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Fantasy America : the United States as seen through French and Italian eyes Harris, Mark 1998

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FANTASY AMERICA: THE UNITED STATES AS SEEN THROUGH FRENCH AND ITALIAN EYES by MARK HARRIS M.A., The University of British Columbia, 1992 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Programme in Comparative Literature) We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA April 1998 © Mark Robert Harris, 1998  In presenting this thesis  in partial fulfilment  of  the  requirements  for  an advanced  degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department  or  by  his  or  her  representatives.  It  is  understood  that  copying  or  publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission.  Department of  (r fg d u d U  jX\A c\ i6\  The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada  Date A^r.j l.^. |Vlf  DE-6 (2/88)  C CpWN y ) 4 Yfl, - l  v  ^C  U Xir^^AA  J  - ii-  Abstract For the past two decades, scholars have been reassessing the ways in which Western writers and intellectuals have traditionally misrepresented the non-white world for their own ideological purposes. Orientalism, Edward Said's ground-breaking study of the ways in which Europeans projected their own social problems onto the nations of the Near East in an attempt to take their minds off. the same phenomena as they occurred closer to home, was largely responsible for this shift in emphasis. Fantasy America: The United States as Seen Through French and Italian Eyes is an exploration of a parallel occurrence that could easily be dubbed "Occidentalism." More specifically, it is a study of the ways in which French and Italian writers and filmmakers have sought to situate the New World within an Old World context. "Among the (More Advanced) Barbarians" (a.k.a. Chapter One) examines the continuities and discontinuities of French travel writing in America from the days of the Jesuits to the heyday of the existentialists. Certain motifs and idees fixes—the uniqueness of American racism; the "magic" of New York—are first identified and then examined. "A Meeting of the Mafias" (Chapter Two) is more cosmopolitan in scope, tracing the ways in which French, American, and Italian crime fiction have historically influenced each other, as well as the relationship of the policier to differing notions of the nation-state. "The Ruins of Rome" (Chapter Three) demonstrates how Italian intellectuals have looked to the United States for new. World Solutions to Old World problems. This chapter encompasses two major sub-themes: the positive possibilities for Italy of "Fordismo" (the American industrial model) and American literature (which was believed to promote political, as well as cultural, liberty). "Lurching Towards the Millennium" picks up the threads of the first three chapters and places them in the contemporary context of globalization, a process which threatens to replace the hegemony of the nation state with the omnipresence of corporate power. The cultural model of Quebec is introduced at this point as a New World/Old World paradigm that embodies the chimerical contradictions of a globe on the brink of a new millennium.  Table of  Contents  Abstract  ii  Acknowledgements  iv  Introduction  1  CHAPTER I  CHAPTER II  Among the (More Advanced) Barbarians  11  Mid-Atlantic Melodrama; or, A Meeting of the Mafias  91  CHAPTER III  The Ruins of Rome  194  CHAPTER IV  Slouching Towards the Millennium  243  Conclusion  344  Bibliography  362  Appendix I Who's Afraid of Jerry Lewis?  384  Appendix II  Pity for John Wayne  389  Appendix III  Hypocrisy American Style  392  -IV-  Acknowledgements As John Donne almost said, no graduate student is an island—which is to say, this Ph.D. dissertation could not have been completed without the aid of a great many people. First of all, I would like to thank the Killam Foundation, the federal government, and the UBC funding agencies for the generous financial help they provided during the writing of this thesis. Secondly, I would like to thank my doctoral committee for the unique and varied insights with which they broadened and enriched my work. Dr. Marguerite Chiarenza, the committee's chair, served as a cool and calming voice of reason when things seemed most hopeless, as well as an eagle-eyed proofreader. Dr. Steven Taubeneck proved equally knowledgeable about university procedure, and made sure that I didn't wander too far afield from my central point. Dr. Patricia Merivale's vast erudition, meanwhile, provided me with an endless supply of pertinent literary leads. I would also like to thank Professor George McWhirter and the students in his translation class for their helpful suggestions in regard to the English-language renderings of the dissertation's appendices. Dr. Eva-Marie Kroeller's contribution should likewise not be under-valued, since she initiated me into the mysteries of Comparative Literature and introduced me to two committee members. Dr. Thomas Salumets, her worthy successor as program head, proved to be no less helpful. I would also like to thank the library staffs of the Pacific Cinematheque and the Italian Cultural Institute for granting me access to out-of-print texts which would otherwise have been extremely difficult to obtain. Similarly, my appreciation extends to the helpful folks at Manhattan Books who kept me regularly supplied with the latest French and Italian tomes. Finally, I would like to thank my wife, Carola Ackery, who stood by me during the months following my nearly fatal automotive accident in April, 1997. If not for her selfless care, it would have taken much longer than it did for this dissertation to get back on track. Consequently, it is to her that this project is gratefully dedicated.  1  INTRODUCTION  In the 73 volumes of The Jesuit  Relations,  there is one passage  that stands out from all the others. Amid endless accounts of pagan souls lost and won, of the hardships and torments endured by Christian missionaries  in  the land  of the heathen,  of the endless  perfidies  committed by French drunks and English Protestants, there is a single description that owes more to the fantastic tradition of Herodotus and John Mandeville than it does to the dispassionate, hardheaded journals of itinerant monks, merchants, soldiers and sea captains. "[Les] deux monstres," spotted by Father Pierre Marquette, SJ, during the course of a seventeenth-century river journey in the American Southwest,  "ont  des Cornes en teste Comme des cheveils; un regard affreux, des yeux rouges, une Barbe comme d'un tygre, le corps couuert d'ecailles, et le queue si Longue qu'elle fait tout le tour du corps passant par dessus la teste et retournant  entre les jambes  elle  se termine en queue  de  Poisson" fThe Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents. Vol. 59 140). As we shall see in Chapter One, many of the Jesuits' letters to their religious superiors were written in a style that seems to anticipate the anthropological tone of Claude Levi-Strauss's Tristes  tropiques. Even so,  while reading these texts it is important to bear in mind that even the clearest-eyed  observations  leave room for monsters.  Proto-ethnology,  zoology, and botany are never far removed from the realm of magic and wonder. Fantasy America:  The United States as Seen Through French  and  Italian Eyes is predicated on this peculiar split in human consciousness.  2  It takes as its starting point the idea that there is an element of magical thinking in the national perception of other societies. If French and Italian  artists  colossus  of  and intellectuals the  New  World  did not impose upon the  same  humiliating  the  economic  prejudices  and  misrepresentations which—as Edward Said so eloquently complains in Orientalism onto  its  and Culture and Imperialism—expansionist non-white  colonies,  the  object  of  their  Europe projected observation  nonetheless characterized by otherness rather than by any  was  "genetic"  points of cultural similarity. In other words, America was always seen as something larger than Europe or as something smaller; it could be "inferior" or "superior". What it could not be was the same. National  history,  local  customs,  and frustrated  wishes  impinge on collective distortions rooted in psychological  always  projection.  Probably the only peoples immune to this cultural debility are those whose extreme geographical isolation blinds them to the existence of other  nations  and other mores.The  three countries covered  by  this  study obviously do not fall into this exceedingly rare category, although they do enjoy differing degrees of otherness and affinity. French and Italian, for instance, are both Latin-based languages, while the structure of English owes most to the ancient Germanic tongues. On the other hand, both French and English are, in Gilles Deleuze's sense of the term, "imperialist" languages, while Italian is not. Even so, it should not be forgotten  that  Latin-, the language  of ancient  Italy,  was  once  the  universal tongue of the Pax Romana, and must therefore be ranked as the Western World's first imperialist system of discourse (if—on  the  basis that it was spoken mainly in Asia Minor—one does not count Hellenic Greek).  3 As it is with language, so is it with most things. While FrancoAmerican sociocultural affiliations their  Italo-American  can more often be perceived  counterparts,  these  comparisons  are  than often  contradictory and ambiguous. For every conclusion reached, one could have arrived at a counter-conclusion which was almost as sound. What's more, the ties of influence and observation do not always flow in a bilateral direction. In societies that every day grow more global and less tribal—a description which currently encompasses all but a few isolated communities in Africa and Asia—increasingly complex ideograms  are  needed to properly explain the flow of progression/regression. In many cases,  definitive  pontification  exceeds  even  the  most  generous  boundaries of academic speculation. To speak on such matters is to commit the intellectual sin of hubris. In order to avoid the worst of these excesses, I have decided to limit my study of French and Italian perceptions of America to models which at least two of the concerned parties —one of which must always be the USA—have shared to a significant degree. For this reason, the reader will find little or no comment on such subjects as opera, science fiction, Renaissance painting, Impressionism, rock 'n' roll, collections of aphorisms, peplumi, thousand  Broadway  musicals,  book  length  philosophical  rhythm and blues, epic poetry, commedia other locally popular manifestations  dell'arte,  of national  or a  creativity.  Instead, I have decided to focus on three primary areas of production. Respectively, these are the travel book, the  essays,  artistic  polar/policier,  and—for  want of a better term—the cultural survival essay. In this  relation,  American  commentators  are more  or less  silent  partners.  4  Though constantly spoken of, they almost never speak of those who so confidently define them. "Among the (More Advanced) Barbarians," the first of America's  four  chapters,  deals  with  French  Fantasy  intellectual  attitudes  towards the United States, from the Counter-Reformation era (when the Jesuit Fathers first set an enduringly Gallic cultural stamp on the New World) to the late 1960s (when aging existentialists and more youthful poststructuralists  took  this  newly-imperial  republic  to  task  for  its  foreign and domestic policies). This was the period when virtually all Gallic observers saw the United States as "other," regardless of the political travellers.  