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DRIEU LA ,ROCHELLE: STUDY OF A COLLABORATOR BEATRICE CORRIGAN 'ONE of the strangest phenomena in the, pattern of the Nazi conquest was the ease with which, in most of the occupied countries, men could be found willing, even eager) to collaborate with the new order. In France ' not only were the army and all the political parties riddled with. sympa- .thizers prepared to support the cause of the invaders, but even among authors and artists there were many ready to forswear the principles of which France had been proud for generations, and to lend their pens to the puppet press, subject to 'German direction and German censorship. Their defection cannot' be ' dismissed as simple. venality; some of them, doubtless, were blackmailed into submissiveness; some, perhaps, were embittered because they had not won the success which they considered their due; but for many writers amity for Germany was not the result of a hasty, expedient conversion, but rather the logical development of earlier secret doubts and half-admitted sympathies. The collapse of France might have come as┬Ěless of a shock to the Englishspeaking world if it had been more widely realized before the war that the feeling of the French toward their r.epuhlic was by no means. identical with the feeling of the Americans towards theirs. For over a hundred and fifty years the Americans had had one form of government and one constitution ; in the same time the French had had a directorate, two emperors, three kings, three republics, and the Commune. Moreover, nearly every change in government was accompanied by sufficient violence to leave behind it resentments, hatreds, and desires for ' vengeance 'which were ready to flare up on any occasion. Consequently the Third Republic was not generally regarded as a stable enduring institution, to be' modified, perhaps, but with respect, not rashly; rather, it was the target for all the many critics who felt that it had already lasted too long and was ripe for destruction. By 1939 most French intellectuals were frankly either co'mmunist or fascist, while the middle classes, vilified by both, and the peasants, . fulsomely praised by both,'felt with a confused resentment that they were being urged either to fight fascism to protect Russia, or to fight communism to protect Germany. Native French' democracy alone seemed to have no spokesman. Prominent among the fascist writers was Pierre Drieu La Roch-elle, who during the German occupation was the editor of the Nouvelle- Revue Fran~aise, with which Andre Gide was once so closely connected. Little known to English-speaking readers, for his works have never been translated , ┬ĚDrieu La Rochelle before the war held ~n honourable place in the French world of letters. His great-grandfather " had been one of Napoleon's sergeants, to whose own name of Drieu his comrades had added the nick199 200 THE UNIVERSITY 'OF TORONTO QUARTERLY name of La Rochelle, which became so familiar to him' that he and his family retained, it. P!erre was born in Paris in 1893, and was educated first at a Catholic school (where he headed a Republican faction opposed to the Royalists) and then ~t the University of Paris, 'in the faculty of political science. There) friends communicated to him their adm~ration for Paul Claudel and Francis Jammes, and there, too, he devoured ,the first numbers of the Nouvelle Revue Franfaise. , Shy and self-distrustful, he had. made a vow to commit suicide if b'y the age of twenty-five he had not made love to a beautiful woman, written a fine book, and performed some brilliant exploit; then war broke out and his dreams and uncertainties were swept aside by the urgencies of army life. In 1915 on service in the Dardanelles he was wounded; ~nd back in Toulon in hospital a nurse gave him a copy of-Claude1's Cinque grandes Odes. It was at once a revelation to him and an inspiration. He began to write poems of his own, which were shown to his friends, and by them to their friends, and which resulted in 'a telephone message from the N.R.F.) asking him to come to their office. Thus his literary...


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