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Maurrassisme et littérature. Volume  IV

Michel Leymarie
Olivier Dard
Jeanyves Guérin


Texte intégral

Martin Motte. Mistral-Maurras: the meanings of an inheritance

1Was Charles Maurras Frédéric Mistral’s intellectual heir or did Maurras subvert the inheritance of the great Provençal poet? The question cannot be addressed through a direct comparison of the political ideas of both writers, given that Mistral’s ideas shifted over time. It may be more meaningful to take a look at the two authors’ literary works, as it is on that ground that both men met. For Maurras, Mistral’s poetry constituted an antidote against romantic nihilism for individuals and, on a collective level, a form of active citizenship. Animated by such motives, Mistral became involved in the Félibrige in his early years, but he quickly realized that the hierarchy of that movement was too close to the Jacobine Republic and was thus likely to betray Mistral’s ideals. This is why he converted to monarchism as he was convinced that only a king could restore regional liberties. In a way, Maurras hoped to translate Mistralian values into the political field. But he was never able to get Mistral to rally to his views, as too many issues set them apart – first of all the fact that the poet intensely disliked politics. Their other disagreements on minor issues end up concealing the fact that they shared a lot, in the way they combined literature and a commitment to citizenship, which they tended to consider as one and the same thing. This explains why, once they were confronted to tragic events, the revolt of the Languedoc wine-makers for Mistral and the riots which took place on the 6th of February 1934 for Maurras, they both retreated into writing. They both put into a practice some form of Platonician politics the influence of which on the evolution of the country was more lasting than is usually supposed, but which, at the time, was doomed to be superseded by the turn of events.

Laurent Joly. “Great writers are among us”: Bourget, Lemaitre and Action Française

2From 1899 to 1900, in his early days, Charles Maurras converted one after the other all his friends from the nationalist group Action Française to the monarchy. Up until the Great War, the neo-royalist movement looked for figure-heads to legitimize itself and widen its audience. For that reason, the recruitment of two high-flying members of the Académie Française, Paul Bourget and Jules Lemaitre, was tremendously important for the Maurrassian propaganda. This paper seeks to analyse the path that lead both writers to rally Action Française. For Bourget, relations with the movement were unflagging up the the 1910s owing to his personal loyalty towards Maurras. Even if the author of the L’Etape remained aloof from any clear participation to political events, his support, both personal and intellectual, was very valuable for AF in the first years of the movement. As for Lemaitre, the former president of the Ligue de la Patrie Française, who was above all close to Leon Daudet, he became from 1908 onwards a dedicated follower of the royalist movement. Lemaitre’s contribution, as a speaker and as a proselyte of AF among the wider public, was eventually more substantial than what the historiography of AF on its post-1918 years has generally suggested.

Jean El Gammal. Leon Daudet as a critic: history, literature and politics

3Best-known as a journalist, a novelist, a polemicist and a leader of AF, Leon Daudet has also been very active as a reviewer. The son of the famous writer, Leon Daudet was a very cultured man, who, though trained as a doctor, became a member of the Goncourt Academie. He wrote numerous reviews in the L’Action Française and Candide. His reputation as a reviewer is often related to his taste for discovery, which was at times at loggerheads with Maurras’s aesthetic doctrines. He thus extolled Proust and Céline, though his appreciation of Bernanos was heavily tainted by his own political leanings. This chapter seeks to analyze Daudet’s reviewing career from a historical perspective. One has to admit that Daudet’s work as a reviewer left no legacy, apart from a few latter-day ‘Hussars’. It nonetheless continues to elicit surprise and amazement, not only because of his verbal violence – especially marked when it comes to politics – but also because of his art of portrayal, which often intermingles criticism and personal memories.

Michel Leymarie. The Letters in the Revue universelle from 1920 to 1924

4The Revue universelle, a journal close to Action Française, started to appear in 1920 under the editorship of J. Bainville. It published editorials, poetry, and novels which have since then fallen oblivion, at least for most of them. Maurras, Bainville, Barrès, Bourget and Benoit are among the early collaborators of that journal. It also includes numerous literary reviews, written in particular by Lasserre, Daudet and Massis, who acted as the review’s secretary. It also published articles by second-rank collaborators who developed traditionalist theses. The relation between the moral, political and aesthetic order is key within most articles, which stands in contradiction against the ideas propounded in the NRF. In fact, rather paradoxically, the Revue universelle appears more interested in history and politics than in literature.

