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Françis Mauriac and Jean Paulhan : Correspondance: 1925–1967. Édition établie, présentée et annotée par John E. Flower . ( Correspondances de Jean Paulhan). Paris, Éditions Claire Paulhan, 2001. 371 pp. Pb €28.00.

This collection of 293 letters, only fifty of which have previously been published, charts in admirable detail the relationship between the leading Catholic writer of his generation and the editor-in-chief of the prestigious NRF. Flower's introduction usefully surveys the most important aspects of the men's exchanges, and his excellent notes provide a wealth of contextual detail that enables the reader to grasp fully the ins and outs of their discussions (although I would suggest that Paulhan's reference in letter 109 is, in fact, to Mauriac's articles 'Critique de la critique' and 'Nouvelles notes sur la critique', published in Journal II). Because most of the letters are not clearly dated, Flower makes careful use of unpublished diaries to reconstitute a plausible chronology, correcting a number of unlikely dates given for letters previously published elsewhere. It seems probable that Mauriac and Paulhan first met in the early 1920s when the latter was employed as Jacques Rivière's secretary at the NRF. Flower draws on his earlier edition of Mauriac and Rivière's correspondence (see FS, xliv (1990), 82–83) to illuminate the background to Mauriac's strong desire to contribute to the NRF (his 'évangile'). This objective was achieved in December 1922, but Flower demonstrates how Mauriac's association with the journal was to remain uneasy thanks to events such as Gide's open letter of June 1928, an article by Jean Prévost published in March 1930, Gide's praise of atheistic Communism in the early 1930s, Sartre's devastating attack of February 1939, and the evolution of the journal once it fell under the control of Drieu La Rochelle during the Occupation. The années noires saw a friendship develop between Mauriac and Paulhan as they contributed to the résistance des écrivains, with Paulhan working behind the scenes to bring about the publication of Mauriac's Cahier noir by the Éditions de Minuit in 1943. They were also both opposed to the excesses of the épuration and to the blacklists drawn up by the [End Page 412] Comité National des Écrivains (to which they both belonged). Paulhan, however, showed himself to be more charitable (or less politically pragmatic) when it came to the rehabilitation of figures such as Rebatet and Céline in the early 1950s. From this point onwards, despite Mauriac's support for Paulhan's election to the Académie Française, relations between the two men cooled somewhat with the reappearance of the NRF (at a time when Mauriac was committed to La Table Ronde), the publication of Histoire d'O (which Mauriac attributed to Paulhan himself), and their very different positions with respect to France's policy in North Africa (with Paulhan opposing independence for the countries of the Maghreb). Throughout, as Flower astutely observes, it is Paulhan who seems to want to steer the exchanges and who proves the most conciliatory when disagreements arise. This handsomely produced edition, containing several facsimile reproductions and photographs, provides a very valuable contribution to the literary history of twentieth-century France.

Paul Cooke
University of Exeter

Additional Information

ISSN
1468-2931
Print ISSN
0016-1128
Launched on MUSE
2007-01-10
Open Access
No
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