By Jocelyn Van Tuyl
The 1st entire research of Gide’s overlooked wartime writings.
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Additional info for Andre Gide and the Second World War: A Novelist's Occupation
In October 1940—coincidentally, the month Marshal Pétain met with Hitler at Montoire to agree on a program of collaboration—Gide broke his self-imposed vow of silence. ”97 The essay’s final section addresses the survey’s request to rank a number of literary genres—the novel, the essay, criticism, and poetry—in terms of their current importance (AQ 25). Gide ranks poetry first, using a biblical simile that he turns into a dig at Vichy rhetoric: France does not need a “return to the soil,” says Gide; instead, French culture needs, “like the Gospel seed, to die and renounce itself first.
Gide saw plainly that the terms of the Armistice, which did not call for France to turn its naval fleet over to Germany, constituted an invitation to England to destroy France’s ships—which it did in the 3 July 1940 attack at Mers el-Kébir. 63 Bitterness colors Gide’s admiration here, but elsewhere it is hope—even against reason— that characterizes his assessments. As Maria Van Rysselberghe reported, it was not defeat but the rot it revealed that distressed Gide so greatly. Despite 32 ANDRÉ GIDE AND THE SECOND WORLD WAR knowing that Hitler opposed everything he valued, Gide believed that the only hope was to rebuild the world.
Reiterating his long-standing rejection of such doctrines, Gide claimed that it was simple to predict that Barrès’s nationalistic theories could easily be turned against France (J II: 404, 465). The portrayal of Hitler as gardener in the 1941 fantasy dialogue was a way for Gide to reassert his earlier arguments against extreme nationalism, though the alternating condemnation and identification tend to obscure the continuity of Gide’s political values. While he held fast to certain core beliefs, Gide was profoundly shaken when France fell, and he remained confused as to his own political viewpoints for quite some time.
Andre Gide and the Second World War: A Novelist's Occupation by Jocelyn Van Tuyl