convictions Some  of  or personal these  predilections  accounts  appear  in  of individual the  form  literary  of  travel  journalism, others in the guise of fiction. All are, to a greater or lesser extent, realistic. Readers in search of a "fantastic" New World akin to the one depicted in J.G. Ballard's science-fiction novel, Hello  America,  will  surely be disappointed. For my purposes, the words "Fantasy America" refer to certain carefully defined outsiders' "takes" on their country of study—nothing more. By adhering to this policy, I hope to underscore the fantastic  elements which underlie the surface  naturalism  of the  texts and films under discussion. For reasons of topicality and source availability, the lion's share of critical attention will be focused on postwar works of film and literature. For historical reasons, early Italian impressions of the New World are not included here. La Nouvelle parcel of the ancien  France, after all, was once part and  regime. Because the Risorgimento  was not complete  until 1870, the Italian government was never in a position to acquire North American colonies (even if the newly "discovered"—to its long-  5 term inhabitants, it was never truly "lost"—continent was named the  Italian  mariner,  Amerigo  Vespucci).  Whatever  after  expansionist  impulses the brainchild of Cavour and Garibaldi might have felt during the last decades of the nineteenth century were, of necessity, directed towards the last few acres of Africa which were not already under European control. In other words, French voyagers to the United States were imbued with a vestigial proprietory interest which was to be denied to their Italian counterparts. No matter how "other" the New World might appear to Parisian travellers, the ubiquity of French place names could not help but remind them of a very distant  familial  relation. Conversely, the very size and success of America had to appear on some level as a symbol of cultural defeat, an emblem of "AngloSaxon" hegemony, the economic consummation of anglophone selfaggrandizement that began with the Hundred Years' War (if the words "Englishman" and "American" seem mutually exclusive in the White House and Whitehall, they sound far more convergent in the Elysee Palace). The French intellectual elite's deep-seated suspicion of perfidious Albion reborn as the crude but vital USA did not, however, entirely preclude feelings of love, admiration, and curiosity. Quite the contrary. America's  vast  spaces,  mechanical  ingenuity,  democratic  practices,  limitless wealth, industrial capacity, motion pictures, music, automobiles and literature were at least as much adored as they were  derided.  Above all, the new nation was a paradox. "Barbaric" though it was, this upstart colony in some ways seemed superior to the Old World at a time when the natural superiority of Europeans over all other peoples was almost  universally  held—at  least by  Europeans.  America  was  not,  6 therefore, the kind of exotic Middle Eastern backwater that Victor Hugo and Gerard de Nerval explored in their more flamboyant  nineteenth-  century fictions. It was, rather, more like the admirable but entirely ersatz Asian lands which Voltaire conjured parables  designed  to underscore  the  social,  up a century earlier in religious  and  political  shortcomings of continental Europe. In some ways, French writing about America can be seen as a sort of convergence of these two styles of "Occidentalism". Italy's interest in the USA was far more selective and pragmatic. As we shall see in "The Ruins of Rome", my argument's third chapter, for Italian intellectuals America was primarily seen as a storehouse of possible solutions for endemic Italian problems. While statistically the most  open  of  all  European  nations  to  outside  influences,  specificity was implicitly assumed to be too strong to suffer  Italian  significant  alteration. Regardless of whether one read Georges Simenon or Renato Oliveri, John Steinbeck or Carlo Levi, Calabria would still be Calabria, Tuscany Tuscany, and so on. In the foreward to his bestselling popular history, The Italians,  Luigi Barzini wrote that, for Italians "the most  fascinating subject of all [is] why are we the way we are" (Barzini xv). To write about Italy was notoriously hard, he claimed, because of "the absurd discrepancy inhabitants'  between the quantity  achievements  through  many  and dazzling centuries  and  array of the  the  mediocre  quality of their national history...." (Barzini x). In this endless selfsearching, the presence of America can only appear as a distant echo, shadow or beacon, despite the fact that, post-1945, the United States has meddled more directly in Italian internal affairs than it has in the political ambitions of the French. Ironically, the nature of this paradox  7 can more profitably be explained in Chapter Two than it can in Chapter Three. As its title suggests, "A Meeting of the Mafias: or, Mid-Atlantic Melodrama"  is primarily  concerned  with  "cops  and robbers";  more  specifically, it deals with the fictional representation of same in the novels and feature films of French, Italian and American cineastes and authors. It is no accident that it is also the chapter most marked by sociological bias, since its author will attempt to prove that many, if not all, of a given society's underlying social structures are reflected  or  revealed by its attitudes towards social deviance. According to this logic, Inspector Javert, Philip Marlowe, and Vittorio de Sica's  anonymous  bicycle thief say more about deep French, American and Italian societal assumptions than would a similar array of Rolands, Leatherstockings, and Infernal poets. The fine points of a nation's imagination are at least as revelatory of hidden assumptions, fears and yearnings as are its economic infrastructure and political mythology. This belief is, of course, very widely shared by genre critics. For the duration of Chapter Two, I must count myself among them. "A Meeting of the Mafias" is the one section of this study where French, American and Italian influences enjoy almost equal status. To achieve this effect, I have eliminated from consideration what Gilles Deleuze would call "le roman a enigme"  that is the genteel detective  story whose guiding geniuses were, are, and probably always will be, Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Since the roman a enigme is a quintessentially English style, it has been dispensed with here. On the other hand, because what I do describe is so beholden to the stylistics of film  noir, I am obliged to mention some of the Germanic influences on  8 the American and French crime story (Expressionist influence on / gialli being  weak  to non-existent). Essentially,  deals with three sorts of policier: and the sociological  "Mid-Atlantic  Melodrama"  the underworld saga, the film  crime drama (the latter an almost  noir,  exclusively  Italian—and in some ways anti-generic—phenomenon). These styles are among the most widely scattered in the domain of international cinema, so Chapter Two's conclusions are correspondingly broader than those made on behalf of Fantasy  America's  less cosmopolitan quarters.  "Slouching Towards the Millennium", the dissertation's concluding chapter,  is also the most contemporary.  It deals  with  the  present  historical moment wherein American cultural influence has assumed a position so commanding it threatens to occlude all rival visions. In the once culturally secure, closed circuit of France, U.S. sounds and images are no longer just arrogantly seductive exotica, but an integral part of a no longer national mass media. Italian cinema, for many years the most vital  and  commercially  successful  in  Western  Europe,  is  now  desperate for international exposure it must package new films  so like  venerable classics and peddle them to film societies around the globe in the probably vain hope that such tactics will attract the attention of local  distributors. Under  the implacably  expansionist  aegis  of  Jack  Valenti, the big studios represented by the Motion Picture Producers of America conglomerate have effectively banished all but a token number of subtitled features from U.S. and Anglo-Canadian screens. Meanwhile, in post-GATT Europe, Francois Mitterand's former minister of cultural affairs, Jack Lang, still struggles to put meaningful films together by the desperate different  expedient  of  yoking  together  backers  from  countries. As the possibility of presenting an  five  or  six  authentically  9 French or Italian cinematic face to the world diminishes in the presence of the Hollywood juggernaut, it is becoming increasingly difficult to add even a vaguely European visage to the cultural mix. If Jean Baudrillard is to be believed, the barbarians are no longer simply at the gates, but actually in the living room, mixing drinks and flicking  the channel  converter. What's more, they're inter-marrying with the locals to the point where the genealogy of certain works is difficult to determine. Luc Besson's Le Cinquieme  element  (1997), for example, is reputedly the  most expensive European feature ever released, yet everywhere it is known almost exclusively by its U.S. release title, The Fifth  Element.  Like a Freudian parent, American influence is now so deeply embedded in the European subconscious it might well prove impossible to ferret out. While Chapter Four will include a number of recent  literary  sources, including Julia Kristeva and Philippe Labro, it will focus more particularly  on the  changed  perspectives  and  survival  problems  of  European mass media in general, and film in particular (please see attached  appendices  for  related  documents). The  now  dated  Gallic  enthusiasm for be-bop, Alfred Hitchcock, Jerry Lewis, and le roman noir will be reconsidered in the light of post-modern affectlessness.  In a  similar vein, the subtle downgrading and redefining of Italy's unique, seemingly insuperable problems will be reassessed. Following what might, at first glance, appear to be a somewhat dubious distribution of analytical emphasis, fully half of Chapter Four is taken up with the ways in which  Quebecois poets, novelists,  and  cineastes have tried to make sense of their uncomfortable closeness to the United States and their painful separation from the ancien  regime.  10 By maintaining their Zeitgeist  mid-way between the dominant myths of  the Old and New Worlds, the postmodern inheritors of la France,  nouvelle  I would argue, shed invaluable light on the problems we have  discussed  thus  far.  At the present  time, political  power  is  being  relentlessly bled away from nation states and ruthlessly transfused into the "veins" of large corporations. The governments of France, Italy, and other industrialized countries are all signatories to a new generation of free trade agreements which read like documents of absolute surrender, treaties in which the rights of nations to protect their own medicare programs, cultural industries, and social welfare benefits from interference  are  corporations  to make  sentiment  declared  is moving  secondary  unrestricted away from  to  the  profits.  rights  of  deracinated  Increasingly,  the larger political  outside  nationalist  structures  and  settling into the smaller but more welcoming territory of "regions". For all  these  reasons,  I  have  granted  Quebecois  perceptions  of  the  USA/France conundrum a great deal of space in my summary chapter. True "Italianness", Luigi Barzini believed, lay in what he called cose  all'italiana.  