Fitch on Sapiro, 'The French Writers' War, 1940-1953'

Author: 
Gisèle Sapiro
Reviewer: 
Mattie Fitch

Gisèle Sapiro. The French Writers' War, 1940-1953. Translated by Vanessa Doriott Anderson and Dorrit Cohn. Durham: Duke University Press, 2014. Tables, graphs. 672 pp. $134.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8223-5178-8; $37.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-8223-5191-7.

Reviewed by Mattie Fitch (Tarleton State University) Published on H-War (September, 2017) Commissioned by Margaret Sankey

What are the responsibilities of scholars and artists in a time of political crisis and militant nationalism? This dilemma confronts us today, just as it did French writers during the Second World War. The French Writers’ War by Gisèle Sapiro investigates the question of the public intellectual in France during the 1930s and 1940s, particularly debates about the appropriateness of writers’ political engagement during the German occupation and the liberation. Sapiro’s monograph is a timely translation of her 1999 French publication with broad relevance for our contemporary world. The work immediately brought to mind the public engagement of historians who have discussed the current rise of the nationalist Right in many countries, which has led other commentators to ask whether historians should intervene as pundits or stick to analyzing the past. Timothy Snyder, historian of the impact of nationalism, dictatorship, and genocide in Eastern Europe, is a good example of a contemporary scholar/writer acting as a public intellectual. His recent book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (2017) (listed as a “#1 Best Seller in Democracy” on Amazon.com) explicitly responds to the contemporary political situation.[1] The ideas developed in Snyder’s book first appeared in distinctly public fora, such as a Facebook.com post and an article in the online Dallas News.[2] Responding to the outpouring of public observations by historians on Donald Trump’s presidency, historian Moshik Temkin published a New York Times opinion piece to argue that historians should be more cautious when offering commentary. He asks, “what should historians do? What is their role in the age of Trump?”[3] French writers asked themselves precisely these questions during the age of fascism and the German occupation of France.[4]

The role of writers as public intellectuals is particularly relevant in the history of France, where conflicts over national identity have repeatedly found echoes in the literary world, eliciting questions about the appropriateness of writers’ engagement with political questions. As the exemplary illustration of this phenomenon, French historians often point to the Dreyfus affair, which divided writers into two camps in a debate that pitted the rights of man against the prestige of the military.[5] Each subsequent national crisis that produced a rethinking of French identity drew writers into the fray, and occasioned impassioned attempts to define or deny the legitimacy of writers’ contributions. The debate continued in the interwar period, reignited after the First World War, when some writers participated in the fierce national hatreds produced by the conflict. Writer Julien Benda, in his famous 1927 essay The Treason of the Intellectuals, warned of the danger posed by writers who “adopted political passions,” because they brought to their cause “the tremendous influence of his sensibility if he is an artist, of his persuasive power if he is a thinker, and in either case his moral prestige.”[6] At this time, modern political ideologies such as communism and fascism, offering new understandings of history and the role of individuals in society, appealed to many writers. Communist writer Paul Nizan, for example, targeted bourgeois writers, such as Benda, in his essay The Watchdogs (1972) for their nonengagement, through which they supported the status quo and thereby buttressed a system of oppression.

Writers, along with other cultural figures, became increasingly divided after anti-parliamentary riots in Paris on February 6, 1934, and the resulting rise of the Popular Front. This grassroots anti-fascist movement resulted in the election of a government in 1936 led by the Socialist Party with the support of the Radical Party and the Communist Party. The Popular Front witnessed the engagement of many writers. Coalition members viewed cultural practices as a means to unite the French people around anti-fascist French values, in opposition to the French values promoted by nationalists and traditionalists. Other writers denounced these figures for serving the cause of bolshevism.

