«H-France Salon, Volume 2, Issue 1, No. 4 The following essay was prepared in response to Meaghan Emery’s article and Richard Golsan’s response to ...»
H-France Salon Volume 2 22
H-France Salon, Volume 2, Issue 1, No. 4
The following essay was prepared in response to Meaghan Emery’s article and Richard
Golsan’s response to that article published in French Historical Studies 33:4 (Fall 2010)
and Emery’s response to Golsan’s response published in H-France Salon vol. 2, issue 1,
Negotiating Jean Giono: Texts, History, and Ethics
Vera Mark* I The debate between Meaghan Emery and Richard Golsan over Jean Giono’s literary legacy reenacts the title of Eric Conan and Henry Rousso’s 1996 volume Vichy, un passé qui ne passe pas.
Emery blends cultural, intellectual and social history in her analysis of the multiple strands of Giono’s thought in texts of varied genres and traces Giono’s involvement in several social movements during the 1930s.1 She reads Giono as an idealist whose pacifist position was first compromised by events of the 1930s2 and which, further reinforced by the realities of civil war during the Occupation, led the writer to retreat into a localized aestheticism. Drawing from his extensive work on World War II French literary relations and the French trials of crimes against humanity, Golsan continues his reflection on the role of writers, engagement, and ethics.
* Vera Mark is assistant professor of French and linguistics at the Pennsylvania State University. Her areas of specialization include French anthropology, popular culture and everyday life, and questions of identity as seen through the interfaces between regional, national, and global spaces. She is currently engaged in a manuscript on the French Milice.
In her response to Golsan (Meaghan Emery, “Of Historical Hindsight and Oversight, and Why Reopening Giono’s Case Is a Worthy Endeavor,” H-France Salon, vol. 2, issue 1, #1: 8), Emery cites Giono’s anti-Hitlerian and anti-Vichyist comments in several texts as evidence of the complexity of Giono’s ideological positioning. They include Triomphe de la Vie (written from January to July 1941;
published first in Switzerland in 1941 and in France in March 1942), “Provence” (1936/diary; republished in 1942 in the Nouvelle Revue française; and in April 1943 in L’Eau vive); “La vie de Mlle Amandine” (which first appeared in serialized format between 1934-1935); “Aux sources mêmes de l’espérance” (first published as “Le chant du monde” in 1933; republished with the new title in April 1943 in L’Eau vive), and “Le poète de la famille” (first published in April 1943 in L’Eau vive; see http://pages.infinit.net/poibru/giono/gionobib.htm for a catalogue, including dates of recent reeditions). Further questions regarding method emerge here: what is to be made of the recirculation of Giono’s pre-war texts during the Occupation? Do these texts indeed illustrate thought independent of regime, as Emery asserts? Was this recirculation voluntary or involuntary on the part of Giono with respect to his publishers? What kind of negotiations were involved? What is Emery’s rationale for the selection of these particular texts?
2 Highlighted by Golsan as well, they include France’s position on the Spanish Civil War, France’s
Golsan’s analysis of Giono’s pre-war texts and Occupation diary leads him to read Giono’s political positioning as highly problematic in moral terms.
The Emery-Golsan debate may be framed with respect to the broader project of the sociopolitical contextualization of French writers, implicitly building on the previous studies by Anne-Marie Thiesse, Richard Golsan, David Carroll, Alice Kaplan, and Julian Jackson.3 The current debate raises important questions regarding the parameters of literary history, its scope, methodologies, and theoretical framing of the text/context nexus. Which archives figure in the socio-political contextualization of a given author’s corpus? How to understand the authorial function? Of particular relevance to historians is the question of periodization and how to measure ideological engagement before, during, and after war, especially in the microhistorical time of regime shift. Furthermore, (how) can Giono’s pre-war and Occupation diary, published by Gallimard more than half a century after the events in question, be used as a form of historical evidence?4 Golsan articulates questions about the relationship between thought and action during totalitarian regimes–analyzed by Jean-Paul Sartre and Hannah Arendt, among others–as he reflects upon the responsibility of the individual writer. He maintains that wellpublished literary authors, including one of Giono’s stature, be held to the highest ethical standards. His analysis seeks to reconcile the author’s pre-war identity as a pacifist with his Occupation complicity, if not duplicity, with broader regime values.5 Emery and Golsan both address rhetorical issues as they contrast the hopeful tone of Giono’s late 1930s diary entries with the derisive voice of his 1943-1944 entries and propose that these stylistic shifts correspond to Giono’s ideological repositionings.