These were the relatively few national characteristics  that distinguished his countrymen from their European neighbours. But "What exactly are these cose all' italianaV  he asked rhetorically (Barzini  xv). To answer this question he wrote an entire book devoted to the attitudes and trends, the strengths and weaknesses, the strokes of good and bad historical luck which resulted in this unique psychopolitical situation. While the queries posed by Fantasy  America  are  nowhere  near so straightforward, in some respects they are quite similar. Before discovering  how  the  three  subject  cultures  shape  and  define  one  another, one must first understand what makes France French, America  11 American, and Italy Italian. In the process, hopefully, one will learn something  about  both  the  nature  of  cultural  production  notoriously elusive trail of international cultural influence.  and  the  Practically  speaking, this study will probably raise more questions than it answers. On the other hand, I have tried to make these queries as stimulating as possible  so  that  they  investigation in the future.  might  serve  as  springboards  to  further  12  CHAPTER ONE: AMONG THE (MORE ADVANCED) BARBARIANS  Politically, France never poured much will into the preservation of its North American colonies. In La Naissance  d'une  race, Abbe Lionel  Groulx, the influential Quebecois nationalist, ruefully noted this fact: "Dix mille immigrants! Voila tout ce que la France a jete sur les rives de Saint-Laurent pour y fonder une race et creer un pays" (Groulx 22). The figure of 10,000 colonists, it should be noted, was the total achieved after more than two centuries of nominal colonization. At times, the total juddered around zero. During one particularly low point at the beginning of the seventeenth century, a Jesuit observer describes the plucky Heberts as "...l'unique famille de Francois habituee en Canada" (The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents. Volume 5 42). French intellectuals  of  the  time  did  not  discourage  the  crown's  lack  of  imperialist resolve in this corner of the globe. As the Abbe Groulx sadly noted in his nationalist lamentations, Voltaire—the man who coined the famously dismissive phrase "quelques arpents de neige" in relation to la Nouvelle  France— "...appellera un jour le Canada 'le plus detestable pays  du nord....'" (Groulx 81) To some extent this disdain was shared by Europe's other colonial powers. South American silver and Caribbean sugar were the overseas commodities which were in particular demand between the  sixteenth  and the eighteenth centuries. Even England, in temporary control of most American possessions north of the Rio Grande following its victory in the Seven Years War, was somewhat dubious about the value of its conquests. In Le Temps du monde, Fernand Braudel points out that, at  13 the time of the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763, "L'Angleterre aurait prefere au Canada (enleve a la France) et la Floride (qui lui cede I'Espagne) la possession de Saint-Domingue" (Braudel 354). On the other side of the treaty table, such a trade, however, was totally unacceptable to a "France desireux de conserver Saint-Domingue, la reine des ties sucrieres, firent  que les  'arpents  de neige'  du Canada revinrent a  l'Angleterre" (Braudel 354). Ironically, as J.M. Gautier notes in his introduction to Rene de Chateaubriand's  immensely  popular  century "American" novel Atala,  late  eighteenth/early  nineteenth  the French public's interest in actually  reading about America dramatically waxed even as the country's ability to  influence  events  on  that  travellers' books, such as Moeurs et Description voyage  fait  generale dans  continent  des Sauvages  de la Nouvelle  I'Amerique  precipitately  France,  septentrionale,  waned.  Americains  and  Early Histoire  avec le journal  d'un  were notable Age of  Enlightenment bestsellers. Much of this success can be attributed to the "sensational" elements contained in these accounts penned by explorers and—especially—missionaries. Jesuit militants never tired of telling their superiors about the "nakedness" and "savagery" of the "lost souls" whom they were attempting to save. Even clothed Indians  seemed  shamefully  bare to these Catholic zealots. As one Jesuit disapprovingly sniffed, even the natives' winter furs "...n'empfeche pas qu'on ne voye la plufpart de leurs corps" (The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, Volume 5 24). If their descriptions of Indian "licentiousness" were cloaked in terms calculated not to provoke too many explicitly concupiscent these missionary  wanderers  felt  no such compunction  thoughts,  in regard  to  scenes of physical torture. With a cold-blooded detachment that would  14 have done credit to Claude Levi-Strauss, one observer described the following sadistic procedure in almost surgical terms: "...ils leurs percent les bras au poignet auec des baftons pointus, & leurs arrachent les nerfs par ces trous" (The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, Volume 5 30). French fascination with the "horrific" novelty of America can be found with equal facility in this revealing but anachronistic (the speaker, after all, is a Florentine nobleman speaking in 1535) speech fragment Alfred  de Musset's historical play, Lorenzaccio  from  (1835): "Ceux qui  tournent autour de moi avec des yeux louches, comme autour  d'une  curiosite monstreuse apportee d'Amerique...." (de Musset 153). "Monstrous curiosities": for a long time that phrase defined the nature of the French reading public's fascination with America. It was precisely the kind of semi-legendary land that John Mandeville might have visited a century or two earlier. In any event, it was altogether different—which is to say, both weaker and coarser—than Marco Polo's China.  In  appertained  Tzvetan  Todorov's  to the class  words,  the  early  of "...inconnus, des  American  etrangers  "Other"  dont je  ne  comprends ni langue ni les coutumes, si etrangers que j'hesite, a la limite, a reconnaitre notre appartenance commune a une meme espece" (La Conquete de l'Amerique 11). Despite these initial impressions and motivations, French attitudes towards  the new World  began  to change  towards  the end of  the  eighteenth century. In the wake of Napoleon's economically motivated dumping of France's last major American possessions, "les Francais," J.M. Gautier reminds us, "pouvaient regretter 'd'avoir perdu ce nouvel Eden auquel ils avaient laisse le doux nom de Louisiane....'" (Chateaubriand 4). Around the same time, "...au XIXe siecle, l'exotisme americain laisse la  15 place aux mirages de 1'Orient" (Chateaubriand 4). [This change was not absolute, however. According to biographer Henri Troyat, even Honore de Balzac—arguably the major French writer of the early 1800s who was least demonstrably impressed by the American mirage—was inspired by the sylvan romances of James Fenimore Cooper to turn the peasant insurrectionaries in his historical novel Les Chouans into  "Peaux-Rouges"  in the "Bocage normand" (Troyat 126).] On one level, Gautier's contention is absolutely true; on another, it is somewhat misleading. If the romance of America was in the process of giving way to the Romance of Orientalism, the New World was simultaneously monstrous  metamorphosing  shape  in  Gallic  into  a new  imaginations.  and  America  only  slightly  less  the  horrible  and  magical was about to be replaced by America the modern and implicitly dangerous.  As  Fernand  Braudel  observed  in  Le  temps  du  monde,  "Accarian de Seronne voyait, des 1766, se lever un 'Empire americain': 'La Nouvelle-Angleterre, ecrivait-il, est plus a redouter que l'ancienne:..' Oui, un Empire independant de l'Europe,  'un Empire, dit-il quelques  annees plus tard (1771) qui menace dans un avenir tres prochain la prosperite  sur-tout de l'Angleterre,  de l'Espagne,  de la France, du  Portugal et de la Hollande.' C'est-a-dire que s'appercevaient deja les premiers signes de la candidature a venir des Etats-Unis a la domination de l'economie-monde europeen" (Braudel 354). This change, however, occurred gradually, and in a decidedly nonlinear fashion. The immense popularity of Atala was in large measure responsible for this. A relatively small part of Chateaubriand's magnum opus La  Genie  du  christianisme,  a polemic in favour of an ultra-  conservative interpretation of Roman Catholicism, Atala relied  heavily  16 on the Jesuit Relations for descriptive passages and background colour. While opinions differ as to whether Chateaubriand ever actually set foot in America—the late nineteenth-century  French literary critic  Joseph  Bedier remained firmly convinced that he did not—the author's decision to rely on missionary chronicles was not entirely conditioned by his religious convictions. As already mentioned in the introduction to this dissertation, that massive work was almost entirely free of "fantastic" descriptions.  Father  Marquette's  contributions  were  particularly  appealing to Chateaubriand. In 1675, this Jesuit wrote "La Riuiere sur laquelle nous nous embarquames  s'appelle  MesKousing, elle est  fort  large, son fond est du sable...elle est pleine d'Isles Couuertes de Vignes; sur les bords parroissent de bonnes terres, entremeslees de bois de prairies et de Costeaux, on y voit les chesnes de Noiers, des bois blancs, et une autre espece d'arbres  dontz les branches armees de longues  espines" (The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, Volume 59 106). Such  reports  mingle  the  same  seductive  mixture  of  ethnological  exactitude and Eurocentric romance that one finds first in Atala, then—a century and a half later—in Tristes  tropiques.  and  Regardless of  Chateaubriand's own familiarity with the Mississippi river, Marquette's description would be repeated almost verbatim in Atala  because  its  narrative power was far more evocative than anything the author's own imagination could conceive. Not until very late in the twentieth century would  this  literary  Jesuitical  ethnology  be  largely  expunged  from  French  consciousness.  Equally appealing to Chateaubriand and his successors were the already cited Jesuit accounts of the Indian science of torture. These gory tableaux  were  an  absolute  godsend  to  the  interlocking  genres  of  17 melodrama  and  grand  guignol.  This interest would doubtless  have  turned the first Americans into one-dimensional villains if the Indians' "innate" propensity for physical cruelty had not been counterbalanced by the great tenderness which, the Jesuit fathers disapprovingly noted, all "savages" displayed towards their undeserving young: "Toutes les nations Sauuages de ces quartiers, & du Brafil, a ce qu'on nous temoigne ne fauroient chaftier ny voir chaftier vn enfant: que cela nous donnera de peine dans le deffein que nous avons d'inftruire le ieuneffe"  (The  Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents. Volume 5 220). Chateaubriand's integration  of  these  sentimental  opposites  in  Native  protagonists  contributed greatly to the invention of the "noble savage," a type much beloved by Rousseau  and other eighteenth century progressives. The  Indian was not a demon, after all; he was a sort of capricious child or innocently murderous  kitten.  Ultimately, neither the Jesuits nor Chateaubriand were fated  to  mark out the boundaries of French discourse vis-a-vis the United States. For  one  thing,  questionable Missionary  their  judges emphasis  of  ultra-Catholic Native  religious  character  on moral uplift  made  Protestant  intention.  