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Reproductions of Banality

Reproductions of Banality: Fascism, Literature, and French Intellectual Life

Alice Yaeger Kaplan
Foreword by Russell Berman
Volume: 36
Copyright Date: 1986
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Reproductions of Banality
    Book Description:

    An established fascist state has never existed in France, and after World War II there was a tendency to blame the Nazi Occupation for the presence of fascists within the country. Yet the memory of fascism within their ranks still haunts French intellectuals, and questions about a French version of fascist ideology have returned to the political forefront again and again in the years since the war. In Reproductions of Banality, Alice Yaegar Kaplan investigates the development of fascist ideology as it was manifested in the culture of prewar and Occupied France. Precisely because it existed only in a “gathering” or formative stage, and never achieved the power that brings with it a bureaucratic state apparatus, French fascism never lost its utopian, communal elements, or its consequent aesthetic appeal. Kaplan weighs this fascist aesthetic and its puzzling power of attraction by looking closely at its material remains: the narratives, slogans, newspapers, and film criticism produced by a group of writers who worked in Paris in the 1930s and early 1940s - their “most real moment.”_x000B_These writers include Pierre Drieu la Rochelle, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Lucien Rebatat, Robert Brasillach, and Maurice Bardeche, as well as two precursors of French fascism, Georges Sorel and the Italian futurist F.T. Marinetti, who made of the airplane an industrial carrier of sexual fantasies and a prime mover in the transit from futurism to fascism. Kaplan’s work is grounded in the major Marxist and psychoanalytic theories of fascism and in concepts of banality and mechanical reproduction that draw upon Walter Benjamin. Emphasizing the role played by the new technologies of sight and sound, she is able to suggest the nature of the long-repressed cultural and political climate that produced French fascism, and to show - by implication - that the mass marketing of ideology in democratic states bears a family resemblance to the fascist mode of an earlier time.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8240-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Foreword: The Wandering Z: Reflections on Kaplan’s Reproductions of Banality
    (pp. xi-xxiv)
    Russell Berman

    An orthographic bagatelle, a misspelling of two names, connects the inception of the postwar French discussion of intellectual fascism and the seminal investigation among German exiles in the United States of the descent ofKulturinto barbarism. In “Qu’est-ce qu’un collaborateur?” of 1945, Sartre presents Robert Brasillach, who figures centrally in Alice Kaplan’s study as a representative of the Parisian ideologues of a radical fascism, as “Brazillach,” inscribing in his name his enthusiastic support for the Nazi German Occupation. This was perhaps no naive error but at least a significant lapsus if not a calculated effort to represent the collaborator...

  5. Translations and Documentation
    (pp. xxv-xxvi)
  6. Fascism: Etymologies and Political Usage
    (pp. xxvii-2)
  7. Chapter 1 Theoretical Voices
    (pp. 3-40)

    In order to characterize French fascism–a phenomenon that existed in splinter groups, marginal theories, and eccentric imaginations rather than in government–I must first define the utopian aspect of fascism in general. My concerns in this chapter are therefore fascism’s appeal to European intellectuals in the years preceding the Second World War and the problems of critics who have confronted it.

    Fascism was conceived by its enthusiasts as a new form of revolt, competitive with marxism; a revolt of human consciousness against a so-called undramatic liberalism, against the alienation of the individual from government. They imagined fascism as a...

  8. Chapter 2 Fascism and Banality
    (pp. 41-58)

    Everyone who writes fears being misread: let me say that while writing a book on fascism, that fear has been great. The subject, I am told by friends and colleagues alike, is dangerous. So it seems even more important than usual to write about how I “intend” my textual analyses. I don’t intend them as a pristine scholarly defense of “minor” authors, and surely not as an argument for making those authors “major” (the major-minor distinction being more relevant to baseball than to the study of culture). I don’t intend them as a condemnation of the political errors of the...

  9. Chapter 3 Slogan Text: Sorel
    (pp. 59-74)

    Sartre goes straight to the heart of Georges Sorel’s relationship to fascism when he urges us, however offhandedly, to dismiss Sorel’sReflections on Violenceas a lot of “fascist prattle.”¹ What does it mean to say that Sorel’s writing prattles or talks too much? Did the writing itself talk too much, or did people talk too much about it? And what, beyond inviting insult, do fascist writing and prattling have in common? It is certain that this work on violence lent itself to being used in fascist ideology. But to figure out why and how, I need to study both...

  10. Chapter 4 Bodies and Landscapes: Marinetti, Drieu la Rochelle, and Céline
    (pp. 75-124)

    The first account we have of the metamorphosis of an artistic avant-garde movement into a fascist lobby is written into the novels, plays, and endless manifestos of F. T. Marinetti.

    It is now a well-established fact that Marinetti’s futurism was a “seminal” moment in European modernism and that it had profound influences on almost every avant-garde movement in twentieth-century Europe: on Russian constructivism, on vorticism, on dadaism and surrealism. It’s no wonder, then, that we have so much trouble even thinking about the fascist element in futurism, for to do so is to threaten the reputation of a much larger...

  11. Chapter 5 Broadcasting: Rebatet
    (pp. 125-141)

    The cult of Céline was led by the most unequivocally fascist of the “tempted” intellectuals of the 1930s, Lucien Rebatet.¹ Rebatet was a professional journalist who got his start, like his better-known colleague Brasillach, as a culture critic atAction Française, and who went on to write film and theater criticism cum anti-Semitic diatribe forJe Suis Partout. Rebatet’s other affiliation was relatively uncompromising – he wrote forRadio Magazine, “the great weekly of the wireless,” which was founded in 1922 and which, with several other periodicals that had sprung up around the new medium, served radio listeners with program schedules...

  12. Chapter 6 The Movies: Bardèche and Brasillach
    (pp. 142-160)

    Perhaps the clearest result to emerge from my various textual investigations of fascist writing is that fascism is not a generic phenomenon within literature.¹ It is not simply to be located in a certain kind of text; say, in an autobiographical text “about” political belief, an ideological novel, or even in the traditional form of political writing, the pamphlet. This doesn’t mean that fascism doesn’t “take forms.” In Céline’s writing, something closer to diagnosis than pamphlet crosses over from the novels into the political writings. In Drieu’s work, a discourse on population seems to surface whenever fascist anxiety is at...

  13. Chapter 7 The Late Show: Conversations with Maurice Bardèche
    (pp. 161-194)

    Maurice Bardèche makes it clear to me that he isnota surviving fascist activist from the 1930s. From the first, he explains, his political writings per se are radically outside any signifying context: he declares himself against the Resistance in 1947, and against the Jews in 1948. Finally, in 1961, he writes, as the opening sentence of a book entitledQu’est-ce que le fascisme?, “I am a fascist writer.”¹ He thus establishes himself as the enduring spokesman for the memory and lost ideals of Robert Brasillach, his brother-in-law, and as the willful scapegoat of the new France that executed...

  14. References
    (pp. 195-206)
  15. Index
    (pp. 207-214)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 215-215)