Le Déserteur  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

"Le déserteur" (The Deserter) is a famous anti-war song written by Boris Vian and released on May 7, 1954 during the Battle of Dien Bien Phu.

It was first sung by Marcel Mouloudji, in 1954. Subsequently, it was forbidden by the French censor to be sold or broadcast until 1962. It was later translated into English, Italian (by Luigi Tenco, Ornella Vanoni and Ivano Fossati), Spanish, Swedish ("Jag står här på ett torg", Lars Forssell), Catalan and Danish and then many other languages. It was a major anti-war song by Joan Baez during the Vietnam War.

The song is in the form of a letter written to the French President by a man who states that he is going to refuse his call to arms and desert, and explains his reasons for doing so.

In the late 1970s, the song was covered by nuclear protesters in Brittany, as a direct apostrophe to the fierce pro-nuclear French president Giscard d'Estaing in the Plogoff struggle.

A stanza of the song appears in Thomas Pynchon's novel V.

Sometimes the last stanza of the song is altered to express the idea that although the "Deserter" is asking for peace, he is nevertheless not armless when he faces pursuers. The French version of this last stanza is credited to Boris Vian, although this is sometimes challenged.

French English (Prescott/Prager)
Si vous me poursuivez

prévenez vos gendarmes
que je serai en armes
et que je sais tirer.

And if you find me there,

tell Tom and Dick and Harry,
A weapon will I carry,
and shoot bloody well.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Le Déserteur" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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