Though the Popular Front had collapsed by the time of the German invasion and French defeat in 1940, the divisions it revealed among writers continued. As Sapiro shows, the debacle served to further exacerbate internal conflict. The occupation of France from 1940 to 1944 heightened debates about “true” French identity and the meaning of “French cultural heritage.” Some writers linked themselves to the forces and institutions of the Vichy state established in the Southern (initially unoccupied) Zone, the collaborators with the Nazi occupiers in Paris, or the resistance that arose to these two groups, lending them “literary legitimacy in this ideological war” (p. 1). Others attempted to remain silent and unengaged in political struggles, but according to Sapiro this too functioned as a stance in the high-stakes conflict. Nonengagement was judged by many writers as unsuitable to the crisis situation in an ongoing debate about the role of writers within the nation. Furthermore, the crisis destabilized writers in ways many could not ignore. Sapiro reveals that the replacement of the Republic by the Vichy state with its traditionalist, authoritarian, and hierarchical aspirations, and the control established by the German powers, changed the conditions organizing the literary field through censorship and patronage. So too did the alliances and opportunities fostered by the intellectual resistance, which opposed Vichy, collaboration, and Nazi Germany through coded legal publishing and clandestine underground printing. The liberation in 1944, bringing the fall of Vichy and the expulsion of the occupiers, again shifted power dynamics, affecting writers, the structures of their production, and positions in relation to their engagement with political questions.

Unsurprisingly, the debate continued after the liberation. The Algerian War called into question France’s identity as an imperial power. Journalist Henri Alleg’s account of his torture by French paratroopers during the Battle of Algiers elicited a response from writer Jean-Paul Sartre, advocate of an “engaged literature” against a “pure literature.” Sartre “added his moral weight to Alleg’s text,” asking, “And what distinguishes us from these sadists? Nothing does, because we do not protest.”[7] (Alleg’s The Question was published in 1958 by Editions de Minuit, a publishing house founded during the resistance.)

The French Writers’ War is an ambitious project. Sapiro has amply succeeded in providing a comprehensive study of four literary institutions, the writers who composed them, and the decisions these figures made before, during, and after the occupation. (As with many works that originated as French dissertations, the scope combined with the attention to detail results in a very long book, a veritable “brick” at 740 pages.)

Her work combines several methodologies. First, it is an institutional history: she investigates the French Academy as an authority upholding respectability and the social order, the Goncourt Academy as a group dependent on public opinion, the literary magazine Nouvelle Revue français as a symbol of aesthetic legitimacy, and the Comité national des écrivains (formed during the resistance) as a representative of the subversive capacity of literature. Sapiro describes the evolution of these groups as they responded and adapted to the conditions imposed by Vichy, the occupiers, and the liberation. For this segment of the book, she relies on the archives of the institutions, as well as correspondence between writers, interviews with writers she conducted in the 1990s, and journals and accounts produced by writers. Archival collections assembled around figures and organizations of the resistance provide additional material. Using the theories of Pierre Bourdieu, she differentiates the four institutions based on their relative degrees of temporal and symbolic power (the former based on social status and relationship to political and financial resources, the latter based on the peer recognition of high literary quality). Her analysis is also Bourdieusian in its understanding that the competition among these different groups and their positions defined the literary field itself.

Sapiro is a sociologist, and in a second section, The French Writers’ War provides a sociological study of a professional milieu. She conducted a factorial analysis of 185 writers who participated in the debates about the writer’s role, considering such characteristics as social background, age, professional trajectory, location in the literary field, and position taking. Biographical reference works of literary figures, as well as archival collections of personal papers, furnished these details. Through the Multiple Correspondence Analysis she identified “the literary field’s structuring principles during the Occupation” (p. 6). The results place writers, publishers, publications, and institutions along the axes of temporal and symbolic power and allow Sapiro to pinpoint correspondences among political tendencies, literary positions, and social characteristics. Thus the “logics proper to the literary world and its institutions” determine her analysis, rather than “preconceived categories of political history” (p. 9).

Thirdly, and appropriately for an examination of a cultural discipline, Sapiro explores the discursive practices and production of the writers she evaluates. Correspondence between writers, published works by the authors, and essays and articles in various publications give her access to the ways that writers understood their professional craft, literary positions, and political ideologies. She describes the politics of publishing during the occupation not in the sense of ideology or party membership but in terms of motivated choices. Her interpretation reveals what publication choices meant to authors and how they were read by other writers. In particular, she investigates writers’ beliefs about their responsibilities, whether to society, the state, or the literary world. The concepts of autonomy and heteronomy constitute another organizing dichotomy of the book, meaning the relative ability of Sapiro’s institutions to regulate their own codes of conduct in contrast to the impact of outside forces on their activities. For these writers, different notions of responsibility determined and were determined by political positions, social background, and location in the literary field. Writers argued for a variety of stances in a debate concerning freedom of expression at a time when it was limited, critical detachment as the basis for literature’s potency or a renouncement of its power, and the morality of choices within the literary and political fields.