II Emery contends that any current readings of Giono must be undertaken with reference to the setting in which he lived and wrote for the entirety of his literary career, the small town of By no means exhaustive, key reference points are Anne-Marie Thiesse, Ecrire la France: le mouvement littéraire regionaliste de langue française entre la Belle Epoque et la Libération (Paris, 1991); Richard Golsan, Fascism, Aesthetics and Culture (Hanover, 1992), French Writers and the Politics of Complicity (Baltimore, 2006); David Carroll, French Literary Fascism (Princeton, 1994); Alice Kaplan, The Collaborator: The Trial and Execution of Robert Brasillach (Chicago, 2000), and “Ghostly Demarcations: The Case of Ramón Fernandez,” The Nation, 15 February 2010, 29-32; and Julian Jackson, France: The Dark Years 1940-1944 (Oxford, 2001).
4 Emery and Golsan both note the selective nature of the diary, which begins with entries from February 11, 1935-July 27, 1939, is followed by a four-year hiatus, and resumes with entries from September 20, 1943-September 5, 1944, concluding three days before Giono’s arrest of September 8.
Golsan, “Of Jean Giono and Collaboration: A Response to Meaghan Emery,” French Historical Studies 33:4 (Fall 2010): 605. Golsan cites Antoine Compagnon’s recent contextualization of Bernard Faÿ’s wartime anti-Masonic writings (2009) as further evidence of the timely nature of the current debate. See also Barbara Will’s forthcoming study (Columbia University Press, 2011) of the intellectual collaboration between Gertrude Stein and Bernard Faÿ, director of the Bibliothèque Nationale under Vichy and chief
protector of Stein's interests in France during World War II. For a discussion of the complexities of JeanPaul Sartre’s war-time positioning, see Allan Stoekl’s multiple readings of Sartre in “What the Nazis Saw:
Les Mouches in Occupied Paris” SubStance no. 32 (2003): 78-91, Issue 102 “The Politics of French Literary History.” Jonathan Judaken’s Jean-Paul Sartre and the Jewish Question sheds new light on Sartre’s
engagement during the Occupation (reviewed by Michael Christofferson:
H-France Salon Volume 2 24 Manosque.6 She thus displaces the view of Giono as a literary collaborator, created in Parisian circles, away to the settings and groups with which he was associated in the pre-World War II years. This spatial positioning supports Emery’s approach to Giono across time and varied literary genres. The very title of Emery’s article “Giono’s Popular Front: La Joie au Grand Air, Idéologie Réactionnaire” 7 sets up a double jeu. Emery situates Giono in terms of the Popular Front years of 1936-1938, with attention to the years prior and post, which supports her reading of Giono’s writings and worldview as utopian and positive. At the same time, perhaps in a nod to Rougement, her title inscribes a query, namely that Giono maintains a front that is reactive to multiple currents of social thought, but is not politically reactionary.8 In the concluding section of her article, Emery frames the utopian atmosphere of the Popular Front with respect to an anthropologically-informed cultural history and the theme of the fête.9 With its anti-hierarchical, anarchist leanings, the fête links a celebratory Giono to the idealist tenor of Lagrange’s vision of the ajistes, or youth hostel movement. Emery views culture—the region of Provence, literature as aesthetic production, the utopianism of the brief-lived Contadour “happenings” and the fête—as the multi-faceted base through which to evaluate Giono, whereas politics—corresponding to political institutions, state policies and ideology—functions as a superstructure.
