I’ll gladly lend it to anyone who knows me in real life). In fact I’d go so far as to say that it should be required reading for every school pupil, because it’s absolutely amazing. Some of the stories included in it read like something from a particularly clichéd spy novel, so to read them and realise that the people involved were real people – normal people who had volunteered for that work – is something that I found particularly amazing.

I’m not what you’d call a sentimental person. It’s very hard to move me emotionally – in fact my own Mother has described me as “heartless”(!). But certain things in that book really moved me. I found myself getting angry and appalled at the way the Nazis treated the spies upon capture. I was disgusted with the way certain people collaborated with the Nazis and “sold out” people who trusted them. But most of all I was amazed, astounded and inspired by the fact that these people were even there in the first place. They volunteered for an insanely dangerous task, and then worked in France under the constant threat of discovery, capture and torture. This wasn’t a good job. The Nazis had a special disdain for spies and a lot were killed in incredibly horrible ways. If they were captured, towards the end of the war they were selected for “special treatment”, a particularly sinister innuendo.

As I was reading the book I had conflicting emotions. I was amazed at the story, inspired by the things people did for their ideals. But it’s also slightly depressing. There’s a quote towards the end of the book from one of the surviving spies which perfectly mirrors the thoughts I was having. Talking about his colleagues (men and women, by the way) who were killed by the Nazis, he said the following:

“They gave their lives willingly, gladly, and they died happy, for they died with an ideal, with the feeling that they had sacrificed everything for something good, something enduring. They did not live to see the sham that it all was, to see the wasting of their efforts, the shameless scramble for personal satisfaction”

How sad is that? Doesn’t it make you angry? We really don’t know we’re born.

Anyway, read the book because it’s brilliant.

Posted at 3:52 am | Posted In: Politics Tagged:

3 Comments:

Lucy

Saturday 23rd January 2010, 11:46 am

Mmmm.

Andy

Sunday 24th January 2010, 2:21 am

Your mum is proper harsh.

Dickie

Sunday 24th January 2010, 2:29 am

You have no idea…

I give as good as I get though :-P

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