Pierre Masson. Gide, the NRF and Action Française 1908-1925

5This chapter explores the relations between two men, Gide and Maurras. Their respective attitudes towards Barrès gradually lead to oppose one another. When Gide constituted the team around the NRF, Maurras became an important interlocutor for him. Maurras’s own journal acted both as a magnet and as a foil to the NRF and as a means to define the line of the review. This flirtation tuned into a full-blown alliance during the war, as most of Gide’s friends rallied both Maurras and Catholicism. But by 1919, this quasi-unanimity broke apart, with allegiance to AF becoming a factor of division within the NRF. Under the influence of Rivière, the gap continued to widen and the two journals became hostile to one another after 1922.

Pascale Alexandre-Bergues. Claudel and Maurras: taking a new look at a well-known polemical discussion

6This chapter studies the complex and tense relations between Claudel and Maurras from 1910 to 1952. It starts with a reminder of the various stages of the conflict in which they were opponents. The first stage if the publication of L’Otage on 1911, the other episodes of this longstanding feud include the First World War, various elections to the Académie Française, Maurras’s trial in 1945, the homage paid by the Académie Française to Maurras on his death in 1952. What is subsequently highlighted is the aesthetic divergences between both men, which revolved around two key concepts: the Antiquity and classicism.

Jean-Yves Guérin. Maurrasism on the stage

7Maurras was little interested in the stage. The AF-related periodicals nonetheless followed new releases on the stage. As reviewers for AF publications, Lucien Dubech, Robert Brasillach and Thierry Maulnier reviewed showed how concerned they intended to appear legitimate. Because they loved the stage, they thus took liberties with the Maurrassian doxa. As playwrights, Henri Ghéon, Robert Brasillach and even to some extent Thierry Maulnier found it difficult to become recognized. AF’s contribution to contemporary drama is all in all of little significance, given how much ideology and the stage are strange bedfellows.

Marc Dambre. The Hussars and Action Française

8Coined in 1952 inn Sartre’s review Les Temps modernes, the term ‘hussars’ is supposed to designate a young literary group of ‘fascists’ among whom one finds Roger Nimier, the novelist who wrote the Blue Hussar in 1950, alongside Antoine Blondin and Jacques Laurent. This informal movement, to which Michel Déon soon becomes associated, breaks apart in 1962 with the premature death of Nimier. Without explicitly using the metaphor, Raoul Girardet had situated Nimier and Laurent within the AF tradition as early as 1957. This chapter studies all four authors and looks into the relations they had with AF during and after the war. Laurent and Déon were quite heavily involved in AF, while the two younger authors, whose attitude towards Vichy and collaboration vastly differed, were more distantly associated with it. After 1945, their paths diverged even more, even if the épuration elicits some degree of convergence among them. Laurent’s review, La Parisienne, which is constituted in response to Sartre’s, is allegedly the stronghold of the Hussars. It united them around the banner of literary disengagement. An unsuccessful venture, it folded in the spring of 1958. Little by little, all writers become opponents of De Gaulle and of his Algerian policy. All in all, the Hussars’intellectual libertinage, their vision of history and their classical sensibility show they are all inheritors of Maurras.

Jérémie Majorel. Blanchot and Maurras: breaking apart (on two chronicles from L’Insurgé in 1937)

9Blanchot wrote two articles on Maurras in L’Insurgé in 1937. It is precisely at that time that the far-right maverick starts to find his personal voice. He then ceased to mimic Maurras and the Jeune Droite and to speak with his own voice as he paid a jaundiced homage to his intellectual mentor, whose usual rhetorical tours he stopped to borrow from. Instead, one spots the premises of disengagement, of neutrality, of disaster, of fascination, of friendship and of the Mermaids’Song. Blanchot then breaks apart from Maurras, a new idiom is born, namely a form of writing and of thinking which are deeply intertwined.

Francis Balace. Classicism and truculence. Reading Charles Maurras and Leon Daudet in Belgium

10In spite of the marked interest among young Belgian intellectuals, between 1919 and 1926, for the ideas and the methods of AF and Maurras’political writings, Maurras’s literary works elicited little interest and admiration, apart from when he extolled the Provence of his youth. The polemical writings of Leon Daudet spurred more interest, owing to his well-known family name and to his attacks against spies and defeatists of all ilk. This greater visibility is all the more marked after Daudet’s 29-month-long exile in Brussels. Justin Sauvenier, a self-taught Catholic writer, analyzed Daudet’s works in depth and vigorously defended Daudet’s writings, in spite of the naturalism, not to mention the eroticism, in some passages of Daudet’s works, and despite also Daudet’s vituperation against the Holy See. Abbé Michel, a Catholic cleric, has a very different take on both Daudet and Maurras. He accuses them of being Southerners and to understand nothing of the solid certainties of Northerners, who are according the true upholders of classicism, namely that of the Western, as opposed to the Mediterranean order which spread from Athens to Rome and eventually to Provence. In the 1930s, Daudet’s star started to fade, while Maurras’s reputation was on the rise thanks to this poetry, whose classical form was extolled by many reviewers, who recognized Maurras’s greater talent for invective, as it appeared steeped in a more reasoned and logical approach. A later avatar of Maurras, the Belgian Maurrassian Paul Dresse de Lébioles mournfully noted that Daudet’s death prevented him from leading Maurras away from the path of fateful mistakes.