Sapiro argues, and convincingly proves, that the relationship of writers to politics during the occupation, a highly politicized era, often depended on literary positions. Considerations internal to the literary field, and the social trajectories of the writers within it, significantly influenced political choices. For example, a preexisting conflict over education—the republican project of expanding access to education and focusing on a modern curriculum confronted a classical humanities approach of writers who criticized what they saw as short-sighted specialization or dilution through egalitarianism—influenced the positions writers adopted in relation to political or literary hierarchies. An institution such as the French Academy, dedicated to “literary orthodoxy” and defending “a conception of literature as an instrument for reproducing a social ‘elite,’” became a natural ally of Vichy’s traditionalist National Revolution (p. 192). Because literary considerations had a history predating the defeat, literary rifts and political divisions did not match up in a clear-cut way. The political conjuncture instead fractured literary positions across political groups.

As Sapiro demonstrates, many interests united literary supporters of Vichy and writers who collaborated with the occupiers, especially the identity of national traitors within the French literary community: writers whose works celebrated, they believed, perversion, weakness, or disunity in the name of art. Writers who in the 1930s produced works whose value supposedly lay in the aesthetic realm were in fact responsible for the moral collapse of France, ultimately contributing to the defeat. For the writers making these judgments, the responsibility of writers lay in guiding and creating the French society they wished to build by upholding certain “healthy” moral values and defending “civilization.” However, this stance could violate literary codes of conduct based on autonomy from political authorities, because in calling out these literary traitors, writers exposed them to very real repression.

Another shared interest between Vichy and the occupiers was normalizing life after a profound political upheaval to gain acceptance for the new status quo. This included the literary field, as the renewed publication of books and periodicals (those deemed acceptable by the censors) would indicate the health of intellectual pursuits in the new society. Promoting an art-for-art’s-sake position, as Drieu La Rochelle attempted to do with the Nouvelle Revue français (with a fascist sympathizer as its new director and purged of its Jewish contributors), could provide a veneer of continuity and normalcy, as the art continued even as the political situation changed. A major question animating the literary field concerned whether or not to continue publishing in reviews that had aligned with the new political forces or were supported and financed by Vichy or the occupiers. For some writers, publishing in these fora constituted a contribution to the ideological project of Vichy or the fascists. For others, it related to their desire to attach themselves to the prestige of the review established prior to the defeat, or to their monetary necessity. But for many, the issue at the heart of continuing to publish in these sanctioned reviews and gaining the approval of censors was whether publishing played into the interests of the occupiers (the desire for normalcy) or whether not publishing constituted a capitulation through the diminishment of the “French spirit.”

Among the writers who participated in the intellectual resistance or who opposed Vichy and the occupiers, similar discussions arose. Did silence constitute a protest or a refusal to take sides? Some writers published in new reviews, rejecting the compromised publications and viewing this as a way to maintain the true “French spirit,” uncontaminated by the occupiers and collaborators. Other writers engaged in the clandestine intellectual resistance, which served simultaneously as a political and a literary stand. These writers linked their production to the assertion of simultaneously universal and French values, such as freedom, while also seeing their work as a defense of the rights of literature, primarily autonomy. Many of them had been condemned as the literary traitors of the nation, and they in turn denounced the collaborationist writers as traitors for betraying these literary values. Recruitment into the intellectual resistance was based more on literary networks than on political alliances, and thus succeeded in uniting writers of diverse political opinions through the message of the defense of autonomy in a way that a more political message would not have done.

