As soon as World War Two began, resistance movements sprang into action. Wherever there was occupation, there were people willing to risk their lives to fight it. And almost as soon as the resistance began, their legend sprang into place. Tales of bravery and daring; defender versus the invader. Soon, a literature arose around the resistance, which continues to be added to well into the twenty-first century.
The Moon is Down
By John Steinbeck
Upon its publication in 1942 The Moon is Down – a story of the occupation of an unnamed country by foreign invader – was criticised, even condemned, by many US critics for its fairytale-like quality and for its portrayal of the occupiers as sympathetic human characters, rather than monsters. They felt that it would have a demoralising effect on people in occupied nations. In fact, the very opposite was true. In spite of its reception in the US it was massively popular in occupied Europe where it was published by the thousand in cellars and on underground presses, and distributed clandestinely as an act of resistance. The novel was considered such a powerful piece of anti-facist propaganda by the Axis that in Italy to be found in possession of a copy was punishable by death. It was translated by resistance groups into Norwegian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Danish and even Chinese (as China was occupied at the time by the Japanese). It was proclaimed to be “the epic of the Norwegian underground.” In France, Holland and Denmark sales of the book were used to fund their actual resistance movements.
In the novel, the occupying forces are never named. There is no mention of Hitler or Nazism or even World War Two, but there is mention of a war twenty years earlier in Belgium and France, of a crazy ‘Leader’ leading his nation to catastrophe, and of men escaping at night by boat to their ally England, all of which suggests that this is the story of a Nazi occupation. As with all of Steinbeck’s novels, it is written with a psychological insight and a sense of the inevitability of human failings versus hope that makes it a truly engaging work of art as well as an extraordinarily successful piece of anti-facist propaganda.