Amerika

Pierre Drieu la Rochelle (Radbod)

 

PIERRE DRIEU LA ROCHELLE

 

Melancholy Rebel
by Radbod

 

Pierre Drieu La Rochelle (1893-1945) was born into a middle class, politically conservative, Catholic family. Drieus childhood seems to have been particularly unpleasant, for he feared and hated his father, an unsuccessful lawyer, who constantly ridiculed him for any displays of weakness or cowardice. Drieu loved his mother dearly, but she often neglected him in the pursuit of her active social life. Consequently, Drieu spent much of his childhood immersed in books and daydreams about Napoleonic grandeur, military heroism, and colonial adventure, which he readily contrasted with his own familys decadent and pusillanimous bourgeois lifestyle. Drieu was very conscious of his familys social status, especially after his fathers shady financial dealings had resulted in a sharp decline in the familys economic status while Drieu was an adolescent. Drieu confessed that “family life offered me nothing but repugnant trials, I lived between a father and a mother who were torn apart by adultery, jealousy and financial troubles.”
Drieu was able to separate himself from the negative influence of his early family life and began to assert himself in both the upper-bourgeois Catholic collége and the École des Sciences Politiques. He enjoyed the “group experience” of his school days, but was often wary of his inferior social position. While he was invited into the upper-class homes of his friends, he often assumed an air of intellectual superiority to compensate for his sense of class inferiority.
Drieu was heavily influenced by his trip to England at the age of fifteen, where he first cultivated a life-long love for all things English. He discovered there an energy and dynamism, evident in the British love for physical sports, which he readily contrasted against his view of France as a weak and decadent country. It was in England that Drieu first discovered the work of Nietzsche, which further reinforced his growing interest in the role of power and responsibility of the individual will and the man of action in society. Drieu reports that his intellectual awakening came at the rebellious age of seventeen when: “On the eve of my baccalaureate exam . . . [a]bruptly I discovered reactionary thought. Thereafter it was Maurras, the Action française, [Jacques] Bainville, Georges Sorel, and by way of them I linked myself to a long chain of French reactionaries. . . . All had the effect of multiplying the formidable blow that I had received at Oxford when I was sixteen: Nietzsche.”
Drieu was fervently drawn to the call of the nationalistic writers of the older generation, particularly the novelist and political thinker, Maurice Barrès. He admired the Barrèsian emphasis on the individual will, the “Self,” which stressed the union of the intellectual life with the life of action and political “engagement.” Drieu was inspired by the Barrèsian cult of national energy that glorified “eternal France,” but never truly subscribed to the Barrèsian idea of “integral nationalism” which celebrated the intrinsic and native-born qualities of all Frenchmen. He was also drawn to some of the ideas of Charles Maurras and Georges Sorel. For a time between 1911 and 1914, Drieu was a member of the Cercle Proudhon, an antidemocratic, nationalistic, monarchist organization of young right-wing students, many of whom attended the prestigious École des Sciences Politiques with Drieu. Founded in 1911, it sought to revitalize the nation according to the “best” in French tradition, including the ideas of Proudhon, Maurras, and Sorel. Like many of his generation, Drieu was drawn to a rightist stance in reaction to the liberalism, democracy, pacifism, positivism, and narrow rationalism of the older generation. Drieus membership in the Cercle Proudhon exposed him to elitist ideas concerning the virility of youth, the value of hierarchy, and the preservation of order and tradition. Looking back on the period immediately prior to the First World War in 1936, Drieu La Rochelle recalled: “One sees that certain elements of a fascist atmosphere came together in France around 1913, before they did elsewhere. There were young people from various classes of society who were filled with a love of heroism and violence, and who dreamed of fighting what they called the evil on two fronts: capitalism and parliamentary socialism, and who were similarly disposed toward both. There were, I think, people in Lyons who called themselves socialist-royalists or something of that nature. A marriage of nationalism and socialism was already being envisaged. Yes, in France, in the groups surrounding Action Française and Péguy, there was already a nebulous form of fascism.” For Drieu, intellectual and political initiations seemed to have come less from proper bourgeois institutions of learning than from the wealth of literature and ideas fermenting in the prewar years. Both would draw on these ideas in the formation of their intellectual and political revolt against the bourgeois values of their youth. “I am a fascist because I have measured the progress of decadence in Europe. I saw in fascism the only means of containing and reducing that decadence, and moreover, scarcely believing in the political resources of France, I saw no other recourse than that of the genius of Hitler and Hitlerism.” “With a dull nonchalance, I turned back upon myself and plunged into melancholy. Timid and mistrustful, I did not dare to go out into the world. At last, as I swore to kill myself before I was twenty-five if I had not loved a beautiful woman, written a beautiful book and accomplished a beautiful action, I learned…that war had broken out.”