The liberation that again overturned political power relations destabilized the literary community as well. Debates over the purge of individuals who had compromised themselves with Vichy or the occupiers focused on whether the punishment of collaborationist writers constituted a betrayal of the literary autonomy for which some had so recently fought, or an essential execution of justice. The art-for-art’s-sake position had been revealed as a political stance during the occupation, and a new generation of writers imbued with “moral capital” won during the resistance rejected it for engagement based on universal values (p. 438). As the Cold War increased in intensity, though, the literary field again split along lines determined by the autonomy/morality divide. Non-Communist writers feared that writers aligned with Communism, who had been central to organizing the intellectual resistance within the Comité national des écrivains, betrayed the autonomy of literature by subjecting it to political control.

The French Writers’ War speaks to a number of historiographies. A large literature exists on the political engagement of French intellectuals, and includes the work of such influential historians as Jean-François Sirinelli and Pascal Ory (Les Intellectuels en France, de l’affaire Dreyfus à nos jours [1986]), Alice Yaeger Kaplan (Reproductions of Banality: Fascism, Literature, and French Intellectual Life [1986]), Sudhir Hazareesingh (Intellectuals and the French Communist Party: Disillusion and Decline [1991]), Tony Judt (Past Imperfect: French Intellectuals, 1944-1956 [1992]), and Gérard Noiriel (Les fils maudits de la République: L’avenir des intellectuels en France [2005]).[8] Sapiro explains that works focusing on writers’ engagement during the occupation generally take the approach of “politically focused intellectual history,” separate from studies of “‘cultural life’ under oppression” (p. 2). This leads to works that either are over-politicized, focusing on extreme figures, or address depoliticized cultural realms.[9] By considering the specifically literary considerations that contributed to political position taking, Sapiro bridges this gap to provide a more nuanced picture of the political engagement of cultural figures. She locates herself with studies of cultural domains or professional groups during this period that help to break down temporal, geographical, and political divisions, because these divides “appeared less clearly in those milieus” (p. 2). This approach also places Sapiro’s work within a broader historiographical trend exploring convergences between groups conventionally viewed as politically opposed, especially across the fascist/anti-fascist or right/left rift of the polarized interwar and Vichy periods.[10] Along with other historians within this tendency, she considers a longer chronological time frame for this period in order to trace continuities and pinpoint breaks.[11]

In addition, the book contributes to the literature about collaboration and resistance in France, especially expanding on Philippe Burrin’s concept of accommodation (La France à l’heure allemande, 1940-1944 [1995]) by revealing a variety of motivations for collaboration or resistance and complicating what has sometimes been treated as a sharp divide.[12] By focusing on the internal logic of the literary field that structured responses to the external pressures of Vichy and the occupation, she demonstrates the nonpolitical considerations that contributed to political stances. Opportunism or opportunity as much as ideology determined writers’ involvement in collaboration or resistance. Prewar literary debates and sociological factors did so even more. This interpretation allows Sapiro to illuminate unusual combinations or engagements not explained by politics, such as the heterogeneity of contributors to the collaborationist periodical La Gerbe, who included Henry Poulaille, known for “proletarian literature”; the alliance at the Goncourt Academy between the politically opposed Léon Daudet and Lucien Descaves, which represented the union of the old guard against a new generation of writers; and the recruitment of political conservative André Rousseaux by Communist Louis Aragon to the intellectual resistance because the critic was open to the avant-garde (p. 28). By rethinking the principles of division in the literary field during the occupation, she clarifies the split between the Vichy nationalists in the Southern Zone and the fascist collaborators in Paris; shows that distinctions between resisters and collaborators were sometimes porous, as was the case with Jean Paulhan and Drieu La Rochelle, who in spite of belonging to opposite camps relied on one another for literary reasons; and demonstrates the basis for the diversity of the resistance (both the intellectual and armed branches), which included Communists, Catholics, and nationalists.[13] As for literature concerning the liberation, Sapiro expands on Megan Koreman’s investigation of the meaning of justice for French communities after the war in The Expectation of Justice (1999), exploring the oppositions and intersections of different priorities: justice, national reconstruction, and legitimacy.

