The French Writers′ War, 1940-1953

The French Writers′ War, 1940-1953

Book Pages: 672 Illustrations: 5 tables, 4 graphs Published: May 2014

History > European History, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism, Sociology

The French Writers' War, 1940–1953, is a remarkably thorough account of French writers and literary institutions from the beginning of the German Occupation through France's passage of amnesty laws in the early 1950s. To understand how the Occupation affected French literary production as a whole, Gisèle Sapiro uses Pierre Bourdieu's notion of the "literary field." Sapiro surveyed the career trajectories and literary and political positions of 185 writers. She found that writers' stances in relation to the Vichy regime are best explained in terms of institutional and structural factors, rather than ideology. Examining four major French literary institutions, from the conservative French Academy to the Comité national des écrivains, a group formed in 1941 to resist the Occupation, she chronicles the institutions' histories before turning to the ways that they influenced writers' political positions. Sapiro shows how significant institutions and individuals within France's literary field exacerbated their loss of independence or found ways of resisting during the war and Occupation, as well as how they were perceived after Liberation.


“Gisèle Sapiro’s La Guerre des écrivains originally appeared in 1999. This welcome, if belated, translation after a gap of fifteen years reflects its considerable impact on literary and cultural studies of the Occupation of France since then….What undoubtedly accounts for much of the success of The French Writers’ War 1940–1953 is its impressive mastery of a huge amount of data on French literary production of the interwar years and the aftermath of the Occupation: publishers, literary journals and reviews, and a near exhaustive coverage of the writers themselves.” — Nicholas Hewitt, TLS

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…. The French Writers’ War is an illuminating book and Sapiro deserves to be warmly thanked for her contribution.” — Mattie Fitch, H-War, H-Net Reviews

"Gisèle Sapiro has written a brilliant book about the most culturally contested period in twentieth century France. Many have asked why some writers worked with the Vichy authorities, while others resisted. The French Writers' War, 1940–1953, is a nuanced and deeply researched explanation grounded in the historical interactions between France's literary and political fields. Impressively and in depth, Sapiro explains individual writers' motivations and choices, as well as those of major literary groups." — Herman Lebovics, author of Imperialism and the Corruption of Democracies

"There is no doubt that The French Writers' War, 1940–1953, is an important contribution to French historical and sociological scholarship, and that it fully deserved the accolades it received, not only in France but in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, when it first appeared, as well as among French historians in the United States. It is the fruit of exhaustive research and a highly original work." — Susan Rubin Suleiman, author of Crises of Memory and the Second World War


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Gisèle Sapiro is a sociologist in Paris, where she is Director of Research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

Part I. The Literary Logics of Political Engagement 11

1. Choices under Constraints 13

2. The Responsibility of the Writer 81

3. Literary Salvation and the Literature of Salvation: François Mauriac and Henry Bordeaux 158

Part II. Literary Institutions and National Crisis 187

4. The Sense of Duty: The French Academy 191

5. The Sense of Scandal: The Goncourt Academy 243

6. The Sense of Distinction: The "NRF Spirit" 293

7. The Sense of Subversion: The Comité national des écrivains (CNE) 362

Part III. Literary Justice 437

8. The Literary Court 439

9. Literary Institutions and National Reconstruction 491

Conclusion 537

Appendix 1: Presentation of the Survey 551

Appendix 2: The Social Recruitment of the Literary Field and of Its Institutions 561

Notes 573

Bibliography 677

Name Index 721
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5191-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5178-8
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