“All the most important events of my career have been marked and emphasised by the accompaniment of agonising toothache…”
Words from a preface to Richard Cobb’s survey of French and German relations in 1914-18 and 1940-44, written by an absolute master of self-absorption, who even within the Oxford of 1938 revolted his tutors with his selfish delight that Munich meant solely that he could pursue his research and stay out of the army.
Entirely of his time and place, the style of his writing is now extremely mannered – arch flutes of Evelyn Waugh style and a defiant disregard of anything Freud would not have examined closely (bourgeois parsimony, excrement and sex being key) – but also unexpectedly charming at times as this passage shows:
Photo July 2016 of “French and Germans, Germans and French”. His comparison of the different natures of occupation in each war are, however, actually extremely acute, along with some shrewd comments on the rather staged “resistance” in Paris in 1944.