By Jocelyn Van Tuyl
The 1st whole learn of Gide’s overlooked wartime writings.
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Extra info for Andre Gide and the Second World War: A Novelist's Occupation
The full force of Gide’s sorrow and censure are apparent throughout the month of July 1940. Indeed, entries from this month are among those most often cited by Gide’s detractors. In the somber days leading up to the first Fête Nationale of the Occupation—by Vichy decree, a national day of mourning with church services for the dead rather than affirmations of France’s republican values—Gide made three diary entries that would later be denounced as attacks on French patriotism. Gide believed that nine out of ten Frenchmen would accept German domination if it guaranteed abundance, and lamented that French peasants cared more about the price of grain than about cultural luminaries like Descartes or Watteau.
In the 1903 essay “La Querelle du peuplier,” Gide took issue with Barrès for quoting Charles Maurras, the future founder of the Action Française group and “eventual ideologist of the Vichy government” (O’Brien, Portrait 130). To Maurras’s assertion that a poplar tree cannot stand uprooting, Gide replied with extensive botanical information, challenging Barrès’s denunciation of “uprooting” with a positive ethic of FROM MUNICH TO MONTOIRE 33 “transplantation” (Gide, Prétextes 57). Decades later, Gide pointed out the similarities between Hitler’s values and those of Barrès and Maurras: shortly after Hitler came to power in 1933, Gide remarked that Barrès would probably approve “Hitlerism”; a year later, he observed that the doctrines Germany was currently espousing were those of Barrès, and that Hitler had made the French ideologue’s principle of “opportune justice”71 his own.
We have demanded more than we have served. 54 As this statement suggests, Gide’s assessment of wartime speeches had as much to do with rhetoric as with political positions. Indeed, it was the spin Pétain put on the Armistice that led Gide to withdraw his approval of the marshal a few days later. On 22 June, the day the Armistice was signed, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill addressed the French nation, asking all Frenchmen not under pressure from the enemy to assist with France’s liberation.