blinders  that  on behalf  of the thirteen revolted  colonies  with  successfully  out such key historical events as the decisive French  intervention  them  and Classical fascination  sylvan romance were culturally-determined filtered  and  views  naval  during  the  American Revolutionary War, and Britain's earlier expulsion of  the  Acadians. Being the first European to see the New World in its true colours was an honour historically reserved for Alexis de Tocqueville, a literary traveller who is as much esteemed for his  nineteenth-century  observations by contemporary American scholars as Stendhal's writings  18 of the same period are by modern Italian academics. Around the time when Romanticism was gradually effacing  Classicism in Europe, de  Tocqueville  field  reinvigorated  the  still  virgin  studies with some much-needed scientific  of  Franco-American  detachment.  The author's most famous book, De la democratic was predicated on four interlocking  en  Amerique,  ideas. The first of these concepts  related to democracy as a political institution; the second addressed the nature of revolution; the third concerned the relationship of individuals to institutions within the binding framework of social style and national character; the fourth—and to modern readers, the least convincing—was the thesis that God worked on the doings of men within the confines of a fatal circle of freedom and necessity. Unlike  many  later  French  travellers,  de  Tocqueville  was  favourably impressed by the things that he saw in America. He wrote admiringly  of  the checks  and balances  that were  essential  to  the  American system of government, of the intelligence and worthiness of the average citizen, of the innovative genius of U.S. engineers  and  manufacturers, of the relative freedom of American women, and of the unparalleled  skill of Yankee clipper ship captains, the astronauts of  their day. With great foresight, he saw the future parcelled out between American and Russian spheres of influence, and accurately  predicted  America's coming war with Mexico. If he was not quite so prescient in regard to the War Between the States, he nonetheless pointed out many of the less obvious evils of Southern slavery, and the friction that these ills caused within  the body politic. De Tocqueville has never  put  American backs up; indeed, he tends to make U.S. readers preen with gratified  pride.  19 As a starting point for French travellers in America, however, de Tocqueville's occasional criticisms of the new republic seem to have struck a deeper chord among his fellow countrymen than did his more numerous praises. This was at least partly because a faint current of disdain  frequently  flowed  beneath  the  onrush  of  his  diegetic  enthusiasms. Comparisons such as the following are ubiquitous: "Dans les aristocraties, les lecteurs sont difficiles et peu nombreux; dans les democraties, il est moins malaise de leur plaire, et leur nombre est prodigeux" first—and  (De la democratic en Amerique. Tome II 264). Not for the certainly  not for the last—time, de Tocqueville  Europe's quality with the New World's quantity.  contrasts  Although generally in  favour of an expanded franchise in his native France, and a theoretical advocate of democracy, this articled republican is clearly troubled by the cultural cost such a transition might entail; in this regard, his views eerily  prefigure  the  twentieth-century  forebodings  of  Theodor  W.  Adorno and Max Horkheimer. Developing on their own on the fringes of civilization, "Les Americains n'ont point d'ecole philosophique qui leur soit propre, et ils s'inquietent fort peu toutes celles qui visisent l'Europe, ils en savent a peine les noms" (De la democratie en Amerique. Tome II 13). De Tocqueville grimly noted the absence of elegant public buildings and heroic statuary in U.S. town squares: "Les seuls monuments des Etats-Unis sont les journaux" (De la democratie en Amerique, Tome I 159). Although abundant everywhere, American newspapers were not, it seems, of particularly high quality. For every admission of political inferiority  in this book, there is a qualifying  expression of cultural  superiority. The statement below is a good example of the former: "Les Americains forment un peuple democratique qui a toujours dirige par  20  lui-meme  les  affaires  publiques,  et  nous  sommes  un  peuple  democratique qui, pendant longtemps, n'a pu que songer a la meilleure maniere de les conduire" (De la democratic en Amerique. Tome II 31). A prime sample of the latter runs as follows: "L'aristocratic est infiniment plus habile dans la science du legislation  que ne saurait I'etre  la  democratic" (De la democratie en Amerique. Tome I 181). De Tocqueville's views on American racial problems were fated to make the most lasting impression on French literary travellers. Because of his non-dogmatic Christian beliefs and aristocratic background, de Tocqueville's appreciation of American religious toleration and economic egalitarianism is greatly exaggerated. It is, for instance, hard to imagine period American Catholics, for the most part impressed into the worstpaying jobs and largely shut out of the liberal professions, agreeing with the following  statement: "Aux Etats-Unis, point de haine religieuse,  parce que la religion est universellement respectee et qu'aucune secte n'est dominante...." (De la democratie en Amerique. Tome I 138). It is equally  difficult  to  conceive  of  cellar-dwelling  industrial  workers  accepting the ensuing formula as fact: "En Amerique, cependant, ce sont les pauvres qui font la loi, et ils reservent habituellement pour euxmemes les plus grands avantages de la societe" (De la democratie en Amerique. Tome I 30). So clear-sighted in so many ways, de Tocqueville was strangely blind to the existence of an American class system. The religiously outcast and the working poor could only react to those cheerful over-assessments with mocking scorn. Contemporary Black and Native readers, on the other hand (assuming literate communities of same then existed), could only reject the Frenchman's summation of their  plight  as  part  of  a  psychological  survival  mechanism.  To  21 acknowledge that things were truly as bad as this foreigner claimed was to run the risk of slipping into suicidal despair. There was a strong "noble savage" element in de Tocqueville's writings about America's original inhabitants. Indeed, it seems highly likely that they contributed to the nineteenth century annealing of an eighteenth  century  n'avaient  jamais  myth:  "Les  admire  de  plus  fameuses  courage  plus  republiques ferme,  antiques  d'ames  orgueilleuses, de plus intraitable amour de l'independance,  plus  que  n'en  cachaient alors les bois sauvages du nouveau monde" (De la democratie en Amerique. Tome I 22). Indians, de Tocqueville sadly noted, were steadily being pushed westward by America's small but genocidal army. Steadily, they were losing their land: "Les Indiens l'occupaient, mais ne le  possedaient"  possession  of  (De vast  la  democratie  territories  and  en  Amerique,  lacking  major  Tome enemies  I 24.) In in  their  immediate vicinity, America was a land of few soldiers but an almost infinite number of militiamen. No one would intervene on the Indians' behalf; their ancient world was doomed. If American  slaves were in no danger  of being  immediately  exterminated, in all other respects their social situation was even less enviable: "Le negre est place aux dernieres bornes de la servitude; l'lndien  aux limites extremes de la liberte" (De la  democratie  en  Amerique. Tome I 248). For Black Americans, there was literally no place to run: "Les Indiens mourront dans l'isolement comme ils ont vecus; mais la destinee des negres est en quelque sort en lacee dans celle des Europeens" (De la democratie en Amerique, Tome I 262). The fates  of  Blacks  and  Indians,  though  diametrically  opposed,  were  inextricably interlinked: "Ces deux races infortunes, n'ont de commun ni  22  la naissance, ni la figure, ni le langage, ni les moeurs; leurs malheurs seuls se ressemblent" (De la democratie en Amerique. Tome I 246 247). A cloud of dark irony surrounds their respective dooms: "Le negre voudrait se confondre avec l'Europeen, et il ne le peut. L'Indian pourrait jusqu'a un certain point y reussir, mais il dedaigne de le tenter" (De la democratie en Amerique. Tome I 248). More than thirty years before the Emancipation Proclamation was enforced, de Tocqueville wrote of the anti-Black racism found in the so-called abolitionist states—a racism more intense and bitter than any to found in the slave-owning Southern states—and of the nascent inner city ghettoes, which he believed to be already  more  dangerous  than  the  meanest  urban  environment  in  continental Europe. Despite his unavoidable Eurocentric bias, de Tocqueville's gifts of observation were nothing short of extraordinary. In conjunction  with  his almost untrammelled admiration for the governmental apparatus of American democracy, this republican aristocrat was totally appalled by the  enforced  conformity  which  the  myth  of  universal  freedom  engendered: "Je ne connais pas de pays ou il regne en general moins d'independance et de veritable liberte de discussion qu'en Amerique" (De la democratie en Amerique, Tome I 199 - 200). In his eyes, the spirit of 1776 had already ossified into a rigid catechism which nolonger  revolutionary  citizens  could,  like  well-trained  parrots,  only  repeat by rote. This perhaps explains why "...en Amerique le suicide est rare, mais on assure que la demence est plus commune que partout ailleurs" (De la democratie en Amerique. Tome II 125). In the same vein,  de Tocqueville  gladly suffer  noted  with  amusement,  Americans  would  the slightest word of criticism about their country  not to  23  emerge from even a well-intentioned foreigner's lips. American cultural insularity,  he felt,  was at least equal to the nation's  geographical  isolation. A number of the French traveller's ideas would assume their full importance only after the passage of a century or more. As U.S. judicial practice becomes increasingly savage and repressive at the end of the second millenium, an era when penological practice is becoming more enlightened in most of the other nations in the developed world, it might well be because of this underlying belief: "En Europe, le criminel est  un  infortune  qui  combat  pour  deroler  sa tete  aux  agents  du  pouvoir... En Amerique, c'est un ennemi du genre humain, et il a contre lui l'humanite tout entiere" fDe la democratie en Amerique. Tome I 78). The history of the U.S. TV "cop show," both fictional and reality-based, amply bears out this statement. Still, despite his atypical willingness to see others as others saw themselves appreciative  (what of  other the  privileged  American  Frenchman  myth  of  the  was  as  self-made  unreservedly man?),  de  Tocqueville's Old World origins occasionally shone through. When he wrote, for instance, "J'aimerais mieux qu'on herissat la langue de mots chinois, tartares ou hurons, que de rendre incertain des mots frangais," he was speaking from the pulpit of linguistic purity epitomized by the Academie Frangaise. At bottom open-minded, de Tocqueville's cultural inheritance did not allow him to feel fully at ease in a semi-barbaric land that he otherwise very much admired: "...ce qui me repugne le plus en Amerique, ce n'est plus 1'extreme liberte qui y regne, c'est la peu de garantie qu'on y trouve contre la tyrannie" (De la  