Like so many, Drieu longed for the “realism” of direct energetic action and the glamour of war. Certainly the war helped to intensify many of Drieus beliefs concerning the decline of Western civilization, yet there is evidence that his fascist roots pre-dated 1914. Drieu was drafted in 1913 at the age of twenty and spent the next few months tied to the routines of barracks life, until war was declared in 1914. “What had I felt when war had been declared? Liberation from the barracks, the end of the old laws, the arrival of possibilities for me, for life, for new laws, young laws, bold and surprising.” Free from the stifling bourgeois conventions of his family, Drieu rejoiced in the “savage liberty” that military service promised from “social convention, preparations for life, for a career, and for the distant future.”
Drieus romantic notion of war soon changed on the battlefield of Charleroi, where Drieu mused, “war today means being prostrate, wallowing in the mud flattened. Before, war meant men standing upright. War today means every possible position of shame.” While Drieu got to know the discomforts and horrors of war, he also discovered its ability to liberate the most primal, virile, and “noble” instincts in man. Achieving the rank of sergeant and serving as a platoon leader, Drieu received three battle wounds in the course of his distinguished service at Charleroi, the Marne, Artois, Verdun, and the Dardenelles. He would always remember fondly the exhilaration of a bayonet charge that he had led in 1914 at Charleroi, where “all of a sudden, I found myself, I found my life. This was now me, this strong man, this free man, this hero. So, this was my life, this sudden joyous surge that would never ever stop.” Drieu emerged from the war acutely aware of his own courage and virility, and was determination to find a means of expression that would communcate the intensity of his wartime experiences.
Recovering in a hospital from battle wounds, Drieu discovered the work of the poet Paul Claudel and developed a taste for more “modern” styles of literature. He was done with flowery bourgeois literary styles, and adopted a more direct, abrupt approach: “I had some urgent things to cry about the war, about man in war, about the confrontation of life and death, and it was absolutely necessary that I find a means that measures up to the violence of my cry.”
Drieus first collection of poems, Interrogation, was published in 1917 and was very favorably received. Drieu was soon being touted as one of Frances most versatile young writers. His early writings revealed a discreet but passionate “cult of France,” and a sense of fraternity or love for his comrades in the trenches, the death of whom solidified and internalized his love for his country. Drieu had high expectations for the regeneration of France by the new generation of youth tempered by war and ready to seize political power. He was convinced that his generation had proven itself superior to the older one, for they had held at Verdun and the Marne, while their elders had lost at Sedan. He believed that “now we have the right to speak . . . strong from thousands and thousands of energetic acts . . . and our elders have only to keep quiet.”
However, for most veterans, energetic acts had been exhausted on the battlefield. While enough veterans were elected to the Chamber in 1919 to dub it the “blue horizon chamber” after the color of the French army uniform, the victory of the rightist Bloc national marked a return to traditional democratic conservatism. Drieu had hoped that his generation would seize power, “[b]ut no. We allowed them to continue and keep their places. The veterans had let themselves be totally frustrated.” Drieu was disgusted with the inability of his generation to act, and continued to look for a group dynamic enough to transform French society. Drieu became thoroughly disenchanted with the condition in which they found post-war France, and decided that politically, morally, and intellectually, French society was bankrupt. Drieu La Rochelle was also disappointed by the failure of his generation to take action, and was disgusted with a post-war France that was all too identical to pre-war France. In 1922 he wrote that while France had won the war: “It took half the world to contain a people that my people, alone, had tread on with ease for centuries. . . . On our soil, our flesh no longer held its place. . . . Behind us in each house in the place of those who were dead or of those who had not yet been born there was a foreigner. He was alone with our women. . . . We did not go to bed alone with Victory.” Drieu was disgusted with Frances declining population growth, which was made shockingly apparent by the war. He also was ashamed at French weakness in the face of stronger powers and resented the influx of foreign labor following the war. Drieu was sickened by what he saw as the decadence of French society, for he believed that sterility, onanism, [and] homosexuality are spiritual maladies. Alcoholism, drugs are the first steps that lead to this failing of the imagination, to this decadence of the creative spirit, when men prefer to submit rather than to assert themselves. Thoroughly disgusted with the bankrupt society which sent them off to a war that had accomplished so little, Drieu declared war on the decadence that had created it. He proposed to initiate a thorough regeneration of France and Western society through force and violence, by first wiping the slate clean and starting anew.