Sapiro’s historiographical and methodological approaches endow her book with many strengths. She emphasizes that what it meant to be a writer at this time, and what it meant for writers to engage as public intellectuals, was contested, rather than inevitable.[14] She focuses on the disputes themselves, such as whether or not to publish under the occupation, which defined the options available to authors in relation to the historical situation, analyzing a wide range of responses and behaviors. By placing the occupation period in a broad chronological context from the 1930s to the 1950s, she can discover the impact of literary and publishing networks on resistance and collaboration. Her combination of several methodologies gives her analysis a firm grip on cultural phenomena, which can be subjective, amorphous, and difficult to define.

As a written work, The French Writers’ War has a clear structure, and the argument is well presented in the introduction. Sapiro provides a good mix of interpretation, historical context, personal detail about the authors, and sociological group portraits that make it an engaging read in general. She succeeds in humanizing the writers of the collaboration, even while exposing their ethical failings and compromises; with the writers of the resistance she takes the same unflinchingly critical gaze. Perhaps her extensive investigation of writers’ engagement during a morally perilous era guided her to a stance that is objective yet does not refrain from judgment.

Though overall the book holds together well as a coherent whole, a few areas of unevenness are inevitable. In the early chapters, Sapiro spends more time on the background of the writers and positions that ultimately aligned with the collaborationist or Vichy camps than on the background of the writers who were associated with the Left in the 1930s. When reading these chapters, I wondered if perhaps the author’s real interest lay in examining the reasons behind literary engagement with the occupiers or collaborators. The description of the evolution of left-leaning intellectuals during the Popular Front seemed especially cursory (for example, the reference to the Cartel des Gauches in 1935 as a foreshadowing of the Popular Front was jarring: in 1935, even if the political parties were still working toward their pact of unity and the Popular Front government had not yet been elected, the Popular Front already existed as a powerful grassroots alliance, and one of the most visible moments of the triumphant Popular Front was the massive demonstration in Paris on July 14, 1935). This is significant, because left-leaning and anti-fascist writers made arguments about writers’ responsibilities prior to 1940 that Sapiro does not discuss. For example, writers in groups linked to the unions, such as the Théâtre du peuple, and other working-class organizations criticized so-called psychological romantic literature, especially theatrical works dealing with the internal developments or interpersonal dramas of its protagonists. They viewed such works as a symptom of a self-obsessed bourgeois individualism to be replaced by works connected to social realities.

These lacuna result perhaps from the narrow definition of politics employed by the author (who includes political parties or groups associated with collaboration/fascism, Vichy/traditionalism, or the resistance). Many cultural figures in the 1930s argued precisely that cultural practices were political, in that they could mobilize groups behind certain identities and instill particular values. The Maison de la Culture, Mai 36, and other Popular Front cultural groups in particular embraced these ideas.

Obviously a scholarly work must have limits, and Sapiro’s are well defined. However, some of the assertions she makes about them can be questioned. For example, she states that “the widespread mobilization of writers [during the 1930s] had, in fact, no equivalent among artists or musicians” (p. 54). This is simply not true, as Jane Fulcher in The Composer as Intellectual: Music and Ideology in France (2008) and Pascal Ory in La belle illusion: Culture et politique sous le signe du Front populaire (1994) have demonstrated. The Popular Front groups mentioned above, and nationalist and Catholic cultural associations, mobilized musicians and visual artists as well as writers. The question of political engagement was not limited to writers, as the author suggests. In one major example, Louis Aragon, a Communist writer who features largely in The French Writers’ War, participated in a 1936 debate about realism in painting that centered on precisely this question. The proceedings were published as La Querelle du Réalisme (1936). Scholars who have investigated the La Querelle have focused on conflicts between artists who embraced Soviet-style socialist realism and French artists who resisted limitations on their artistic liberty.[15] The debate opposed two groups, one committed to socialist realism and the other to new realism in painting, who contested art’s role in social change. The first group, including artists Jean Lurçat, Edouard Goerg, and Marcel Gromaire, called for engagement in society in order to transform it; through realism, they would seek their inspiration both from the world they witnessed and the society they hoped to create. They would create works that could connect with workers, foster solidarity, and promote the development of a new state of mind. Fernand Léger, André Lhote, and the other painters of the second group rejected socialist realism for aesthetically innovative styles, which alone, they believed, could attain truth and further liberation. They maintained that the artist was not responsible for social transformation, but rather social transformation would make the experience of art more collective and egalitarian.[16] Sapiro thus misses some elements of the discussion about the engagement of cultural figures, particularly those made by artists associated with the Left.

