To be sure, a few decent people inhabit his book. He recounts stories while leaving context little analyzed and, one suspects, little examined. In practice, of course, the solution is not to avoid generalizations, which are as inevitable as breathing, but to scrutinize them.
Beyond that, he seems to have accepted without thinking the Vichy view—still commonplace today—that France fell in because it was defeatist and decadent. Published in French in , the book now receives a long-overdue English translation. The Germans further impacted the French art scene by looting private and public collections. Laval got nothing in return.
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The Communist Party devoted its artistic efforts to counterpropaganda and condemned modernist styles as being too remote from the people. On February 6, , right-wing activists tried to invade the Chamber of Deputies to protest the alleged weakness and corruption of parliamentary democracy. Sixteen people were killed, and prominent writers like Brasillach and Drieu publicly placed their hopes in a fascist France.
After the Liberation, a painfully divisive and arbitrary purge inhibited the recovery of the French arts scene. The collection of the statuary was only one of several metal drives conducted by Vichy, but this one was different: It was administered not only by the Ministry of Industrial Production, like the others, but also by the Fine Arts Section of the Ministry of National Education and Youth.
In two waves, the first starting in October and the second in the summer of , as many as 1, bronze statues were taken from public places in French cities and towns and melted down. Most of the metal went to the German war effort, though the French people were told that it supported French industrial and agricultural needs such as copper sulfate used as a vineyard fungicide.
The Shameful Peace
The destruction of statues was not a direct German action, as most people believe, but a Vichy initiative that the government used to bargain against increasing German demands. In this book, Frederic Spotts argues convincingly that France's proud cultural heritage was of huge psychological importance in the wake of its ignominious military defeat: "To ignore cultural life is. Great guile was necessary, however, to resist the Wehrmacht's determination to attain cultural as well as military supremacy. While they were willing to acknowledge the virtues of German literature and music, the French were also keenly aware of their own intellectual reputation throughout the world.
There was a number of French intellectuals who viewed positively Hitler's scheme for a united Europe. Drieu la Rochelle, for example, was won over by what he saw at the Nuremberg Nazi party rally in Ten years later, disillusioned with the Allies' imminent victory, he would take his own life rather than face trial and certain death.
Shameful Peace : Frederic Spotts :
He was overjoyed at the demise of the Third Republic and a vocal supporter of Hitler's anti-Semitism. In return for making paper available for his books and other favours, he addressed "a steady torrent of criticism" at German benefactors. Gide, Genet, Cocteau and a host of others fall into a more nebulous zone.
Gide had denounced Hitler within weeks of his coming to power and remained resolutely opposed to Vichy and the Germans.
The passions and politics of culture in wartime France
Spotts does not confine his discussion to writers and intellectuals. Cocteau does feature, to illustrate how theatre was more difficult to control than other art forms, because of how it relies on gestures and intonation as much as on text. Why was such rapt attention paid to alleged collaboration by artists and intellectuals in occupied France?
Spotts claims that it is because intellectual and cultural life in France has always been intensely politicised. Peter Alger Floor vase Lot to be sold Sep Bill Hammond Horoscope 2 Lot to be sold Sep Ann Verdcourt Ladybird Lot to be sold Sep Frederic Spotts. Yale University Press. ISBN By anyone's account, France's history between and cannot be described as heroic.
- The shameful peace: how French artists and intellectuals survived the Nazi…;
- How French Artists and Intellectuals Survived the Nazi Occupation;
- The passions and politics of culture in wartime France.
In many ways it was shameful. Mr Spotts looks at how those intellectuals for which Frenchmen have such a penchant who did not escape learned to cope with occupation.
For Mr. Spotts, Paris was the centre not just of French intellectual life but a centre of international culture. What happened in these years affected 'Western civilization in the twentieth century'. Cultural life also kept alive French national identity, at lest for those who were cultured.
Artists and intellectuals survived in a variety of ways, not always noble: 'The Occupation was merciless in exposing character' is the author's succinct observation. Mr Spotts argues that 'it was the products of culture more than anything else that helped people to get through the hard times and the nation to preserve some sense of self-respect'.
The occupation also politicised art; it encouraged escapist entertainment the aptly named theatre of the 'absurd' ; and finally left intellectuals more at home with Soviet Communists. It is not a very attractive picture but it is one that needed to be painted and the author has prepared an accomplished canvas.
Related The Shameful Peace: How French Artists and Intellectuals Survived the Nazi Occupation
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