"We were always aware that we were only a minority," Henri said, "but you maintained that a minority could do effective work."
"In certain cases, but not in that one," Dubreuilh replied. He began speaking very rapidly. Obviously many things had been weighing heavily on him for a long time. "For the Resistance, fine! A handful of men was enough; all we wanted, after all, was to stir up trouble. Stirring up trouble, sabotage, resisting– that's the job of a minority. But when you set out to build, that's an entirely different story. We thought all we had to do was take advantage of the running start we had gotten, while actually there was a radical difference between the Occupation period and the one that followed the liberation. It was up to us to see that there was no collaboration; what came afterward was no longer our concern."
"Nevertheless, it did concern us a little," Henri said. He could see clearly why Dubreuilh was claiming the opposite: the old man didn't want to think he had had possibilities of action and hadn't exploited them properly. He preferred to accuse himself of a mistake in judgment rather than admit to a defeat. But Henri remained convinced that in '45 the future was still open: it wasn't just for the fun of it that he had involved himself in politics; he had felt with evidence to support him, that what was going on around him did in fact concern him. "We failed to achieve our goal," he said. "That doesn't prove we were wrong to try."
"Oh, we never did anyone any harm," Dubreuilh said. "And you're better off going in for politics than getting drunk; it's rather less harmful to the health. But nevertheless, we were on the wrong track. When you reread what we wrote in '44 and '45, it makes you feel like laughing. Try it and you'll see!"
"I suppose we were too optimistic," Henri said. "That's understandable."
"I'll grant us all the extenuating circumstances you want," Dubreuilh said. "The success of the Resistance, the joy of the liberation– to a very great extent, they excuse us. Righteousness was triumphing. The future was promised to men of good will. With our old bedrock of idealism, all we wanted to do was to believe that." He shrugged his shoulders. "We were children."
—Simone de Beauvoir, Les Mandarins, p. 515