Sapiro also limits her investigation to “metropolitan France, where the majority of the struggles for redefinition of the literary stakes played out” (p. 2). Certainly this limitation in scope makes sense, but did these debates really not see reverberations in the colonies, where Vichy had a major impact, as Eric Jennings has shown in Vichy in the Tropics: Pétain’s National Revolution in Madagascar, Guadeloupe, and Indochina (2002)? In addition, there is the question of reception (perhaps inevitable for histories of cultural production). Did these debates or works have a broader impact beyond what was essentially an elite group of intellectuals (though of course some writers did not belong to “the elites,” they nevertheless as a whole constituted a group apart discussing questions that could be considered esoteric)? Did the debate move beyond the relatively small circle of the literary world?

In some ways this book itself is meant for a specialized audience: the use of jargon limits its accessibility, and historical context or the identity of individuals are not always explained. For example, on the first page of chapter 1, the author invokes the “appeal of June 18,” a reference to Charles de Gaulle that readers not versed in French history would not know (p. 13). The problem is partially mitigated by helpful notes on the part of the translators or the author, and becomes less of an issue as the book progresses. Similarly, I (a cultural historian) found the description of the statistical results difficult and tedious to read, though perhaps sociologists would disagree. More of it could be moved to appendix 1, “Presentation of the Survey.”

Despite these critiques and quibbles, however, The French Writers’ War is an illuminating book and Sapiro deserves to be warmly thanked for her contribution.

Notes

[1]. “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century,” Amazon, https://www.amazon.com/Tyranny-Twenty-Lessons-Twentieth-Century/dp/0804190119/ref=sr_1_1?i...(accessed July 7, 2017). In a Washington Post review, Carlos Lozada notes, “Steeped in the history of interwar Germany and the horrors that followed, Snyder still writes with bracing immediacy, providing 20 plain and mostly actionable lessons on preventing, or at least forestalling, the repression of lives and minds.” Carlos Lozada, “20 Ways to Recognize Tyranny – and Fight It,” review of On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder, The Washington Post, February 24, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/book-party/wp/2017/02/24/20-ways-to-recognize-tyranny-....

[2]. Timothy Snyder, Facebook status update, November 15, 2016, https://www.facebook.com/timothy.david.snyder/posts/1206636702716110; and Timothy Synder, “What You – Yes, You – Can Do to Save America from Tyranny,” Dallas News, November 21, 2016, https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2016/11/21/learning-history-can-save-america....

[3]. Moshik Temkin, “Historians Shouldn’t Be Pundits,” The New York Times, June 26, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/26/opinion/trump-nixon-history.html. He worried that the historical analogies drawn between Trump and previous eras give the public “history lessons that are often misleading” about “our current travails” and that constitute distorted history.

[4]. Contemporary reverberations of Sapiro’s book abound, such as the outrage expressed by members of H-France in solidarity with renowned French historian Henry Rousso when he was detained in February 2017 at the US border on his way to give an academic talk. (See an article reporting Rousso’s detention: Steve Kuhlmann, “International Scholar Visiting Texas A&M ‘Mistakenly Detained’ by Customs Officials,” The Eagle, February 24, 2017, http://www.theeagle.com/news/local/international-scholar-visiting-texas-a-m-mistakenly-det... and a description by Rousso of his experience: Henry Rousso, “Les Etats-Unis sont-ils encore les Etats-Unis?” Huffpost, February 26, 2017, http://www.huffingtonpost.fr/henry-rousso/muslim-ban-donald-trump-etats-unis_a_21721946/.) His near-deportation offended historians’ belief that intellectuals, scholars, and writers—and their ideas—should be free to circulate regardless of political circumstances, national borders, and international tensions. The incident resulted in the release of a open letter from H-France Editor-in-Chief David Kammerling Smith on behalf of the H-France Editorial Board. David Kammerling Smith, “An Open Letter to President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly,” e-mail to H-France listserv, March 1, 2017.