democratie  en  Amerique. Tome I 198). If America was the hope of the future, it was  24 also a threat to the glories of the past; as a land of universal liberty, it was paradoxically  a threat to the higher form of individualism  that  Europe's collapsing class system had once bestowed on its appointed thinkers and artists. That the United States could fill this cultural void with  the same dexterity  with which it expanded  the gains  of  the  industrial revolution was something the author obviously doubted. By the late 1840s, at least half of French pre-conceptions about America had already been formed. For the armchair Parisian traveller of 1848, America was a republic that France had helped to colonize and liberate from  the yoke of the British crown; if  Quebec—"quelques  arpents de neige"—was not much missed, Louisiana—"ce nouvel Eden"— certainly  was,  thanks  to  the  popular  mythologizing  of  Rene  de  Chateaubriand; literary images of the place were indelibly coloured by the published journals of the early French explorers and missionaries,• a situation which the borrowings of later writers actively  encouraged;  except for the poems and stories of Edgar Allan Poe, the United States was seen as a land of little literature and even less philosophy; material wealth, both natural and manufactured, was ubiquitous, it seemed, and engineering  skills both abundant  and ingenious; the wilderness  was  filled with doomed noble savages, and the Southern plantations with slaves who were made to seem far more oppressed than their fellow indentured Africans dancing to the whip of French colonial masters. In his private journals Victor Hugo wrote, "L'Americain republicain est libre, vend, achete, revend et marchande et brocante des vieillards, des femmes, des vierges, et des enfants. II punit de prison qui apprend. a lire aux petits negres, il tire, au beau milieu d'une ville dite libre, des coups de fusil  au negre fugitif; il dresse des chiens a chasser  aux  25 hommes; il trouve cela tout simple. II est marchand citoyen. II est democrate et negrier"  (Choses  vues  d'esclaves Tome  et  11 333).  Contemporary U.S. mores, if they were known at all, were invariably seen through de Tocqueville's prism. American women were in some ways freer than their continental counterparts, but also colder and more sexually  inhibited.  menace to be feared  American  democratic  theory  seemed  as much  a  as it did a model to be followed by well-educated  French deputies. For the most part, this image would remain fixed until shortly after the First World War. In Extreme  Occident,  French literary attitudes towards the United States,  a history of  Franco-American  scholar Jean Philippe Mathy wrote, "The main assumption of this study is  that  many  French  intellectuals'  perceptions  of  America,  Tocqueville to Beauvoir, are rooted in a humanistic and  from  aristocratic  ethos derived from the models of intellectual excellence and critical practice born in the Renaissance and refined  in the age of French  classicism" (Mathy 7). One finds this point of view expressed in its most extreme form in the following decription of Chactas, the "good" Indian hero of Atala,  a classical Frenchman in all but name. "[Chactas] avait  converse avec les grands hommes de ce siecle et assiste aux fetes de Versailles, aux tragedies de Racine, aux oraisons funebres de Bossuet, en un mot, le Sauvage avait contemple la societe a son plus haut point de splendeur"  (Chateaubriand  31). A national  as well  as  a  religious  chauvinist, for Chateaubriand the qualities of culture and human worth were clearly determined by each individual's proximity to the apogee of human civilization, an apex which was unequivocally, univocally French. His position  could not be further  prejudices of cultural relativism.  removed from  the more  tolerant  26 Chateaubriand, it must be admitted, was a not entirely  typical  case. Nevertheless, it is probably fair to claim that, at least in a watered-down  version,  his  attitudes  remained  in  place  until  the  beginning of the twentieth century. During this literary interregnum, the two French writers who most radically expanded Gallic perceptions of the U.S. were Jules Verne and Charles Baudelaire. According to one American critic, the author of Fleurs du mal added the word "americaniser"  Les  to the French lexicon in  1855 (Mathy 274). Since Baudelaire was such a pivotal figure in the evolution of the crime story, his role as a cultural cross-pollinator can more fruitfully  be discussed in Chapter Two than it can here. Jules  Verne's contributions, on the other hand, deserve to be considered posthaste. What most strikes contemporary readers about the proto-science fiction  stories  that  Verne  situated  in  the  United  States  alternately banal and prophetic realism. Les Forceurs instance,  a work  largely  unknown  in  the  is  their  de blocus,  English-speaking  for  world,  describes the efforts of a hard-headed Scottish capitalist to steer a high speed  steamship  blockading  (17  knots-per-hour)  past  Charleston harbour. The ironically  the  Union  named  gunboats  Playfairs  have  nothing but scorn for abolitionists, dismissing them as "...ces hommes qui, sous le vain pretexte d'abolir l'esclavage, ont couvert leur pays de sang et de ruines" (Xes Forceurs de blocus 38). With their eyes set on the main prize of profits, the Playfairs are notably reluctant to admit "...que la question de la servitude fut predominance dans la guerre civile des Etas-Unis...." (Les Forceurs de blocus 38). Although Captain Playfair does  eventually rescue a heroic abolitionist from a Confederate prison—  27 an action primarily motivated by the mariner's love for the prisoner's daughter—he returns to England with a cargo of cotton that earns his father's firm a handsome 365% profit. Even today, it is hard to find fictional writings that discuss the U.S. Civil War in less romantic, more pragmatic  terms.  The War Between the States is also one of the narrative engines propelling one of Verne's more famous speculative fictions, De la Terre a la Lune. Even more than Vingt mille lieues sous les mers, this novel is replete with Verne's eerie powers of pre-cognition. The decision to send a vessel to the moon is determined by a group of retired Civil War artillerymen what  and  Dwight  industrialists,  the  nineteenth  Eisenhower  was  to  D.  dub  century "the  forebears  of  military-industrial  complex," the matrix out of which NASA emerged. That  Americans  should be the first to invent space travel seemed perfectly logical to Verne:  "Les  ingenieurs,  Yankees, comme  metaphysciens--de  les  ces  premiers  Italiens  naissance"  sont  mecaniciens musiciens  du et  monde,  sont  les  Allemands  (De la Terre a la Lune 12).  One of the  more formidable of these ex-Union Army gunners is "...l'homme par excellence  de  la  Nouvelle-Angleterre,  le  Nordiste  colonisateur,  le  descendant de ces Tetes Rondes si funestes aux Stuarts, et l'implacable ennemi des gentlemen du Sud, les anciens Cavaliers de la mere patri'e" (De la Terre a la Lune 24). In those passages, enormous leaps of historical fabulation.  the  author  makes  At a time when the steam-  driven power of England's industrial revolution still gave the United Kingdom pride of place as the workship of the world, Jules Verne was already passing on the world-controlling economic torch to the stillwet-behind-the-ears  United  States. What's  more,  he  attributed  that  28 triumph to America's inheritance of the most aggressive, puritan streak in British culture, the Round Head ferocity that led to the rise of Cromwell and the fall of the Stuarts. Here, in embryo, we see the origins of the modern French usage of the phrase "les  anglo-saxonnes"  a  description that implicitly fuses England and the United States into one seamless socio-historical entity, a body politic implicitly hostile to the interests of France, and one which is seemingly entirely detached from Canada,  Australia,  and  the  many  other  small  nations  comprising  anglophonia. In this phrase we see admiration and realism locked in an eternal battle with paranoia, fear and hate. Despite reflects  this  immense  theoretical familiarity  projection, with  however,  the  Verne's  quotidian  account  realities  of  contemporary American life. The trip to the moon is facilitated by the calculations of the observatory in Cambridge, Massachussetts,  "Cette  ville ou fut fondee la premiere Universite des Etats-Unis, est justement celebre par son bureau astronomique" (De la Terre a la Lune 38). Hans Pfaal, Edgar Allan Poe's fictional visitor to the Moon, is wittily treated as an historical personage (much of this book was conceived as satire). Most presciently of all, Verne describes the struggle between the states of Florida and Texas for the honour of being the lunar-directed launch site. Less than a hundred years later, when Apollo IX did indeed speed to the Moon, the rocket was of course fired from Cape Canaveral, Florida, while its pilots listened to commands from Mission Control in Houston, Texas! What's more, the journey was completed in only slightly less time than the 11 days stipulated by Verne. The American passages in Le tour du monde en 80 jours  (1873)  might have been less imbued with prophecy, but they were no less  29 keen on logistical accuracy: "New York et San Francisco sont done presentement reunis par un ruban de metal non interrompu  qui ne  mesure pas moins de trois mille sept cent quarante-vingt-six milles" (Le Tour du monde en 80 jours  194.) Within Verne's broad,  "trunklike"  descriptions lurk many lesser, "rootlike" details: "Ce wagon etait un 'sleeping car', qui, en quelques minutes, fut transforme en dortoir" (Le Tour du monde en 80 jours 196). What Phileas Fogg and his fellow passengers see from moving train windows is a country in the process of creating itself. They "...passent par des villes aux noms antiques, dont quelques-unes avaient des rues et des tramways, mais pas de maisons encore" (Le Tour du monde en 80 jours 244). Only when describing encounters with Mormons and skirmishes with Sioux does Verne depart from the generally realistic tone of his text. This unique mixture— fantastic  plot coupled  to extremely  plausible  detail—would  lay  the  groundwork for the infant genre of science fiction, a genre that the French would shortly abandon, a popular form that would subsequently be perfected by les  anglo-saxonnes  in general and les  Americains  in  particular. It is one of the abiding ironies of Franco-American relations that certain Gallic cultural innovations are subsequently regarded quintessentially  American—especially  as  by the French. Where would the  so-called Hollywood musical be, for instance, if not for the early sound films of Rene Clair? For a variety of reasons, not all of them modest (high culture est fait  chez nous; popular culture est  importe  d'outre-  mer),  this situation appeals to Parisian intellectuals. In a strange sort of  way,  it  draws  another  whenever they focus States.  