Drieus search for a group that would transform society with “thousands of energetic acts” led him to the early Dada and later Surrealist group of André Breton. Having found a group of young men with whom he could relate, Drieu La Rochelle began to identify with the early Surrealists urge to destroy bourgeois society. Having befriended Louis Aragon in 1916, Drieu was introduced to the Dada group after the war. He was impressed not only by the groups literary boldness, but also by their youthful energy and independence, their antirationalism, their internationalist opposition to xenophobic nationalism, and hostility towards the older decadent generation. Drieu later wrote that his period with the Dadaists/ Surrealists was one of great pleasure, as he believed that this prodigious troop of young men and poets, I firmly believe, are the most alive group in the world today. . . . This encounter has been for me an enormous event.”
The role that Drieu played in the group is sketchy and it is unclear to what extent he participated in Dada and later Surrealist group activities. While he lent his name to a number of Dada/Surrealist documents, Drieu did not always feel comfortable in the group, for he was often torn between both revolutionary and reactionary rebellion. When the Dadaists held a mock trial of Barrès in 1921, Drieu was reluctant to participate. The Dadaists abhorred Barrès as the symbol of stagnant cultural traditionalism and rabid nationalism, yet Drieu was unwilling to denounce his idol. When bluntly prodded by André Breton to confess whether or not he still found Barrès appealing, Drieu replied evasively that he retained a sense of respect for Barrès. For the time being however, he had found a much needed friendship and camaraderie with the Dada/Surrealist group–a sense of attachment and belonging that he had craved since his days in the trenches.
He also expressed the belief that the old order had to be eliminated before a regeneration could begin. Drieu was no stranger to the idea of violence, for even before his days with the Dadaists, he had been drawn to the philosophical language of violence preached by Nietzsche, Barrès, Péguy, Maurras, and Sorel, the renowned author of Réflexions sur la Violence (1908). Drieu marvelled that “all of them sang to me of violence. Without doubt I was born to reverberate to this call rather than to some other.” Drieus notion of violence saw no exceptions in its need to destroy traditional society, and often directed itself towards the old order as it was defined through its art and culture: “We will destroy. . . . With a bitter joy, we will strike down this civilization. . . . What will remain of beauty? Of that which our ancestors brought into the world? . . . We will put that beauty to the torch in the houses of the rich where its presence for us is a malediction. Too bad if the flames do not stop, too bad if they consume everything.” Drieu cherished his bonds of friendship with the Surrealists and admitted that “I found among you a nourishment more substantial than ever before.” However, while Drieu was not a monarchist or a racist, he was also attracted in the early 1920s to the friendship offered by the Action Française on the extreme Right. Drieu was torn between two poles: “I have been solicited by the only two groups that exist in France in our time, where one can think and where one can act passionately.” He rightly feared that fully embracing one would irrevocably alienate him from the other. However, Drieu realized that the two were incompatible, and regretted that “I can no longer hold them in balance.”
In many ways the Surrealists made his choice for him when they embraced communism in 1925. Drieu was too much a man of his class and was repulsed by communism which he regarded as too materialistic, rational, egalitarian, and non-European. He believed that communism promoted intellectual and artistic mediocrity and stressed a naive collectivity that denied the value of the individual will. Interestingly, he established his political position in response to the leftist turn of the Surrealists: “I called myself a man of the Right, by a scruple that, not without irony, imitated your inconsiderate dash towards communism. . . . [T]he moment that I was not communist, I was against communism, and therefore a man of the Right.”
However, Drieus notion of the Right evidently did not include the Action Française, for he found it and other right-wing groups too nationalistic, monarchist, and decadent. In addition, the threat from the extreme Left seemed reduced since the return to moderate policies after the fall of the Cartel des Gauches in 1926. Having left the Surrealists, Drieu announced in an open letter to them that he had taken a political stand “equal distance between M. Bainville [of the Action Française] and M. Francois Poncet [Radical Party politician].” He proclaimed himself a “national republican” with an eye towards the “elegant possibilities of a modern conservatism.” In reality, Drieu was disenchanted with parties on both the Left and Right, and was more confused than firmly committed. Drieu began to formulate his own political position after 1925 which would take nearly a decade to materialize into his own brand of fascism.