[5]. David Schalk characterizes the Dreyfus affair as “the first systematic and organized political involvement on the part of a group of individuals possessing a self-conscious identity as intellectuals.” David Schalk, The Spectrum of Intellectual Engagement: Mounier, Benda, Nizan, Brasillach, Sartre (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1979), 6.

[6]. Julien Benda, The Treason of the Intellectuals (1927; repr., New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2007), 47.

[7]. James D. Le Sueur, introduction to Henri Alleg, The Question (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2006), xv; and Jean-Paul Sartre, “A Victory,” preface to Alleg, The Question, xxxi.

[8]. Such works have often focused on a particular era of political engagement or a particular political conjuncture, such as the fin de siècle and the Dreyfus affair. See, for example, Christophe Charle, Naissance des “intellectuels” (1880-1900) (Paris: Minuit, 1990); and Venita Datta, Birth of a National Icon: The Literary Avant-Garde and the Origins of the Intellectual in France (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999). Sometimes these histories of the engagement of French intellectuals themselves participate in a debate about engagement, for example, Tony Judt’s Past Imperfect, in which he condemns the “reluctance” of historians “to assign responsibility for positions adopted and things said.” For Judt, “one is not excused from the obligation to be accurate, but neither is one under a compelling obligation to pretend neutrality.” Judt, Past Imperfect: French Intellectuals, 1944-1956 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 140, 8.

[9]. See, for example, Alice Yaeger Kaplan, The Collaborator: The Trial and Execution of Robert Brasillach (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001); and Jean-Pierre Rioux, ed., La Vie culturelle sous Vichy (Brussels: Editions Complexe, 1990).

[10]. See, for example, Susan Whitney, Mobilizing Youth: Communists and Catholics in Interwar France (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009); Jessica Wardhaugh, In Pursuit of the People: Political Culture in France, 1934-39 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009); and Joan Tumblety, Remaking the Male Body: Masculinity and the Uses of Physical Culture in Interwar and Vichy France (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

[11]. See, for example, Tumblety, Remaking the Male Body; and Philip Nord, France’s New Deal: From the Thirties to the Postwar Era (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010).

[12]. For Burrin, accommodation described the attitude of those people who simply wanted to get through a difficult time by adapting to circumstances, which was not a political or ideological stance. He therefore moves beyond the question of whether to interpret apathy and indifference as functional collaboration (Robert Paxton, Vichy France: Old Guard and New Order, 1940-1944 [New York: Knopf, 1972]) or functional resistance (John Sweets, Choices in Vichy France: The French under Nazi Occupation [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986]).

[13]. “This complicity” between the two branches of the Éditions Gallimard-La Nouvelle Revue Française network, the one that was oriented toward the intellectual resistance, and the one that was engaged in the structures of collaboration via Drieu’s review, “took its source in the interests that united them in spite of themselves—Drieu needed Paulhan in order to make the review, while Gallimard needed Drieu to protect the [publishing] house” (pp. 376-377).

[14]. Here Sapiro expands on an idea utilized by Herman Lebovics, who relies on the work of Rousso to depict a “civil war” over the definition of “true” French patrimony. As Sapiro shows, though national identity was at stake, among writers the sides opposing each other disagreed for literary reasons, and not just because of different understandings about national identity. Herman Lebovics, True France: The Wars over Cultural Identity, 1900-1945 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1994); and Henry Rousso, Le syndrome de Vichy: De 1944 à nos jours (Paris: Seuil, 1990).

[15]. See, for example, Nicole Racine, “La Querelle du réalisme (1935-1936),” Sociétés & Représentations 15 (December 2002): 113-131.

[16]. Jean Lurçat, Marcel Gromaire, Edouard Goerg, Aragon, Küss, Fernand Léger, Le Corbusier, André Lhote, Jean Labasque, Jean Cassou, La Querelle du réalisme: Deux débats organisés par l’Association des peintres et sculpteurs de la Maison de la Culture (Paris: Editions Sociales Internationales, 1936). Küss and Aragon used their last names alone as an artistic signature.

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Citation: Mattie Fitch. Review of Sapiro, Gisèle, The French Writers' War, 1940-1953. H-War, H-Net Reviews. September, 2017. URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=49675

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