Unlikely Collaboration: Gertrude Stein, Bernard Faÿ, and the Vichy Dilemmaby Barbara Will
In 1941, Jewish American writer and avant-garde icon Gertrude Stein embarked on one of the strangest intellectual projects of her life: translating for an American audience the speeches of Marshal Philippe Pétain, head of state for the collaborationist Vichy government. From 1941 to 1943, Stein translated thirty-two speeches in which Pétain outlines… See more details below
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In 1941, Jewish American writer and avant-garde icon Gertrude Stein embarked on one of the strangest intellectual projects of her life: translating for an American audience the speeches of Marshal Philippe Pétain, head of state for the collaborationist Vichy government. From 1941 to 1943, Stein translated thirty-two speeches in which Pétain outlines the Vichy policy barring Jews and other "foreign elements" from the public sphere and calls for France to reconcile with Nazi occupiers.Unlikely Collaboration pursues a troubling question: Why and under what circumstances would Stein undertake this project? A specialist on the author and her radical writing, Barbara Will links Stein to the man at the core of this controversy: Bernard Faÿ, Stein's apparent Vichy protector. Faÿ was director of the Bibliothèque Nationale during the Vichy regime and overseer of the repression of French freemasons. He convinced Pétain to keep Stein "undisturbed" during the war and, in turn, "encouraged" her to translate Pétain for American audiences. Yet Faÿ's protection was not coercive. Stein described the thinker as a chief intellectual companion during her final years. Will outlines the formative powers of this relationship, noting possible affinities between Stein and Faÿ's political and aesthetic ideals, especially their reflection in Stein's writing from the late 1920s to the 1940s. Will treats their interaction as a case study of intellectual life during wartime France and an indication of America's place in the Vichy imagination. Her book forces a reconsideration of modernism and fascism, revealing what led so many within the avant-garde toward fascist thought. Touching off a potential powder keg of critical dispute, Will replays a collaboration that proves key to understanding fascism and the remaking of modern Europe.
Exceptionally well researched and elegantly written, this book is certain to make an important contribution to and beyond Stein studies.... Highly recommended.
Jerome Boyd Maunsell
Unlikely Collaboration is a fascinating book that explores a sensitive topic with solid documentation.
Barbara Will's Unlikely Collaboration is a beautifully written and engaging work that illuminates the lives and works of Gertrude Stein and Bernard Faÿ, their friendship, and the fascinating and troubled times in which that friendship formed and flourished. Will's book, penetrating in its psychological, literary, and historical insights, will appeal especially to readers interested in literary modernism and its often disturbing political connections.
An unlikely collaboration indeed. One was perhaps America's most celebrated avant-garde writer, living in France; the other a French biographer of Benjamin Franklin turned anti-Masonic zealot and collaborator with the Nazis from 1940 to 1944. Gertrude Stein wanted to persuade Americans that the Vichy collaborationist leader Philippe Pétain was a French George Washington; Bernard Faÿ helped save Stein's art collection, and maybe Stein herself, from the Nazis. Barbara Will brings alive their association and ponders the compatibility of literary modernism with political reaction.
Barbara Will's story is well told...
A revealing and absorbing work of scholarship.
...revisited the relationship of Stein and Faÿ, offering the fullest account to date of their professional and personal ties.
[Unlikely Collaboration] reveals a considerably more complex, and perhaps devious, Gertrude Stein than currently accepted legend would dictate.
A tenacious work of literary detection and analysis
A fine-grained, unflinching, and nuanced history.
Extremely detailed and erudite.
She has given us a fuller, more realistic picture of a multilayered Stein who was fairly talented, but who also, in Will's own words, was in morally significant ways a 'despicable individual.'
[An] absorbingly detailed and even-handed book.
Will's most significant contribution is to challenge the assumption that an individual with a liberal personal lifestyle and/or creative interests will inherently be someone with liberal political views.
Her study is a valuable and well-informed portrait of a troubled and troubling literary and political relationship.
A brilliant, disturbing, even shocking historical saga about modernist icon Gertrude Stein.
Meet the Author
Barbara Will is professor of English at Dartmouth College and the author of Gertrude Stein, Modernism, and the Problem of "Genius." She has written extensively on modernist literature and culture and is a specialist on the work of Gertrude Stein.
Columbia University Press
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