On February 6, 1945, a 35-year-old French writer and newspaper editor named Robert Brasillach was executed for treason by a French firing squad. He was the only writer of any distinction to be put to death by the French Liberation government during the violent days of score-settling known as the Purge. In this book, Alice Kaplan, author of the memoir "French Lessons" tells the story of Brasillach's rise and fall: his emergence as the golden boy of literary fascism during the 1930s, his wartime collaboration with the Nazis, his dramatic trial and his afterlife as a martyr for French rightists and Holocaust revisionists. A prolific novelist and critic, Brasillach was a witty, flamboyant product of France's prestigious Ecole Normale Superieure. He was also an anti-Semite, an acerbic opponent of French demnocracy, and the editor in chief of France's infamous fascist weekly "Je Suis Partout". His trial and execution, carefully reconstructed in "The Collaborator", remain one of the most controversial episodes in the history of 20th-century France.
In the charged days of January 1945 - with Paris liberated but France still at war - a monumental courtroom drama pitted a fierce government prosecutor against a florid defence lawyer for what each considered justice on both a personal and a national scale. Paris in 1945 is also the venue for Kaplan's ethical examination of the questions raised by Brasillach's trial. Was he in fact guilty of treason? Was he condemned for his denunciations of the resistance or singled out as a suspected homosexual? Was it right that he was executed when others who were directly responsible for the murder of thousands were set free? The verdict on these momentous issues was left to four jurors from the working-class suburbs of Paris, whose stories Kaplan presents here for the first time. In recreating the trial, she also uncovers more material never before published: damaging writings by Brasillach omitted from his "Complete Works", and the file that Charles de Gaulle used to reach his decision not to pardon the writer.
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(228mm x 152mm x 24mm)
University of Chicago Press
Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
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UK Kirkus Review »
Robert Brasillach, novelist, critic, and flamboyant graduate of the prestigious Rcole Norwall Supereiure, was the only writer of any distinction to be put to death in France for wartime collaboration with the Nazis. An anti-semite and editor of the notorious fascist weekly 'Je Suis Partont', he was executed by firing squad in Paris on 6th February 1945 after his appeal for clemency was turned down by the then head of the provisional government, Charles de Gaulle. His trial, which took place in the violent period of score-settling known as the purge that followed the liberation of Paris in early 1945 became a 'cause celebre', a monumental courtroom drama that revolved around violently conflicting conceptions of justice and a case which still touches a raw nerve in France today. The trial raised important ethical issues: was Brasillach guilty of treason under the strict meaning of the term; should he have been executed for mere words uttered while others responsible for the deaths of thousands were set free, or is 'Irahison des clercs' the worst treason of all; was homophobia a factor in the verdict and was the jury (four Jurors from the working class suburbs of Paris) 'packed'? Kaplan has exhaustively researched his trial and the events that led up to it and has uncovered many new sources, including the files used by de Gaulle in considering Brasillach's plea for clemency. Her painstaking handling of the moral and political issues involved and her scrupulously argued conclusions make this a book of rare value, not only the definitive account of Brasillach's trial and punishment but a genuine addition to our understanding of a divisive and painful period in French history. A scholarly book in the best sense. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Alice Kaplan
Alice Kaplan is the author of "French Lessons" and "The Interpreter," both published by the University of Chicago Press. She also translated Gremier's novel "Another Novemeber."