Throughout this and her 2008 article, Emery repeatedly underscores Giono’s aversion to organized movements, including the Félibrige and the French Communist Party, in order to explain Giono’s lack of engagement. She attends less to Giono’s predilection for anarchism, however, which carries across time and political regimes, and marks his close attachment to his father. This retour au père, as she adroitly terms it,10 is important and provides a partial explanation of Giono’s relationship to political ideologies.11 Giono’s diary entries reference his father’s knowledge of the shoemaker’s craft and an elegiac tone as the grown son mourns his father’s death.12 Caught between his memories as an only child of artisan parents and the Manosque is located in the department of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, in the region of Provence-AlpesCôte d’Azur, 27 miles northeast of Aix-en-Provence. In the 1930s and 1940s, it had a population of around 5,500.
The title references Giono’s belief in the transcendent power of nature/landscape and suggests another element of Giono’s diverse “-isms”: budding ecologiste.
Meaghan Emery, “Giono’s Popular Front: La Joie au Grand Air, Idéologie Réactionnaire,” French Historical Studies 33:4 (Fall 2010): 577.
Emery makes use of the fête to index regional identity and Provençal sociability, drawing from historical and ethnological literature to support this view: Emery, “Giono’s Popular Front,” 598-599. Giono’s actual involvement with or knowledge of fête remains difficult to elucidate, however, beyond the context of the May 24, 1936 parade that he organized after the Popular Front electoral victory (Emery, “Giono’s Popular Front,” 584) and his support for the spontaneous quality of the short-lived Contadour meetings.
Meaghan Emery, “Jean Giono: The Personal Ethics of an Author Writing Under the Occupation,” The Journal of European Studies 38:3 (2008): 298.
Giono, an only child born to a 50-year-old cobbler father and 38-year-old laundress mother, claimed affiliation with his patriline. Giono senior had subscribed to an anarchist political tradition, as had his father before him, notes Pierre Citron, Giono (Paris 1995), 9. Giono’s consciously gendered affiliation was in part reactive, for the writer’s daily life was in fact grounded in his mother’s kin network (see Giono’s November 22, 1935 entry, Journal, 79). Furthermore, Giono was caught between generations: too young to identify with the survivors of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870—see his October 1938 correspondence with Roger Martin du Gard and Jean Guéhenno on this issue, Journal (1935-1939), in Journal, poèmes, essais, ed. Pierre Citron (Paris, 1995), 271—he was too old to identify with the young Resisters and Miliciens from his local world.
See Giono’s entry of November 16, 1935, Journal, 74.
H-France Salon Volume 2 25 middle-class world of writers of his adult years, Giono never entirely leaves behind his family genealogy, even as he rapidly achieves upward social mobility. Thus Giono’s celebration of artisans and peasants marks a genealogical solidarity that is independent of political ideology.13 Emery’s privileging of Giono’s localism downplays his situatedness in networks of literary power at the level of the region and in the capital. Her view of Giono’s artistic autonomy contrasts with that of Anne-Marie Thiesse. In her study of French literary regionalism between the Belle Epoque and the Liberation, Thiesse shows how Giono’s Naissance de l’Odyssée was rejected by Grasset in favor of the more rustic Colline. Qualified as the “Provençal Virgil” by André Gide, Giono went to Paris briefly but returned to his home territory, launched in the category of “rustico-régionaliste.” Thiesse observes that Giono subscribed to the image imposed by his publisher but would cast his own mark through an imaginary geography based in anachronism and myth.14 In the periods of the Liberation and the Purge Giono’s imaginary geography could work to displace any littérature du présent backwards in time, a strategy employed by Pétainistes who when brought to trial highlighted their World War I years and downplayed their World War II years.15 In addition to tracing Giono’s involvement with 1930s movements, Emery explores themes from Giono’s literary writings as the basis to her analysis. In contemporary parlance, Giono would qualify as a loca(l)vore, committed to an immediate circle of home/community. Emery maintains that Giono’s localism is not contradictory with a universalist worldview.16 She proposes that Giono supports a transcendent universalism that derives from French Revolutionary values and that would manifest in Provençal leftist political traditions. This universalism distances Giono from any form of particularism, such as political support for groups, including the Jews. Giono’s macro view of society results in little attention to specifics, a point elaborated by Emery in her response to Golsan.17 Giono’s support of several Jewish artists during the Occupation was thus motivated by individual friendships and associations, This genealogical solidarity appears to transcend Giono’s class solidarity regarding peasants in war, who figured disproportionately among its casualties in World War I.