seductive  veil  over  cultivated  French  on the alternately brash and admirable  eyes United  30  Needless to say, the event that would most radically  transform  existing Franco-American cultural relations was the First World War. On a per capita basis, the French Army suffered heavier casualties than any other major participant in that sanguinary conflict. What's more, most of the battles were fought on French soil, a circumstance which resulted in as much damage to the nation's environment and physical plant as it did to its reserves of able-bodied cannon fodder. The factor that eventually tilted the balance in favour of the Allied Cause was the commitment  of  ever  trenches following  greater  numbers  Washington's  of  declaration  American  troops  of war in  to  the  1917. While  America's actual military role in the defeat of the German, AustroHungarian,  and Ottoman empires was relatively minor, its  logistical  contribution proved to be decisive. Thus, America emerged from the Great War with the prestige of a major military power, the certainty that it had replaced Great Britain as the workshop of the world, and a foreign policy that had finally emerged from the carapace of isolation. These  advantages  American  had been won at very little cost to  casualties  were  relatively  minor,  and  its  themselves.  landscape  was  completely undamaged. With the possible exception of Canada and the other dominions, the United States was the only nation to emerge from the First World War in better shape than it went in. Inevitably,  this  historical  turn-around  produced  conflicting  emotions in France. For the first time, Americans in Paris were counted not by the hundred, but by the hundred thousand. Gone were the days when the few brash New Worlders lucky enough to worm their way into the pages of French literature generally fell into the category of rich potential marriage partners, such as the "richissime Americain" to  31 whom Albertine was briefly betrothed in a suppressed passage of A la recherche  du temps perdu  (Albertine  disparue 292). In the immediate  post-war period, following demobilization, American writers and artists congregated in the City of Light because the views were pretty, the costs were low, sex was easy and Prohibition non-existent. Around the same time, American movies started to inundate French screens. Prior to  1914,  the  giant  French  film  combines  of  Gaumont  and  Pathe  controlled approximately 60% of the world motion picture market. Since the same chemicals that went into the manufacture of celluloid were also used in the production of high explosives, French cinema lost its commercial edge to Hollywood during the Great War, an advantage. it would never regain. Less grudgingly, the French also began to listen to American popular music, particularly jazz. Black U.S. musicians were often  treated  better  on  the  Champs  Elysees  than  Broadway. In a French context, the cult of negritude  they  were  on  served a double  purpose. France's acceptance of Black American artists and of Antillean and African writers such as Aime Cesaire and Leopold Sedar Senghor was a way of affirming moral superiority over the New World giant that so aggressively challenged France's post-1789 claim to be acknowledged as the homeland of secular freedom. How could America truly be the land of liberty if that liberty only extended to whites? At the same time, it allowed French intellectuals to put the harsher realities of the nation's "off-stage" colonial practice on the back burner. Only in very recent years have Gallic authors belatedly acknowledged the skin colour of most Parisian street sweepers. To admit that racisme  ordinaire  was  as prevalent in Marseille as it was in Memphis was to subtly undermine  32  France's claim to being regarded as the only true, the only legitimate, the only universal republic. Thanks  to  these  circumstances,  French  reaction  to  American  advances on all fronts could not help but be mixed. Gallic gratitude for U.S.  military  assistance  was  undercut  by  that  country's  seeming  blindness to France's decisive but Pyrrhic contributions to Germany's defeat. The thought that la Belle France might now owe more to General Pershing and his "doughboys" than American patriots once did to the eighteenth-century  assistance  of Admiral  de Suffren's  warships  Lafayette's volunteers was totally unacceptable to the national propre.  and amour  Love of American popular culture could not entirely disguise  the fact that its progress was often made at French culture's expense. Even  worse,  singularly  expatriate  indifferent  American  authors  in love with  to Parisians, eschewing  personal  Paris  were  contact  even  when they knew the local language well. British jounalist Tony Allan made much of this fact in his nostalgic history, The  Glamour  Years:  Paris, 1919 - 1940, quoting art critic Clive Bell to the effect that "Some of [these expatriates] had French mistresses—kept mistresses; but very few of them had French friends" (Allan 9). In this context, one of the most anomalous Gallic books about Franco-American coming-of-age  contact is Joseph Kessel's Dames memoir,  this  brief  narrative  de  describes  Californie. the  A  author's  journey across America as he left the battlefields of World War One to participate in the Allied Powers' ill-fated  attempt to overthrow  the  newly-founded Bolshevik regime in 1918. Kessel and his comrades were cheered by American crowds as their train puffed its way across the U.S. mainland. For once the reader is not faced with "doughboys" being  33  feted by adoring Frenchmen, but by "poilus"  being hailed by grateful  groups of Yanks. With undisguised pride, Kessel wrote,  "L'Amerique  alors etait amoureuse de la France" (Kessel 31). Being young  and  military, Kessel's communication skills were obviously not aided by the presence of large numbers of bilingual academics, the balm bestowed on most later French writers of substance. "II est temps de dire," he ruefully admits at one point, "que pour tout anglais je connaissais celui que Ton apprend a lycee" (Kessel 37). Although he had by this time forgotten most of his high school English, his linguistic facility was still considerably greater than that of his fellow volunteers: "II me restait bien peu de ces notions lorsque je debarquai en Amerique. Mais je crois que j ' e n savais encore plus done de la majorite de mes camarades. Je devais done, bon gre mal gre, leur servir d'interprete"  (Kessel 37).  Although Kessel was much cheered by the reception he received from the  women  of  America,  the  omnipresence  of  puritan  strictures  continuously rankled: "La prohibition, si elle n'etait pas encore en vigeur en Amerique, regnait impitoyablement  ces batiments  de guerre.  On  nous offrait du cafe au lait comme boisson de table" (Kessel 21). Later, in San Francisco, he would frustratedly discover that "On sait qu'il est interdit  par  la  loi...d'amener  une  femme  chez  soi  dans  un  hotel  americain" (Kessel 42). Like most period French tourists, the author was impressed by everything from skyscrapers to New Year's Eve parties, by the things that were quintessentially non-French. On the other hand, he is delighted when one of his women friends from Saint Louis (a town he seems to assume is as francophone as New Orleans) "...parlait un francais adorable de grace.  34  Je retrouvais la langue de la Bruyere et de Fenelon...." (Kessel 84). For Kessel,  America  was  clearly  a  land  as  wonderful  as  it  was  incomprehensible, as pleasurable as it was irritating; it was a paradise whose perfection was spoiled by the buzzing of bluenosed flies. Behind this  mixture  of  envy  and  admiration  lurks  a  single  unspoken  assumption: Americans might have produced this opulence, but they don't know how to enjoy it. Just as youth is proverbially wasted upon the young, so, it would seem, is America upon the Americans. In any event, Joseph Kessel did not see the United States as being in any way inimical to the health and well-being of his own country. Ahead  of his time in this as in so many other things, the  early  nineteenth-century novelist and travel writer Stendhal was perhaps the first  prominent  literary  Frenchman  to  worry  about  U.S.  cultural  domination of the globe. Shortly after the Napoleonic Wars, he wrote, "En 1900, l'Europe n'aura qu'un moyen de resister a l'enorme population et a la raison profonde de l'Amerique: ce sera de donner a l'Asie Minore, a la Grece, et a la Dalmatie, la meme civilisation; c'est-a-dire le meme degre de liberte dont on jouit dans la Pennsylvanie" (Stendhal 277). To survive America, in other words, Europe would have to become more like its de facto enemy, to incorporate more of the interloper's good points into its own modus vivendi. For French authors after Kessel, helas,  Joseph  the political pre-emptive strike option had already passed.  European autocracy did not end until 1918, and then as the featherthat-broke-the-Triple-Entente's-back  hands  of  the  U.S.  military.  America was now the dominant socio-political force on the planet, an unavoidable current that pulled all others in its wake. The only nations to resist this pull successfully were those that slipped into some form of  35 totalitarian  structure.  Of  these  new  political  styles,  Soviet-style  Leninism could uniquely afford to pose as a true polar opposite to U.S.style  capitalism.  metastatizing  Europe's  capitalist  fascist  growths,  states  while  the  appeared  more  like  democratic/colonialist  nations--of which France was one of the most important—were equally hybrid  products  of  "free  enterprise"  economics.  For  all  practical  purposes, Europe no longer controlled the world, as it had since about 1800. In true Hegelian fashion, power had travelled westwards  once  again. If this changed reality could be felt on some level everywhere in non-Soviet Europe, it was still possible to soften its impact in a number of tactical ways. Most schools of European thought between the wars were singularly free of U.S. influence. Outside of literature and jazz, American  culture  did  not  command  a  dominant  place  in  the  international avant garde. On the level of high culture in particular, European intellectuals continued to feel like top planetary dogs. Theodor W. Adorno was famously dismissive of both Hollywood and syncopated music; Andre Gide wrote as if U.S. culture were as marginal to the European mainstream as Tagalog poetry. In A la recherche perdu,  unquestionably  the  greatest  triumph  of  du  twentieth  temps  century  French fiction, the most significant mention of the U.S.A.—if one excludes the repressed manuscript claim that Albertine, at the time of her death, was engaged to "un richissme Americain" (Albertine  disparu  292)—  occurs in the following disquisition on the generally humble provenance of American family names: '"...beaucoup d'Americains qui Montgommery,  Berry, Chandos ou Capel n'ont de rapport  s'appellent avec  les  families de Pembroke, de Buckingham, d'Essex, ou avec le Due de Berry'"  36 (Sodome  et Gomorrhe 471). America might have been mighty, but in  most matters it seemed both far away and of much less important than Germany, Russia, or England, the nation's traditional rivals in political brinkmanship. In retrospect, this attitude seems very much like wishful thinking; at the time, however, it was entirely sincere. These factors should be borne in mind when considering betweenwar French literary impressions of the United States. That this cultural scene was largely dominated by Catholic conservatives is a defining constraint largely lost on non-French literary scholars. While French, like English and German, is one of the world's privileged "international" languages, it is its left-wing, experimental and secular literature which has been most successfully exported. The vast quantity of  non-fiction  produced by the likes of Paul Claudel, Paul Valery, Francois Mauriac, Georges Bernanos, and a hundred lesser figures—many of whom were both  viciously  anti-Semitic  and  rabidly  fascist—has  passed  largely  unnoticed by the outside world. This unfortunate imbalance inevitably skews virtually all outside attempts to obtain an objective image of the time, a portrait in which foreground and background were judiciously balanced. It is a limitation which must constantly be borne in mind when dealing with the literature's better-known but less representative texts. In Extreme  Occident,  Jean-Philippe Mathy plausibly contends that  French criticism of the U.S. in the 1920s was largely conservative and humanist,  while  that  of  the  1950s  and  '60s  was  either  left-wing  (negative) or right-wing (the so-called liberal Atlanticists).  