Author of French wartime resistance hymn dies

Wed Apr 15, 2009 10:13am EDT
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PARIS (Reuters) - Maurice Druon, author of the "Chant des Partisans," one of France's most rousing hymns to the wartime Resistance, has died at the age of 90, French authorities said.

Druon, a member of the Academie Francaise and winner of the Prix Goncourt, the country's most prestigious literary prize, was also a conservative government minister and recipient of numerous official honors.

But he remained best known for the lyrics to the "Chant des Partisans" (Song of the Partisans), which he wrote with his uncle Joseph Kessel in London, where he had escaped after fighting the invading Germans as a young cavalry officer.

The song -- beginning with the words "Friend, do you hear the crows' black flight over our plains?" -- was quickly adopted by the resistance forces fighting the Nazi occupiers and remained in France's collective memory after the war's end.

"A bit like all French people, I get a kind of shiver when I hear the 'Chant des Partisans,'" said government spokesman Luc Chatel. "He marked the second half of the 20th century, he marked the history of France," he said.

(Writing by James Mackenzie)