So Drieu La Rochelle moved from an interest in Communism in 1917 to an admiration for fascism in the interwar period (publishing Socialisme fasciste in 1934). His 1922 novel, Mesure de la France, explored the disillusionment of French youth after the First World War. He sided with the Nazis after France’s defeat (he was a friend of the German ambassador, Otto Abetz) and became editor of La Nouvelle Revue française.
Drieu wanted to rejuvenate and reinvigorate France, a task accomplished only by joining in federation with all of Europe to resist outside threats posed by expanding foreign empires. Drieu saw fascism as the only way to impose this new strength upon a weak and decadent France. He was drawn to the notion of Spartan sacrifice entailed in fascism. He believed that “fascism facilitates the open recognition of one fact: universal impoverishment, the necessary reduction of the universal standard of living,” for he felt that there was “at the basis of the moral force in all fascism, a disposition for sacrifice, a willingness to fight.” In the mid 1930s, Drieu observed this propensity for sacrifice and deprivation in totalitarian Germany and wondered “if the poverty that shows itself in Germany does not hide a moral richness,” for he believed that the only real hope for Europe could be found “under the sign of stoicism.”
Drieu became a proponent of violent rebellion based on vigorous action, change, and renewal. He was more concerned with a “spiritual” revolution than a material one–placing morals, aesthetics, and ideals above economics, finance, and production. Determined to pursue his own political ideology, Drieu founded in 1927 with his friend Emmanuel Berl, the journal Les Derniers Jours (The Last Days). Drieu hoped to save France from sinking into utter decadence by cutting across traditional party lines in creating an amalgamation of the best in capitalism and communism to achieve a political monopoly by the big capitalists of the upper bourgeoisie. Political control in the hands of big capitalist cartels would lead to greater European unity, perhaps a United States of Europe, which would abolish in turn the evils of parliamentary democracy, petit bourgeois capitalism, and chauvinistic nationalism.
Finally, in 1934, Drieu abandoned all reservations towards fascism following the nights of bloody rioting in Paris from 6-12 February which arose out of the Stavisky scandal. Drieu was exhilarated by the apparent solidarity between communists and fascist leagues fighting together in the streets against the corrupt liberal Third Republic: “And then all at once there was fascism. Everything was possible again. Oh, how my heart soared!” Drieu believed that he had finally found the means to combat decadence and to propel France towards spiritual regeneration.
Drieu ultimately conceived of revolution in “spiritual” terms and had “spiritual” conceptions of a future re-generated society that would give birth to new conceptions of man himself. Once Drieu accepted fascism in 1934, he promptly presented his political position as “fascist socialism.” While his political position was fascist, it was nevertheless one of his own invention and was socially and economically quite conservative. Drieu generally believed in a social revolution of the petite bourgeoisie, for he saw the modern French proletariat as too decadent and oppressed to act heroically as a revolutionary force. He believed that Marx’ faith in a revolutionary proletariat was based on an obsolete nineteenth-century class of artisans and peasants rather than an actual urban proletariat. Drieu also rejected the Marxist view of class struggle as the real inspiration for historical change. Refuting the very idea of a proletarian class, he also denied the existence of a bourgeois ruling class, for he saw a clear separation between political power (controlled by a political elite), and economic power (controlled by the bourgeoisie). Against the Marxist view, Drieu proposed a fascist revolution by an elite drawn from the petite bourgeoisie and peasantry. Drieu saw these groups, threatened with extinction by big capitalism above and marxism below, as receptive to revolutionary action leading to a return to a “heroic” vision of nineteenth-century artisan and peasant society. Political power would be more “elitist” than democratic, residing in the natural leaders of society (an elitism in keeping with the Maurrasian tradition), motivated by noblesse oblige rather than democratic electoral politics. The upper bourgeoisie and aristocracy, who controlled big business, would retain their economic hegemony, but political power would be relinquished to the fascist elite of the petite bourgeoisie. In his article “The Young Man and the Older Man,” written in 1935, Drieu revealed through the young man that: “Fascism will be nothing other than a new Radicalism, . . . a new movement of the petite bourgeoisie, disciplined and organized in a party that inserts itself between Big Capitalism, the peasantry, and the proletariat, and that, through terror and authority, imposes on these different interest groups an old charter under a renovated form. But this new charter instead of being liberal, will this time be socialist.”
