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'Avec Un Certain Malaise': The Paxtonian Trauma in France, 1973-74

'Avec Un Certain Malaise': The Paxtonian Trauma in France, 1973-74

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'Avec un certain malaise': The Paxtonian Trauma in France, 1973-74Author(s): Moshik TemkinSource:
Journal of Contemporary History,
Vol. 38, No. 2 (Apr., 2003), pp. 291-306Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd.Stable URL:
Accessed: 29/10/2009 13:00
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JournalfContemporary istoryCopyright?2003SAGEPublications,London,ThousandOaks,CAandNewDelhi,Vol38(2),291-306.[0022-0094(200304)38:2;291-306;032134]
MoshikTemkin
'Avecuncertain malaise':ThePaxtonianTraumainFrance,1973-74
UponitspublicationinFrancein1973,RobertPaxton'sLa FrancedeVichy1causedsomethingof a scandal.HenryRousso hasviewedthepublicationofPaxton's bookaspartofaturning-pointinpostwarFrench historicalmemorythephaseof 'the BrokenMirror',theshatteringofthe dominantGaullistconsensus,aphasewhich Rousso locatedintheyears1971to1974.2LaFrance deVichywas reviewed and/orpassionatelydebatedby virtuallyeverypublicationofsignificanceinFrance.Paxton,almostovernight,becameafamousmaninFrench lettersand,inlateryears,thanks to his testimoniesinthe trials ofaccusedVichycollaborators,evensomethingclosertoahouseholdname.Inmorewaysthanone,thisreceptionwasastonishing.For onething,Paxtonwas aforeigner,andan Americantoboot;French intellectualcirclesdidnotusuallybecomeso workedupover thescholarshipofa non-FrenchhistorianofFrance.Second,Paxton'searlierbook,Parades andPolitics atVichy,whichcontainedmore than agrainofwhat was tocomeinLa FrancedeVichy,wasignoredbythe Frenchacademiccommunityonitspublicationin1966.3 Itwas nottranslatedinto Frenchand was reviewedby onlyonescholarlyjournal.4Whatcausedthis dramaticturnaround?WhywasPaxton'sscholarshipreceived sodifferentlyin1966 andin1973?Theanswermaylieintherespectivenaturesof thetwobooks.Parades andPoliticsatVichywas a morespecifictome.WhilecriticalofPetain,PaxtonwasnotovertlyperceivedaschallengingthefundamentalassumptionsaboutVichywhichhaddominated Frenchhistoriography(andpublicdiscourseatlarge)sincetheendofthesecondworld war.Ofcourse,because itwasnottranslated,itcould nothavemuchofanimpact.LaFrancedeVichywassomethingelseentirely.First,itwastranslated(bythe Seuilpublishinghouse).
IshouldliketothankProfessorJayWinter,whoencouragedthewritingofthisarticle,andProfessorRobert0.Paxton,whograciously grantedme alengthyinterview.Mythanks alsotoProfessorVolker R.Berghahn.1Robert0.Paxton,LaFrancedeVichy(Paris1973);originally publishedasVichyFrance:OldGuardandNewOrder(NewYork1972).2HenryRousso,TheVichy Syndrome:HistoryandMemoryinFrancesince1944(NewYork1991);originally publishedasLeSyndromedeVichyde 1944a nosjours(Paris1987).3Robert0.Paxton,ParadesandPolitics atVichy:TheFrenchOfficerCorpsUnderMarshalPetain(Princeton,NJ1966).4Revuefrancaisedesciencepolitique,17,1(February1967),576.Theanonymousreviewerdevotedeightlines tothebook.JournalfContemporary istoryCopyright?2003SAGEPublications,London,ThousandOaks,CAandNewDelhi,Vol38(2),291-306.[0022-0094(200304)38:2;291-306;032134]
MoshikTemkin
'Avecuncertain malaise':ThePaxtonianTraumainFrance,1973-74
UponitspublicationinFrancein1973,RobertPaxton'sLa FrancedeVichy1causedsomethingof a scandal.HenryRousso hasviewedthepublicationofPaxton's bookaspartofaturning-pointinpostwarFrench historicalmemorythephaseof 'the BrokenMirror',theshatteringofthe dominantGaullistconsensus,aphasewhich Rousso locatedintheyears1971to1974.2LaFrance deVichywas reviewed and/orpassionatelydebatedby virtuallyeverypublicationofsignificanceinFrance.Paxton,almostovernight,becameafamousmaninFrench lettersand,inlateryears,thanks to his testimoniesinthe trials ofaccusedVichycollaborators,evensomethingclosertoahouseholdname.Inmorewaysthanone,thisreceptionwasastonishing.For onething,Paxtonwas aforeigner,andan Americantoboot;French intellectualcirclesdidnotusuallybecomeso workedupover thescholarshipofa non-FrenchhistorianofFrance.Second,Paxton'searlierbook,Parades andPolitics atVichy,whichcontainedmore than agrainofwhat was tocomeinLa FrancedeVichy,wasignoredbythe Frenchacademiccommunityonitspublicationin1966.3 Itwas nottranslatedinto Frenchand was reviewedby onlyonescholarlyjournal.4Whatcausedthis dramaticturnaround?WhywasPaxton'sscholarshipreceived sodifferentlyin1966 andin1973?Theanswermaylieintherespectivenaturesof thetwobooks.Parades andPoliticsatVichywas a morespecifictome.WhilecriticalofPetain,PaxtonwasnotovertlyperceivedaschallengingthefundamentalassumptionsaboutVichywhichhaddominated Frenchhistoriography(andpublicdiscourseatlarge)sincetheendofthesecondworld war.Ofcourse,because itwasnottranslated,itcould nothavemuchofanimpact.LaFrancedeVichywassomethingelseentirely.First,itwastranslated(bythe Seuilpublishinghouse).