Following  the events of 1968, meanwhile, the Gallic tone generally changed to one of postmodernist praise. These generalities are useful tools so long as  37 one bears in mind the perennial tendency of French intellectuals to change steeds in mid-stream. At various times in his career, Andre Gide, for instance, was an anti-Semitic reactionary, a Protestant polemicist, a Catholic semi-convert, a pagan philosopher, a thorough-going atheist, a homosexual  apologist,  a militant  Communist,  a much-reviled  anti-  Communist, an anti-colonialist, a Vichy accommodator, and a vocal critic of France's Second World War collaboration with the occupying Third Reich. To define Gide by any one of those labels would be misleading; he was all of them and then some. Georges Duhamel was probably the most lucid and articulate of between-war  French  commentators  on the American  scene.  A  now  largely forgotten member of the Academie Francaise, Duhamel was once an important literary personage. Even today, Scenes de la vie future  can  stand as one of the least sympathetic studies of the United States ever written. Duhamel crossed the Atlantic with a chip on his shoulder, and he missed no opportunity to coax his hosts into knocking it off. Even his port of arrival reflects this unfailingly antagonistic attitude. Unlike most French writers, who disembarked from plane or ship in New York, Duhamel decided to start his journey in New Orleans, la plus des  villes  americaines  francaise  In this way he could acclimatize himself to the  local customs, just as Borgia princes once accustomed themselves to poison by consuming ever larger quantities of arsenic at dinner. Before jumping into the American melting pot, Duhamel pointedly held his nose. The author's suspicions were deeply rooted in his circular mistrust of both technicians and machines: "Comme therapeutique  pour  I'allegement  de  nos  les poisons miseres,  la  employes plupart  en des  38 inventions  humaines propres  a nous donner du bonheur  meme du plus noble, sont encore susceptibles, ou malhabiles, morf  de se transformer  ou du  entre les mains  en instruments  plaisir, scelerates  de souffrance  et de  (Duhamel 12.) Following this line of reasoning, America, being  ineptly run, must be considered as some sort of giant torture chamber. It is also a supremely dangerous dystopia-in-embroyo: "Le passe deconcerte trouve  moins que le futur: un occidental adulte, normal et cultive se  moins  certaines  nous  depayse  chez  les  troglodytes  de  Matmata  que  dans  rues de Chicago'" (Duhamel 16). Without the slightest hint of  irony, Duhamel turns "the normal, cultivated Western adult" into "the normal, cultivated Frenchman." In this comparison of New World and Old, Duhamel doesn't even pretend to be impartial. Kipling gave the Indians  more  benefit  Americans. Everything  of  the doubt  than  about the country  bridles when his ship is fumigated  Duhamel  would  give  the  seems to irritate him. He  in Havana; he smoulders  when  alcohol is removed from the ship's stores the moment its prow passes Prohibition's nautical limit. Americans love to guzzle, he sneers, yet hypocritically ban alcohol. They seriously consider diverting the Gulf Stream for their own uses even though such a far-fetched  procedure  would surely freeze Europe. Even worse, these technocratic barbarians might actually pull off such a demented coup. What a country! Ironically, many of Duhamel's period complaints now sound like the on-air whining of conservative U.S. talk show hosts. He is appalled, for example, by America's obsession with calories. Universal medical coverage leaves him equally cold: "Le jour que nous possedons, contre chacun  de  ces  fleaux,  un  vaccin  efficace  dont  1'application  sera  rigoureusement obligatoire, nous ne souffrirons plus des maladies, nous  39 souffrirons des contraintes exigues par les lois, nous souffrirons  de la  sante" (Duhamel 34 - 35). America in the 1920s was already an overregulated society so far as this Frenchman was concerned. Unlike most of his fellow derive  cultural  comfort  instance,  "...sort  dejeuner  sortaient  pictures,  Hollywood  de I'abattoir de I'abattoir  newsreels  divertissement  from  and  d'ilotes,  countrymen, Duhamel did not even  a musique  comme  a cochons"  vaudeville un  movies. Movie  (Duhamel  collectively  passe-temps  les  des  music,  for  saucisses  du  44).  Motion  comprised  illettres,  de  "...un  creatures  miserables, ahuries par leur besogne et leurs soucis" (Duhamel 49). 1 As for America's indigenous music, it was beyond the pale. "O jazz!" he groaned, "Strychnine supreme" (Duhamel 129). Americans, Duhamel complained, were hard to find: "L'Amerique me cache les Americains" (Duhamel 56.) This was because, apparently, most Americans were rendered formless by Americanism: "Plutot qu'un peuple, je vois un systeme" (Duhamel 57). The immensity of the land, something  that  has  impressed  virtually  all  French  travellers  from  Jacques Cartier's first visit to the present, left this toughest of all critics suspicious as well as unmoved: "Un building s'eleve de deux ou trois etages par semaine. II a fallu vingt ans a Wagner pour construire la Tetralogie, In turn,  une vie a Littre pour edifier son dictionnaire" (Duhamel 50). he attacked  the rationales  behind  organized  sports,  credit  buying, and luxurious washrooms. For Duhamel, nothing could disguise the  1  fact  that  Americans  were  not free  men  but  slaves—slaves  of  Ironically, one could easily imagine Karl Marx denouncing movies in much the same terms—albeit with a little more compassion—if that strain of opium had existed in his day. When condemning America, French jeremiads from the right are often indistinguishable from left-wing jabs.  40  moralists, doctors, jurists, "et meme [des] electriciens" (Duhamel 59). He was offended by the fact that the face of an Indian and a buffalo were printed on coins in this unfree land that never wearied of touting its illusory liberties: "O ironie! Deux races vivantes et libres que vous avez aneanties, en moins de trois siecles" (Duhamel 62). For his own purposes, he re-packaged many of de Tocqueville's criticisms of America without paying even nominal lip service to the more numerous points of admiration that his illustrious predecessor had emphasized. Root beer, needless to say, was risible: "C'est de la biere des racines, de la biere pour rire, bien entendu" (Duhamel 65). Women were somewhat  better  appreciated—especially  below  the waist:  "Comment  font-elles, les dames americaines, pour ce procurer, toutes, ces memes jambes delicieuses qu'elles montrent si genereusement" (Duhamel 76 77). Like Celine, Georges Simenon, and so many francophones after him, the American  "gam" could strike a favourable  chord in this  flinty  Frenchman's heart long after the appeal of the Empire State building had started to fade. much  indulged  in  Unsurprisingly, this form of fetishism was not by  literary  Frenchwomen,  but even they  felt  compelled to draw attention to this particular part of the American female's  anatomy.  In addition to the cult of the Yankee leg, Duhamel added the demonization of Chicago to the canon of American commonplaces in the French literary imagination. "Chicago!" he railed. "La ville tumeur! La ville  cancer!"  emphasized  The  author's  the system's  description  cruelty  of  the  and inhumanity  Chicago  stockyards  without  expressing  the slightest sympathy for the animals being sacrificed on the altars of the food industry.  41 In the same vein, racism is mentioned in a way that manages to make the Americans look doubly bad, since it links modern refinements of the time-honoured technique of lynching to the new mechanics of highway mayhem. Mrs. Lytton tells her bad- tempered French  guest  that American highways rack up "...deux cent ciquante mille accidents par an, dont cinquante mille mortels," coyly adding "J'en ai pris ma petite part. Mais rien que des negres...." (Duhamel 79). Once again Duhamel mounts a left-leaning horse to more effectively drive home his ideological lance. No more inflammatory Jean-Paul Sartre's La Putain sur vos  respecteuse  statement can be found or Boris Vian's J'irai  in  cracker  tombes.  Ultimately, though, what America represented for Duhamel was the final triumph of the ants: "...la civilisation des fourmis du depuis des siecles de siecles. Pas de revolutions chez les insectes" (Duhamel 216). While the author still has some hope for Europe's future,  they are  clearly short-term: "L'Amerique peut tomber, la civilisation americaine ne perira pas: elle est deja maitresse du monde" (Duhamel 217). Louis-Ferdinand Celine was also a man of the right, but no one has ever deigned to dub him either a Catholic, a humanist, or a conservative. A right-wing anarchist with strong fascist tendencies and a Tourette's Syndrome gift for abuse, Celine's legendary distastes were as volatile and  tumultuous  as  Duhamel's  were  patrician  and  restrained.  He  approached America the same way he approached everything else...with a passionate loathing that owed nothing to received wisdom or common sense. The American  passages  in Celine's  novel, Voyage au bout de la nuit,  semi-autobiographical  first  amount to scarcely more than a tenth  42  of that sprawling, peripatetic text's free-wheeling bulk. The rest of the book unfolds on the "opening round" battlefields of the First World War, in the depressing jungles of colonial Africa,  and in the even more  squalid suburbs of industrialized France. Even so, Celine's acidic quick sketches of New York City and the automobile factories of Detroit would make  an impression  on the minds  of French  literary  travellers  in  America no less indelible than the ones already bequeathed to posterity by de Tocqueville and Chateaubriand. You can despise Celine, but you cannot forget him. As contemptuous of the U.S. obsession with health and safety as was Georges Duhamel, Bardamu, the author's alter ego,  disdainfully  sneers, "II s'appelait le 'Surgeon general' ce qui serait un bon nom pour un poisson" (Celine 190). Nevertheless, thanks to his obsession with the legs of American women—another passion shared with  Duhamel—the  United States must always in some sense be seen as a land of desire in the eyes of Celine/Bardamu: "En fait de jambes j ' a i rarement vu mieux, encore un peu masculines et cependant deja plus delicates, une beaute de chair en eclosion"  (Celine  192). Emblematic  of this  sometimes  concrete, sometimes formless erotic yearning is New York City itself, a polis where every building is a symbolic erection: "New York c'est un ville debout" (Celine 186). Unlike French cities, which are modestly situated and often quietly beautiful, Gotham "ne se pamait pas, elles attendent le voyageur, tandis que celle-la-la pas baisante du tout, raide a faire peur" (Celine 186). If, in contrast to the phallic  skyscrapers  between which they walk, American women are unusually  beautiful—  albeit in a not entirely acceptable "masculine" way—they  nonetheless  exist  is  in  a very  uncontinental  sort of purdah.  