The method of this unusual work...is to peel away the veils of dissimulation, disguise and self-justification that conspire to make historical disasters appear as just the way things happen. While The Order of the Day has the rhythm and tenor of fiction, it is really a historical essay ... the author utilizes mundane facts or events, converting them by literary alchemy into gleaming pieces of a puzzle. From time to time, the author’s own voice breaks through, warning the reader against being duped ... The Vuillard tone, ironic, persistent, aggressive—at times merciless—is well caught in English by the translator Mark Polizzotti ... Mr. Vuillard has relied on a range of firsthand accounts of the events in question, and some readers might have welcomed a few source notes. But history as recitation—a tale told in a singular voice—can probably do without them.
Halfway through The Order of the Day, Éric Vuillard’s powerful novel about Adolf Hitler’s annexation of Austria, the acclaimed Lyon-born author notes that 'Great catastrophes often creep up on us in tiny steps.'The book...chronicles that great catastrophe in tiny yet well-paced steps: small enough to allow for a tantalizing buildup, steady enough for the reader to behold and be appalled by the full scale of the unfolding disaster. The result is a sure-footed blend of storytelling and re-evaluated history.
L’Ordre du jour (The order of the day) is a short historical narrative centered on the Anschluss, the 1938 annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany. The result of painstaking research, it is related to 'fiction' in the sense that real historical events are arranged and narrated in ways that are somewhat similar to the suspenseful, dramatic storytelling techniques of traditional historical novels. By highlighting certain interrelated actions and individuals, Éric Vuillard provides a fresh, multifaceted reexamination of a seemingly well-known moment of twentieth-century history.