One may wonder why we are hearing about Stein’s support of the Vichy regime now. Well, immediately after WW2, the French seemed to have suffered fromOne may wonder why we are hearing about Stein’s support of the Vichy regime now. Well, immediately after WW2, the French seemed to have suffered from instant amnesia and suddenly everyone had been part of the resistance. It really wasn’t until 1995 that ‘Jacques Chirac, President of the Fifth Republic, admitted and apologised for ‘the dark hours which will forever tarnish our history’ (from Michael Curtis, Verdict on Vichy). In other words, not only was Stein’s position in Vichy obscured, but the French’s collaboration with Nazi Germany was also pushed far into the background.
After the success of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Stein went on a lecture tour of America. By this time, she was a celebrity, with a banner welcoming her in Times Square. But Stein was very disappointed in the America she found. The America that she had last seen over 30 years ago had been transformed. No longer were individuals taking their destiny in their own hands and making fortunes. Stein thought Roosevelt had made the population passive with his new deal. She opposed government assistance (both socialism and communism) yet thought authoritarian leadership is what the masses needed. Barbara Will readily acknowledges Stein’s literary genius, but argues that politically, Stein had not thought things through. She tended to accept the views of her good friend and translator, Bernard Fay, who was a monarchist, pro-Catholic and anti-communist as well as a member of the Gestapo. Stein belongs in the camp of fascist modernists. She may not have been a rabid fascist like Ezra Pound, but she supported the Vichy regime to the extent that she translated Petain’s speeches. She hoped to have them published in the US. They remain in the Yale University Library.
Stein omits much in Wars I Have Seen, but she does proclaim her support of Pétain, whom she compares to George Washington. If you’re at all interested, I highly recommend reading Unlikely Collaboration. Wills has done a superb job of filling in the gaps in Stein’s narrative. She provides a tempered view and even allows for Stein’s political naiveté. This is not a witch hunt or a smear campaign. It is a scholarly study of Stein’s relationship with Bernard Fay. He was the one who made Stein and Alice’s survival possible in Vichy during WW2. Fay was one of Petain’s close inner circle, so had tremendous influence. After the war he was sentenced to life imprisonment but managed to escape to Switzerland.
Anyone interested in doing scholarly work on Stein must read this book. I think it is a valuable contribution to Stein studies. ...more
Intensely interesting and highly readable, but I am disappointed that Stein said nothing about concentration camps or what was happening to the Jews.Intensely interesting and highly readable, but I am disappointed that Stein said nothing about concentration camps or what was happening to the Jews. Stein loves repetition, but I think she also like omission. There are things she avoids confronting, esp. the unpleasant....more
This is an interesting read, lots of info and insights. Janet Malcolm investigates how Gertrude and Alice survived WWII in France. Stein has been attaThis is an interesting read, lots of info and insights. Janet Malcolm investigates how Gertrude and Alice survived WWII in France. Stein has been attacked and labelled a collaborator because she had help from a friend, Bernard Fay, who worked for the Gestapo. I have found that the best defense of Stein is to read her work on her war experiences, such as Wars I have Seen. Wen WWII broke out, Stein was in her sixties. She was terrified. They relocated to the country where it would be easier to find food. She had lived in France for some forty years and did not want to return to the US....more
Considering this is a first draft and only two parts of a five part novel, it is quite good, highly readable even if in translation. In the first partConsidering this is a first draft and only two parts of a five part novel, it is quite good, highly readable even if in translation. In the first part, the French are fleeing Paris as they fear being bombed, but this doesn't happen as the French are quickly defeated, so they head back to the city. We see how badly everyone behaves, each man for himself without any thought of helping anyone else. The rich are the worst, desperately trying to save their precious valuables. The second part takes place in the country. Most of the men have either dies in battle or are prisoners. The Germans have moved into the town, and individuals are billeted in various houses. There is not a lot of food. The French seem to adapt to this situation quite quickly. The main focus is on a character Louise, who is living with her mother-in-law and unhappily married. Her husband has cheated on her and her mother-in-law hates her for not loving her son enough. Louise and the German officer become close. This is so far the most moving part of the novel, as these are the only two characters that are treated with sympathy. The most fascinating part of the book is the last appendix, in which we have a collection of letters that reveal the dangerous situation. Nemirovsky's publisher could no longer pay her since she was of Jewish origin, even though she had converted to Roman Catholicism. In July 1942, Nemirovsky was arrested. Just over a month later she died in Auschwitz. Even though I am familiar with these events, reading this was truly shocking. Once again it brought home the horror of the last world war. Incomprehensible. So if you read Suite Francaise, you must also read the appendices. They are part of the full story. ...more
If you have a taste for 18th century literature, this is a great read. It's an epistolary novel, written in letters, about a young and innocent womenIf you have a taste for 18th century literature, this is a great read. It's an epistolary novel, written in letters, about a young and innocent women from the country who marries a rake. She is introduced to the London court. Her husband drinks and gambles, and before long is completely out of control. We learn how corrupt the Ton, court circle, is and how her husband's enemies are out to seduce her. Real insight into the powerlessness of women at the time, and how rape was a part of patriarchal culture, as men clearly viewed women as property and felt entitled to enjoy them, thus no accident that we find rape culture still exists since we still live in a society based on patriarchy. Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, who wrote the novel, was also the great, great aunt of Princess Di. It certainly resonates with her tragic life, only this novel has a happy ending. It's available on Gutenberg....more