IshouldliketothankProfessorJayWinter,whoencouragedthewritingofthisarticle,andProfessorRobert0.Paxton,whograciously grantedme alengthyinterview.Mythanks alsotoProfessorVolker R.Berghahn.1Robert0.Paxton,LaFrancedeVichy(Paris1973);originally publishedasVichyFrance:OldGuardandNewOrder(NewYork1972).2HenryRousso,TheVichy Syndrome:HistoryandMemoryinFrancesince1944(NewYork1991);originally publishedasLeSyndromedeVichyde 1944a nosjours(Paris1987).3Robert0.Paxton,ParadesandPolitics atVichy:TheFrenchOfficerCorpsUnderMarshalPetain(Princeton,NJ1966).4Revuefrancaisedesciencepolitique,17,1(February1967),576.Theanonymousreviewerdevotedeightlines tothebook.
 
JournalfContemporaryHistoryVol38 No2ournalfContemporaryHistoryVol38 No2Second,andmostimportant,itwas anopenlycriticalsynthesisof theVichyperiod.AsJanineBourdinwrote(inanunfavourablereview),'onattenddoncque l'originalitedu travail ...sereveledanslavigueurdelasyntheseet larigueurde la demonstration'.5Sheputherfingeron whatwasarguablythemainhistoriographicalpowerofPaxton's book.Hehaddonewhat isnowtakenlargelyforgranted-he unifiedthemanydifferent'Vichys',eachofwhichhadpreviouslybeenwrittenaboutseparately,intoonecoherent,ideo-logicalwhole.Moreover,La FrancedeVichywasalso trenchantintone.Andperhapsnolessimportantly,Paxtonwasan 'outsider'-anAmerican. Tohiscritics,thiscountedagainsthim;tohissupporters,it workedtohisadvantage.ThefactthatPaxtonwasnot Frenchbecameanimportantpartof thedebate.Yet thetransitionfromthequietof 1966to thestormof1973mustbeunderstoodonabroaderlevel.LaFrancedeVichyappearedinFranceat auniquetime-oneyearaftertherelease(andsubsequenttelevisioncensor-ship)ofMarcelOphuls'landmarkdocumentaryLechagrinet lapitie(1972),whichbecameacause celebreforitsdepictionofordinary peopleinClaremont-Ferrand,a townintheunoccupiedsouthernzoneduringtheVichyyears.Inaddition,theTouvierAffair-GaullistPresidentGeorgesPompidouhadpardonedPaulTouvier,a formermemberof themilicewhohadbeensentencedtodeathinabsentiaduringthe
epuration
-
hadoutragedandpolarizedpublicopinion.FromRousso'spointofview,thevolatile eventsof1968,as wellasthesubsequentdeathof thegreatsymboland consensus-makerhimself,GeneraldeGaulle,triggeredthedisintegrationandcollapseofa numberofpowerfulmyths.Paxton'swork,inthissense,appearedintherightplaceat therighttime;itcaughtthe attentionofagenerationeagertofindfaultwiththeir fathersandelders.6LaFrancedeVichy playeditspartinshatteringthosemyths.Paxtonarguedthatcollaboration'wasnot aGermandemandtowhichsomeFrenchmenacceded, throughsympathyorguile.Collaborationwas aFrenchproposalthatHitlerultimatelyrejected.'7Thiswentagainstthelong-establishednotion,putforthalmost20yearsbeforebyRobertAron,thatVichyservedsomesortofpracticalpurpose,asa shieldfromGermanatrocities,andthatit hadtwoheads-Laval'sandPetain's.AccordingtoAron,whileLavalstrivedforanalliancewithGermany,PetainwantedsimplytosafeguardFranceuntilthewar wasover;thus a'DoubleGame'wasplayed.8PaxtonassertedthatPetain,thehero oftheGreatWar,the ultimategrandfatherfigure(who,ironically,hadnochildrenofhisown),themanwhoin theeyesofmanyhadfallenvictimtotheexcessesof the
epuration,
wasjustasmuchacollaboratorasLaval.Petain,too,hadwanteda'reversalofalliance',apartinHitler'snew
5JanineBourdin,'Notesbibliographiques',Revuefrancaisede sciencepolitique,23,3(June1973),631.6Rousso,op.cit.,98-131;alsoBourdin,op.cit.,252-6.7Paxton, VichyFrance,op.cit.,51.8 RobertAron,HistoiredeVichy,1940-1944(Paris1954).
