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Paul Morand

The Politics and Practice of Writing in Postwar France

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Kimberly Philpot van Noort

Darling of the Jazz Age, the globe-trotting diplomat and acclaimed writer Paul Morand and his literary and political careers underwent a radical shift following his collaboration with the Vichy government during the Occupation of France. Abandoning the terse, glittering portraits of the contemporary era that had garnered him early fame, he turned to the past and to historical fiction, biography and autobiography. Paul Morand: The Politics and Practice of Writing in Post-War France, the first full-length study of Morand in English and the first ever of his post-war works, traces Morand’s politically charged explorations of history as he obsessively rewrites the Occupation in historical guise.
From Napoleonic Spain to the court of Louis XIV, nineteenth-century California, Revolutionary France and Venice across the ages, Morand probes the limits of historiography and genre as he constructs a curiously Benjaminian model of redemption for his collaborationist heroes. This book analyses Morand’s post-war project, placing it within the highly-politicized context of writing during the de Gaullian era.
Many issues are at stake in Morand’s late oeuvre, from the genres of historical fiction, biography and autobiography, to the very act of historicization itself in the context of the post-war era. Morand’s handling of these issues suggests that literature furnishes perhaps the best space within which the complex and highly political question of our ties to the past may be most tellingly examined.