Drieus concept of “socialism” was political rather than economic, meaning an authoritarianism imposed by the petite bourgeoisie rather than a socialism of humanitarian concerns, social reforms, or working class interests. This socialism was also in many ways nationalist, in that it did not serve the interests of foreign powers such as the Soviet Union, as Drieu believed international socialism and communism did.
While Drieus economic and social views were reactionary, his political and cultural conceptions were radical. Economic systems were less to blame for present conditions than the bodies and minds of Frenchmen that had grown soft and decadent. Drieu now saw fascism not only as the best way to combat decadence, but also as a way to reconcile and elevate both the physical body and the spiritual mind: “The deepest definition of Fascism is this: it is the political movement which leads most frankly, most radically towards the restoration of the body–health, dignity, fullness, heroism–towards the defense of man against the large town and the machine.” Drieu saw the need for the emergence of a “new man” created from the ground up, a man able to combine political idealism and physical strength, both a militant and an athlete. Drieu hoped fascism would produce a man of a new “virile disposition” who would only reach his fullest potential by acquiring the courage “to have advanced his body to reach the point to which he has advanced his thought.”
Drieu was like many fascist writers who expected the creation of a fascist state to bring about a new breed of man, the homo fascista, a “complete” man overcoming the fragmenting forces of mass society and industrialization. Standing triumphant in a Darwinian world where might always makes right, he was to be a man of energy, virility, force, and action–a hero, yet an individual who recognized the value and strength of the cohesive group, of order, discipline, and authority.
Drieus conception of the “new man” first found its concrete form in the person of his friend, André Malraux. In 1930, Drieu had published “Malraux, the New Man,” praising Malraux for boldly addressing the most fundamental problems of the times. Malrauxs leftist leanings did not initially bother Drieu, because he saw in him the “raw man” who had found the perfect union of a life of vigorous action with a life of intense thought, which gave his writing the force and conviction of reality.
By the late 1930s, Drieu seemed to think Jacques Doriot of the Parti Populaire Française (PPF) was also an embodiment of this “new man.” Doriot had been a communist mayor of Saint-Denis, but had been expelled from the party due to conflicts with Party discipline. Formed in 1936 in reaction to the leftist Popular Front government, the PPF was an amalgamation of rightist ideology and communist organizational structures which drew from both Right and Left. Drieu was inspired by Doriots physical vigor and athletic appearance, and rejoiced that Doriot “stands before France not as a fat-bellied intellectual of the last century watching his sick mother and puffing at his radical pipe, but as an athlete squeezing this debilitated body, breathing his own health into its mouth.”
With the failure of the PPF or any other French fascist party to seize power, along with French appeasement of Hitler in 1938, Drieu realized that “in France, a revolution instituted by Frenchmen was impossible. A revolution could come only from outside.” No longer believing in the political resources of France or England, and fearing the intrusion of foreign empires such as the United States and the Soviet Union, Drieu lamented that “I have seen no other recourse than in the genius of Hitler and Hitlerism. . . . Hitlerism appeared to me more than ever as the last rampart of any liberty in Europe.” Drieu had visited Nazi Germany in 1934 and had attended the Nuremberg rallies. Visiting again in 1936, he was impressed by the fascists ability to galvanize and remold the state and inject it with a sense of rediscovered spiritual values. Drieu believed that the German fascists were moving towards a “spiritual” and aesthetic conception of society.
Drieu had now put his faith in “Hitlerian man”, a new breed of German youth–tough, athletic, and Spartan. He believed that Germany had produced legions of this new prototype which had surpassed the physically and morally inferior Anglo-Saxon man. He conjured up images of a German “wolf-man” from ancient German lore, but this time clad in black leather and armed with American gangster machine guns. While Germany had succeeded in cultivating this “new man,” Drieu also pictured various antecedents, such as the Christian crusader, the Spanish conquistador, the colonial adventurer of the nineteenth century, and the American gangster of the 1920s.
With the fall of France in 1940, Drieu had thrown in his lot with the Nazis as the greatest possibility for the political federation of Europe and the spiritual regeneration of Frenchmen. By the end of 1940 Drieu was the editor of the collaborationist Nouvelle Revue française in Paris and the close friend of Otto Abetz, the German ambassador to France. Drieu never saw his collaboration as treason, for he believed that France had to be radically transformed by the violent revolution of an outside force in order to survive. In 1945 he explained, “I have always been a nationalist and an internationalist at the same time.” He argued that “ever since my first poems written in the trenches and the hospitals in 1915 and 1916, I have aligned myself as a French patriot and a European patriot,” and that even “after the First World war, I continued to concern myself with France, her survival, herpride.” Drieu claimed to be devoted to France, but as Grover points out, his passion had the characteristics of an illness, as his concern for France was often expressed in anxiety, spite, and even hatred.