Second,andmostimportant,itwas anopenlycriticalsynthesisof theVichyperiod.AsJanineBourdinwrote(inanunfavourablereview),'onattenddoncque l'originalitedu travail ...sereveledanslavigueurdelasyntheseet larigueurde la demonstration'.5Sheputherfingeron whatwasarguablythemainhistoriographicalpowerofPaxton's book.Hehaddonewhat isnowtakenlargelyforgranted-he unifiedthemanydifferent'Vichys',eachofwhichhadpreviouslybeenwrittenaboutseparately,intoonecoherent,ideo-logicalwhole.Moreover,La FrancedeVichywasalso trenchantintone.Andperhapsnolessimportantly,Paxtonwasan 'outsider'-anAmerican. Tohiscritics,thiscountedagainsthim;tohissupporters,it workedtohisadvantage.ThefactthatPaxtonwasnot Frenchbecameanimportantpartof thedebate.Yet thetransitionfromthequietof 1966to thestormof1973mustbeunderstoodonabroaderlevel.LaFrancedeVichyappearedinFranceat auniquetime-oneyearaftertherelease(andsubsequenttelevisioncensor-ship)ofMarcelOphuls'landmarkdocumentaryLechagrinet lapitie(1972),whichbecameacause celebreforitsdepictionofordinary peopleinClaremont-Ferrand,a townintheunoccupiedsouthernzoneduringtheVichyyears.Inaddition,theTouvierAffair-GaullistPresidentGeorgesPompidouhadpardonedPaulTouvier,a formermemberof themilicewhohadbeensentencedtodeathinabsentiaduringthe
epuration
-
hadoutragedandpolarizedpublicopinion.FromRousso'spointofview,thevolatile eventsof1968,as wellasthesubsequentdeathof thegreatsymboland consensus-makerhimself,GeneraldeGaulle,triggeredthedisintegrationandcollapseofa numberofpowerfulmyths.Paxton'swork,inthissense,appearedintherightplaceat therighttime;itcaughtthe attentionofagenerationeagertofindfaultwiththeir fathersandelders.6LaFrancedeVichy playeditspartinshatteringthosemyths.Paxtonarguedthatcollaboration'wasnot aGermandemandtowhichsomeFrenchmenacceded, throughsympathyorguile.Collaborationwas aFrenchproposalthatHitlerultimatelyrejected.'7Thiswentagainstthelong-establishednotion,putforthalmost20yearsbeforebyRobertAron,thatVichyservedsomesortofpracticalpurpose,asa shieldfromGermanatrocities,andthatit hadtwoheads-Laval'sandPetain's.AccordingtoAron,whileLavalstrivedforanalliancewithGermany,PetainwantedsimplytosafeguardFranceuntilthewar wasover;thus a'DoubleGame'wasplayed.8PaxtonassertedthatPetain,thehero oftheGreatWar,the ultimategrandfatherfigure(who,ironically,hadnochildrenofhisown),themanwhoin theeyesofmanyhadfallenvictimtotheexcessesof the
epuration,
wasjustasmuchacollaboratorasLaval.Petain,too,hadwanteda'reversalofalliance',apartinHitler'snew
5JanineBourdin,'Notesbibliographiques',Revuefrancaisede sciencepolitique,23,3(June1973),631.6Rousso,op.cit.,98-131;alsoBourdin,op.cit.,252-6.7Paxton, VichyFrance,op.cit.,51.8 RobertAron,HistoiredeVichy,1940-1944(Paris1954).
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