Le déserteur is a famous anti-war song written by Boris Vian and released on May 7, 1954 during the Battle of Dien Bien Phu ( First Indochina War).
It was first sung by Marcel Mouloudji, in 1954. Subsequently, it was forbidden by the French censorship to be sold or broadcasted 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’s going to refuse his call to arms, turning deserter, and explains his reasons to do 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 Valéry Giscard d’Estaing in the Plogoff’s struggle.
Boris Vian (1920-1959), a French engineer by education, gifted with amazing talents, was at any one time a poet, a novelist, a musician, a jazz trumpeter, a singer, an actor; he also was a pacifist, an anti-power genius with une sensibilité à fleur de peau. He is remembered for tantalizing finesse, sensitivity, creativity, and originality. From L’Écume des Jours and L’Arrache-cœur, to L’Automne à Pékin, Boris Vian exemplifies humaneness and solidarity. To listen to a beautiful rendition of Le Déserteur, try Serge Reggiani or Mouloudji, two famous anti-militarist singers.
- Download the lyrics of Le déserteur (PDF 416 KB)
- Download partition from the website of Académie de Lyon
- Wikipedia (FR)
- Le Déserteur in 45 languages, with the complete history of the song in French, Italian and English, from website Chansons Contre la Guerre (CCG/AWS)
Serge Reggiani often read Le dormeur du val from Arthur Rimbeau before singing Le déserteur of Boris Vian.