Periodically, along with other Tufts faculty and staff, I am asked to share a short book recommendation.
This time I recommended The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck. It’s one of those books I never seem to own because every time I get a copy I immediate give it away. I’m a big fan of Steinbeck, who, as a California native, I consider Steinbeck a “local boy.” This is one of his few books which doesn’t take place along the dusty plains of Salinas, but it may just be my favorite.
Here is the recommendation I submitted:
Published in 1942 and distributed illegally in Nazi-occupied France, this novel tells the story of the military invasion of a small, northern European town. Under cover of darkness the town is taken by surprise in a swift and bloodless maneuver. Wanting nothing more than a simple life, the townspeople initially accept the suppression of their democratically elected officials and consent to military rule. In the hopes of maintaining the town’s submission, military leaders seek to be benevolent in their rule. But a surface of civility masks a deeper oppression. As winter sets in, relationships begin to fray and the absence of democracy is more deeply felt. Steinbeck expertly details the motivations of townspeople and invaders alike, illustrating how subtle and insidious oppression can be. A tale of oppression and resistance, the Moon is Down inspires resisters everywhere to push for a truly free and democratic society.
There’s one line I really love in the book – [Spoiler Alert] – though since I never actually have a copy, I am left to rely on my memory and can only paraphrase here.
At the moment when it truly crystallizes for the townspeople that they are oppressed, when they realize just how much they have lost their freedom, Steinbeck writes:
It was as if a cry went through the town: Resist. Resist today. Resist tomorrow. Resist. Resist. Resist.