- Unlikely Collaboration: Gertrude Stein, Bernard Faÿ, and the Vichy Dilemma by Barbara Will
The childlike expectation that admired writers “have good politics” is the point d’appui of this genealogy of Stein’s regrettable and (until the past few years) overlooked wartime advocacy of Philippe Pétain’s Vichy regime. With elegant equanimity, Will traces Stein’s intellectual and artistic development, with attention to how her early efforts to efface Jewishness from her life and writing, her obsession with Otto Weininger’s anti-Semitic and misogynistic Sex and Character, and her embrace of Pétain as the hero of Verdun are consistent with her later horror of secular decadence, her fascination with Catholic sainthood, and her abiding friendship with the fascist functionary Bernard Faÿ. In the process, Will shows that Stein’s politics were not an aberrant late development, though she is careful not to throw the modernist baby out with the collaborationist bathwater. When confronted with Elisha ben Avuya’s apostasy, Rabbi Meir continued to study with [End Page 522] his teacher over the objections of his talmudic colleagues, arguing that he could eat the fruit served and dispose of the rind. After the Pound, Céline, Heidegger, de Man, and now Stein scandals, can we still do likewise?
Michael P. Kramer directs the Anne Shachter Smith Memorial Project in Literature at Bar-Ilan University. He is the author of Imagining Language in America and coeditor of the Cambridge Companion to Jewish-American Literature, Modern Jewish Literatures, Intersections and Boundaries, and The Turn around Religion in America.