Oct 2, 2011

Gertrude Stein's "Missing" Vichy Years | Truthout


Gertrude Stein's "Missing" Vichy Years

by: Mark Karlin, Truthout | Historical Analysis

Portrait of Gertrude Stein, New York, November 4, 1934. (Photo: Carl Van Vechten)

If you want to discover the real Gertrude Stein, two art exhibitions now making their way to Washington DC and Paris gloss over some shocking historic evidence.

Gertrude Stein was a complex, iconic, artistic figure: an experimental writer, an intellectual salon hostess, a collector and nurturer of modern artists, an openly gay woman who admired authoritarian men. Her contradictions abounded and so did contradictions in many of her political statements. But there is no disputing that she chose to stay in France during WW II at a steep price to her historical legacy.

The smoking gun of Stein's ignominious behavior during WW II lies "in a few yellowing notebooks tucked away in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University," according to Dartmouth Professor Barbara Will. In her newbook, "Unlikely Collaboration: Gertrude Stein, Bernard Faÿ and the Vichy Dilemma," Will details that on these aging pages are Stein's translation of 32 speeches by Marshal Philippe Pétain.

Pétain was not a literary figure, but a WW I hero and general who was the head of the collaborationist Vichy regime - a puppet government of the Nazis. These speech translations in Stein's own handwriting, according to Will, included those "that announced Vichy policy barring Jews and other 'foreign elements' from positions of power in the public sphere and those that called for a 'hopeful' reconciliation with Nazi forces." Stein also promoted Pétain as the George Washington of France.



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