Georgiana Medrea. Maurrasism and literature in Roumania

11In Francophile Romania, where Latin affinities are dear to many, Charles Maurras has a twofold reputation, as a man of letters and as an nationalist intellectual. The reading public in Romania is interested by other aspects than his role as a follower of Mistral. He is indeed considered as an intellectual figurehead, as a promoter of neo-classicism, as a peace-monger. His reputation as a man of letters is contrasted, with some reviewers subscribing to his doctrine, while others, notably academics actively committed to politics, feel interested by his work more out of their interest for French culture.

12The influence of Maurrasism fluctuates during the interwar years. It is rather weak in literary circles and it affects second-rank people, devotees of neo-classicism or nationalist writers. The high watermark of Maurrasism is reached when the Action Française tries to mobilize academics to support Maurras’s appointment to the Nobel Prize committee in 1937, when he is liberated from jail and when he is elected to the Académie Française. Maurras, just like Barrès, nevertheless gradually recedes into the background.

Guillaume Gros. Roland Laudenbach and La Table Ronde, Jacques Perret and Aspects de la France

13Jacques Perret, born in1901, was a low-brow novelist who wrote Roucou, Ernest le rebelle and Caporal épinglé. He was also an experienced journalist who wrote 1948 onwards, in Aspects de la France. His regular column in that paper, which appeared until 1966, quickly turned him into the most notorious voice in Action Française’s weekly. A monarchist and a Catholic, he had a nostalgia for the pre-1789 years and wrote facetious and often ironic contributions which criticized the shortcomings of democracy and modernity. The Algerian War and De Gaulle’s return to power transform his column into a platform against De Gaulle, whom he accuses to scuttle on Algeria and to betray the Army’s values.

14Roland Laudenbach (1921-1991) started to run La Table Ronde, a publishing company, from 1945. That company originated from the Cahiers de la Table de Ronde, which acted as the mouthpiece of a community organization close to Action Française and created during the Vichy era. As a publisher, Laudenbach rallied around him the literary right (the so-called Hussars) against existentialism and its organ, Les Temps modernes. Under the pen-name Michel Braspart, he was also a journalist and a writer, who notably published La Mauvaise carte in 1951. A supporter of French Algeria, Laudenbach did not hesitate to use his company as an instrument of ideological warfare against Gaullism.

Olivier Dard. The Jeune Droite, Maurrasism and literature

15One central feature of Jeune Droite is its indebtedness to Maurras. In the 1930s, many leading figures of Jeune Droite were former Action Française sympathizers and some remained members of AF afterwards. Those who took their distance from AF did not irrevocably break away from it, quite the contrary: in 1956, when Gilbert Ganne published his celebrated inquiry in Arts, he dubbed them “young Maurrassians”. Among that group, one notes the presence of Thierry Maulnier, Jean de Fabrègues, Jacques Laurent, Claude Roy (the only one who completely broke free from AF), René Vincent, Kléber Haedens or Louis Salleron. To them could have been added Maurice Blanchot, Jean-François Gravier or François Sentein. In this chapter, what is under study is the relation between the Jeune Droite journals and literary works and the aesthetic principles defined by Maurras and also by Henri Massis, who acted as a crucial pathbreaker. What is specifically analyzed is the relation between aesthetics, politics and Maurrassism. The place of Maurras in Jeune Droite publications is assessed, and so are his legacy and his positions, especially concerning Catholicism and the Nouvelle Revue française. A survey of the journal Combat finally gives a glimpse of what literary criticism means for Jeune Droite, what are the tastes and dislikes of that group, which allows an assessment of its conformity with Maurrassian aesthetic principles.