Drieus hatred was at times directed against his own countrymen. As his collaboration deepened, he accepted and supported the anti-Semitic policies of the Nazis. He identified Jews with a decadence that he had previously blamed on all Frenchmen. Despite his acceptance of racial theories in the abstract, Drieu did use his influence to save several Jewish friends, including his first wife, from the hands of the Gestapo. In Fascist Intellectual Drieu La Rochelle, Robert Soucy points out that Drieus acceptance of racism contradicted basic conceptions of man and nationalism that he had embraced most of his life. The late adoption of anti-Semitism seems to have been a reflection of personal weakness in failing to resist adherence to the “intellectual vogue” of the Nazi ideology of the 1940s.
By 1942 the Allies had turned the tide of the war by landing in North Africa and Hitler had been put on the defensive. Drieu now expressed disgust with the Nazis for failing to bring about social revolution, European unity, or spiritual regeneration. While many collaborators were withdrawing their support from Hitler after 1942, Drieu increased his by rejoining the PPF, by now one of the most committed collaborationist organizations.
Yet, in the face of such trying times, Drieu lamented that he had not remained outside of political affairs. In his diary of 1944-45, Drieu revealed that “politics were only really a source of curiosity for me and the object of distant speculation. I have a horror of everyday affairs and men quickly disgust or bore me.” Had he afforded himself the luxury, Drieu might have lived his life in utter detachment from political affairs. Yet, in addition to rejoining the PPF, Drieu also claimed in the last weeks of his life to support Stalin as the last hope for Europe. The eleventh-hour conversion to these positions was most likely an act of exasperation and a parting shot at his critics, as he once told a friend that he just wanted to give his many enemies a good reason for loathing and killing him. He also realized that upon the liberation of France, the Resistance, including many communists, would instigate a bloody purge of all collaborators. Drieu turned down chances to seek asylum in Spain, Argentina, England, or Switzerland and decided to stay in France to face defeat. In his Exorde (Final reckoning), he presented a hypothetical trial defense in which he explained his duty as an intellectual to take risks, to act outside of the crowd, as a Europeanist, not just a nationalist; yet in the end he insisted on perishing with his cause by demanding that his jurors: “Be true to the pride of the Resistance as I am true to the pride of the Collaborators. . . . [W]e played and I lost. I demand the death penalty.” Rather than facing a real trial, Drieu played the part of his own executioner by taking fatal doses of poison on 15 March 1945. Drieus commitment to his cause and acceptance of death reveals that to Drieu, fascism as he knew it was much more than a political expedient, but a way of life based on heroism, risk, and ultimately, sacrifice.
In seeking to understand the political and intellectual evolution of Drieu La Rochelle, one must examine the forces that turned Drieu towards fascism, and when exactly he can be said to have become fascist. Drieu had been hesitant about fascism before 1934, as fascism was not as prevalent in France as it was in Germany and Italy. However, he became convinced of the dynamic and virile possibilities of fascism after the 1934 Paris riots. While Drieu may not have fully realized his fascistic tendencies until 1934, Frederic Grover argues that Drieu was fascist ever since the Great War. Grover notes that a number of Drieus wartime writings, such as Interrogation (1917) and La Comédie de Charleroi (1934), reflected an underlying fascism. Grover notes that these works emphasized such themes as an antibourgeois sentiment, hatred of the old generation, a general antirationalism, a preoccupation with death, a sense of social elitism, and a clear hierarchical sense of the leader/follower relationship. In La Comédie de Charleroi, Drieu depicted his fellow soldiers as “mediocre” and weak, and boasted of the courage and social position that allowed him to rise in the heat of battle to assert his natural leadership abilities. Having proven himself a leader, he believed that men “would be unable to refuse me anything I might ask from them. . . . [D]eep down . . . they were only waiting to be called.” Indeed, Drieu later wrote in 1934 that “In my first civilian suit, holding the passionate ideas of Interrogation, the collection of my war poems, I was entirely fascist without being aware of it.”

 

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