When American troops arrived in Paris to help maintain order at the end of the Second World War they were, at first, received by the local population with a sense of euphoria. However, the French soon began to resent the Americans for their display of wealth and brashness, while the US soldiers found the French and their habits irritating and incomprehensible. To bridge the cultural divide, the American generals came up with an innovative solution. They commissioned a surprisingly candid book which collated the GIs' `gripes' and reproduced them with answers aimed at promoting understanding of the French and their country.
The `gripes' reveal much about American preconceptions: `The French drink too much', `French women are immoral', `The French drive like lunatics!', `The French don't bathe', `The French aren't friendly' are just some of the many complaints.
Putting the record straight, the answers cover topics as diverse as night-clubs, fashion, agriculture and sanitation. They also offer an unusual insight into the reality of daily life immediately after the war, evoking the shortage of food and supplies, the acute poverty and the scale of the casualties and destruction suffered by France during six years of conflict.
Illustrated with delightfully evocative cartoons and written in a direct, colloquial style, this gem from 1945 is by turns amusing, shocking and thought-provoking in its valiant stand against prejudice and stereotype.