Denis Labouret. Georges Bernanos and Action Française: a historical look at a misunderstanding

16Bernanos is often seen as close to Action Française, if not as a Maurrassian writer par excellence. In fact, even if he was indeed a staunch Maurrassian in his youth, writing regularly in L’Avant-Garde de Normandie in 1913-1914 and remaining close to AF when Sous le soleil de Satan was published and Action Française condemned by the Vatican (1926-1927), he broke away from Maurras in 1932, which reveals how vastly estranged he became from the royalist movement. It is thus logical that Bernanos came to talk about the “betrayal of Maurrasism”, which was guilty of dubious affinities towards dictatorships at the time of Munich and the Spanish War. His seeming Maurrasism may be viewed as resulting from a misunderstanding. The truth is that Bernanos, both as a novelist and as a polemical writer, dedicated much of his energy against Action Française and outside of the movement. Bernanos was at loggerheads with the Maurrassian vision of history, because he always opted for the Romanticism of his personal fight against the positivism of political reason and opposed the “Christless Catholicism” of Maurrasism out of personal faith in the Gospel. He built his career as a writer upon a spiritual quest which is foreign to the ideas and values of Action Française.

Hélène Merlin-Kajman. Re-reading Thierry Maulnier’s Racine and Robert Brasillach’s Corneille?

17Maulnier’s Racine (1935) and Brasillach’s Corneille (1938) may be read as echoes to the famous parallel La Bruyère had established between both playwrights. The former is more precisely a response to the latter. Both works intend to be a militant interpretation of the authors they attempt to study, and even as mythical construction and as a mystical resurrection. While Maulnier’s resurrection of Racine is utterly cerebral, despite a continuous insistence upon a Dionysian approach, Brasillach’s study, which brutally hinges upon anachronism and school memories, consists in an efficient, energetic, dramatic re-animation of Cornelian heroes. Rereading Maulnier’s Racine and Brasillach’s Corneille cannot have much epistemological value in the way we approach 17th-century texts, but both studies allow us to take a fresh, radical look at the ethics of transmission of the “classics”. Re-reading Maulnier and Brasillach gives us evidence that defending the “humanities”, of letters in particular, cannot be an end in itself. The Maurrassian faith in the regeneration of the minds through literature is not a viable perspective. Instead of conjuring up these classical texts as so many stages which open up energies which enroll us, one had better put in place teaching scenarios which lead onto freedom within a civil community of readers, and not towards a communion around alleged “permanence”.

Jean Touzot. Maurras and the Académie française

18It is somewhat paradoxical that Maurras was so keen to become a member of the Académie Française, an institution about which his disciples were so scathing. This chapter studies the way Maurras repeatedly attempted to be elected to the Académie Française and what this might mean. In 1923, Maurras tried to obtain Deschanel’s seat, much to the dismay of his friend Henry Bordeaux. Jonnart was eventually elected. His inauguration address was disrupted by Action Française hecklers. In 1932, Léon Daudet published a pamphlet a pamphlet entitled Habits verts et vers de presse, the extreme violence of which would have been likely to definitely bar Maurras access to the Académie were it not for the election of three of his disciples, among whom Bainville, which paved the way for Maurras’s election. When Bainville died, Maurras was then in jail, so he was in no position to succeed him. Maurras had to wait until the death of Henri-Robert for his candidacy to receive the requisite support. He was helped by various initiatives taken by Bordeaux, among which a visit to the Holy See. In spite of the campaign waged against him by the democratic and of the vocal disagreement expressed by Mauriac, Maurras was elected in June 1936. He regularly took part in the Académie’s proceedings until June 1940. Arrested and jailed once France was liberated, Maurras was struck off from the Académie without any proper vote allowing this removal. His seat was declared vacant only after his death. It is clear that Maurras needed the type of recognition that only a time-worn, prestigious like the Académie could bestow upon him. His election gave him a renewed high profile, especially abroad. But the election contributed to politicizing all the elections that came afterwards, so much so that Maurras declared his fellow Académiciens: “You’ve all drunk from the poisoned chalice, Your Lordships!”

Ana Sardinha-Desvignes. Against Maurras: Fernando Pessoa’s «scientific neo-classicism»

19The famous Portugese poet Fernado Pessoa (1888-1935) was very interested in the European movements for the renewal of classicism. He consequently took part in what constituted one of the numerous literary and artistic debates over the essence of art. Pessoa first recognized the influence of Maurras in the field of aesthetic theory and went as far as insisting upon the “importance and the internal consistency of Maurras’s classical thought”, and also upon the echo it received all over Europe. He nonetheless preferred to remain aloof from it, and not just for political or literary reasons. The refined and rigorous classicism upheld by his famous alias Ricardo Reis, who presented himself as “a moder pagan, exiled within an alien civilization”, was designed to be at loggerheads with Maurras’s vision of classicism. Or rather, as Pessoa himself contended, he called for a “scientific neoclassicism” which was a reaction against “Maurras’s neoclassicism”. This chapter examines the contours, the originality and the paradoxes of a response to Maurras which very quickly became a lonely attempt at demolishing French culture and literature.

© Presses universitaires du Septentrion, 2012

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