The Order of the Day by Éric Vuillard
Published by Picador, 2019
This is the story of meetings which took place in the lead up to WWII. Those involved included Hitler, Chamberlain, von Ribbentrop, Schuschnigg and the heads of companies with names still familiar today.
How to describe this book? Honestly, I don’t know. When stripped down to the bare minimum, it’s a story of competing egos. It’s also absolutely gripping as well as stunning in its inevitability.
It’s fair to say that, despite winning the Prix Goncourt*, on publication, reviews were mixed, with the Guardian calling it a “historical essay with literary flourishes”, but much of the theorising rings true. For example, the author posits that “what is astounding about this war is the remarkable triumph of bravado from which we can infer one lesson everyone is susceptible to a bluff”
Imagine the film Death of Stalin but without the humour or the sense of the absurd. Assuming the facts are correct then the “imagining” is both frightening and appalling
One thing is clear, it’s only a short step from democracy to tyranny and from diplomacy through appeasement and thence to war. Worse, it brings to mind how easy it is or would be to see history repeating itself.
* considered France’s most prestigious literary prize.