Bardamu  frankly  43  appalled  by  this  curiously  puritanical  state  of  affairs.  From  the  perspective of his private bench, he observes that "Elles les femmes ne regardaient guere que les devantures des magasins, tout accaparees par l'attrait des sacs, des echarpes, des petites choses de soie, exposees, tres peu a la fois dans chaque vi trine... On ne trouvait pas beaucoup de vieux dans cette foule" (Celine 196). In a young land, it seems, there are only young people. Women are set apart from men, and youth from  age.  What's more, it is strongly suggested that the unsublimated  physical  appetites  of  of  American  men  are far  less  vital  than  those  their  continental counterparts. At one point, Bardamu relies largely on the largesse of a prostitute who has taken a shine to him: "Elle possedait d'amples ressources, cette amie, puis-qu'elle se faisait dans les cent dollars par jour en maison, tandis que moi, chez Ford, j ' e n gagnais a peine six. L'amour qu'elle executait pour vivre ne la fatiguait guere. Les Americains font ca comme des oiseaux" (Celine 230). Despite his impoverished status and total lack of patrician airs, Bardamu/Celine  is only slightly more keen on that supreme  substitute, the Hollywood  sexual  movie: "Le cinema ne me suffisait  plus,  antidote benin, sans effet reelle contre l'atrocite materielle de l'usine" (Celine  229).Unlike  Georges  Duhamel's  old-fashioned  dismissal  of  Hollywood from the hoary heights of Mount Parnassus, Celine's rejection is as up-to-date as the street-level disdain of a William S. Burroughs literary junkie: movies are an inadequate drug that fail to provide the consumer with sufficient release. Like Duhamel the wealthy, Bardamu the poor is appalled by the ubiquity of U.S. beggars: "C'etaient des pauvres de partout" (Celine 193). sojourner  When poverty obliges this French  to seek employment in a Ford factory,  he finds  himself  44  surrounded by fellow-foreigners: "Dans cette foule presque personne ne parlait l'anglais" (Celine 225). Since the operative word in the novel's title is "voyage",  it seems  only proper that Bardamu's U.S. journey should have an Odyssey-like quality  to it. Celine's  alter ego tries to track down his  war-time  American mistress solely for the purpose of borrowing money: "Ce fut bien uniquement pour des raisons d'argent, mais combien urgentes et imperieuses, que je me mis a la recherche de Lola" (Celine 212). A rich society woman who tended to wounded Allied soldiers during the Great War, Lola takes great pride in the radical pedigree of one of her servants: '"II faisait partie alors d'un societe secrete tres redoutable pour 1'emancipation des noirs... C'etait, a ce qu'on m'a raconte, des gens affreux...  La bande fut  dissoute par les autorites...'" (Celine  220).  Although suppressed by the powers that be, Lola's domestic continues to manufacture bombs in his spare time, without ever making  them  lethal by the addition of powder: '"II n'en finira jamais de faire la revolution. Mais je le garde c'est un excellent domestique! Et a tout prendre, il est peut-etre plus honnete que les autres qui ne font pas la revolution..." (Celine 220). Celine's symbolic representation of Lola as a castrating racist is far more subtly modulated than Duhamel's poisoned pen portrait of Mrs. Lytton, the homicidal society woman whose only worry about running down Blacks on the street is related to the damage their  dismembered  bodies  might  do  to  her  automobile's  beautiful  chassis. In the first instance, economic oppression is combined with benevolence, a combination which Herbert Marcuse would later define as the dominant mode of repressive tolerance.  45 In the 1940s, Boris Vian and Jean-Paul Sartre would also conflate negative white  American  female  sexual  protagonists,  and racial generally  characteristics in  a form  in  much  Celine's. Still, if the female anti-heroes in La Putain  disagreeable cruder  than  respecteuse  and  J'irai cracker sur vos tombes seem, on a superficial level, to owe more to Duhamel's  criminally  unquestionably  blase Mrs. Lytton,  their primary  influence  is  Lola.2  Bardamu's insensitive attempts to cadge money from his reluctant benefactor would also bear long-range fruit. At the time of his request, Lola is preoccupied with saving her mother from galloping liver cancer. Although it would clearly be in his best interest to humour his exgirlfriend's  pet fantasy,  this hardheaded  doctor-in-embryo  refuses  to  play along. When asked if he doesn't believe the disease is curable, Bardamu replies "—Non, repondis-je tres nettement, tres categorique, les cancers du foie sont absolument inguerissables" (Celine 222). Although Lola now despises him and wants him to leave post-haste, Bardamu continues to press his outrageous suit: "Lola, pretez-moi je vous prie l'argent  que vous m'avez promis ou bien je coucherai ici et vous  m'entendez  vous  repeter  tout  ce  que je  sais  sur  le  cancer,  ces  complications, ses heredites, car il est hereditaire, Lola, le cancer. Ne l'oublions pas" (Celine 223). As Henry Miller pointed out in The Books in My Life and  elsewhere,  development  of  his  own  Celine  was  literary  the  ethos,  greatest the  key  influence that  on  the  opened  the  wellsprings of his own sulphurous creativity. One can't help but be reminded of the many occasions in Sexus, Black 2  Spring, and Tropic  of  Lola, it might be worth mentioning here, is the most popular literary derivation of the name Lilith, according to Jewish folklore, Adam's disobedient first wife. For a more detailed consideration of her fascinating persona, please see Chapter Two.  46 Capricorn  where the cheerful  obviously  grief-stricken  feelings.  Celine's  narrator tries to cadge funds  from  without the slightest concern for the  misanthropic  narcissism,  his  gift  for  the  "mark's" torrential,  irrational literary utterance, would be adopted by Miller to suit his own New World needs. Since Boris Vian would subsequently bend Miller to his will in J'irai  cracker  "bestseller",  Americanized  this  sur  vos  tombes,  Vian's  one  Celine would return  out-and-out  to his place  of  cultural birth, just as Bardamu would return to France.3 Immediately  after  the Second World War, the "problem" of  United States seemed more insoluble ever. In 1918, the French  the  nation  could console itself with the thought that its army had made the largest single contribution to the defeat of the Triple Entente; in 1944, on the other  hand,  France  had  to  be  forcibly  liberated  by  Allied  troops,  spearheaded by American tanks, following four years of defeat and Nazi occupation. The upstart New World giant of 1918 was now the cocky super-power  of  1945, the w o r l d ' s  nuclear repository. the battered  foundry,  bank,  armoury,  Against complete U.S. hegemony,  and  sole  there stood  only  but still unbowed hulk of the Soviet Union, the Stalinist  juggernaut which had destroyed the Wehrmacht on the 3  Eastern  Front  In addition to the Miller connection, one should probably here make note of a much more indirect, difficult to determine case of cultural cross-pollination. After Bardamu himself, the most important character is unquestionably Robinson, the improbably-named Frenchman whom the narrator first meets on a murky battlefield. Like a bad penny, Robinson keeps turning up, in France, Africa and the United States. A character of exactly the same name also appears in Franz Kafka's Amerika, a character who plays precisely the same role. Even his name is suspect. A suspicious American in that book declares that '"I don't even believe that his name is Robinson, for no Irishman has ever been called that since Ireland was Ireland...'" (Kafka 173). In Frederic Vitoux's definitive La Vie de Celine, Amerika is not cited as a source of inspiration forVoyage au bout de la nuit. On the other hand, that could be because of the popular belief that Celine was a self-taught idiot savant, an ignorant loser who extracted poetry solely from personal experience and paranoia. In any event, the AmerikalVoyage connection is clearly worth further study.  47 at a cost to the Russian people of 10 - 15% of their pre-war population and 50% of their physical plant. Russia the Heroic, however,  was  counterbalanced by the gloomy spectre of Russia the Horrific, the prison camp country that was presided over by a brutal, paranoid, and selfintoxicated  dictator.  Europe's  former  pressure  from  Already  either exhausted  or in physical  imperialist powers were being put under both  Eastern  and  Western  power  blocs  ruins,  increased to  divest  themselves of their former  colonial possessions. In order to rebuild  their  it was necessary  shattered  economies,  for  these  countries  participate in Washington's Marshall Plan; to protect themselves  to  from  Stalin's T-34s, they were obliged to ally themselves with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, an umbrella group entirely dependent on American  military  machinery,  manpower  and—for  all  practical  purposes—foreign policy. After five years of Nazi embargoes, American films,  books  and  records  poured  into  France  and  other  European  countries in an unchecked flood. Never before had the New World's absolute strength in relation to the old continent of Europe, seemed as daunting  or  as  absolute.  Never  before  had  the  threat  of  cultural  absorption seemed quite as great. French intellectual reaction to the postwar U.S. must obviously take  these  historical  factors  into  consideration.  The  long  French  intellectual romance with Stalinist politics can only be understood in the context of a once great, now humbled nation that felt itself to be trapped between a rock and a hard place. accomplished  Cultural extinction could be  as easily with soft drinks and TV sets, many  French  writers felt, as it could with socialist realism and mandatory Russian lessons. Being schooled in the French tradition ofrealpolitik,  which is to  48  say, the guiltlessly amoral consideration ofinternational events in terms of national  self-interest  routinelyemployed  without recourse to the obfuscatory  by Anglo-Saxon  governments  whenever  rhetoric they  feel  the need to disguise their international events in terms of national selfinterest  without  recourse  to  the  obfuscatory  rhetoric  routinely  employed by Anglo-Saxon governments whenever they feel the need to disguise their less admirable actions—Gallic writers, philosophers, and journalists soon realized that America, by virtue of its nuclear arsenal and peerless arms industry, was likely to keep Russian troops off the Champs Elysees in the foreseeable  future.  Thus, with the  effective  blocking of one particuar foreign peril, they felt free to deal with the nearer,  more  immediate  threat  represented  by  American  neo-  colonialism. These basic facts had as much to do with the conduct of the French working  intelligentsia  as  did  sympathy  for  the  class, a mainly Bolshevik proletariat  country's  industrial  that gave the  French  Communist Party 30% of the vote during every national election. The heroic conduct of the Soviet Red Army and of French  Communist  partisans during the Second World War likewise gave the PCF a longerlasting  allure  than  its  Anglo-American  counterparts;  unlike  the  Americans and the British, the French felt no need to disguise the fact that the Russians had destroyed 58 - 75% of the Third Reich's military machine  (the figures  vary); they could  not delude themselves  believing that France had in any significant  into  way contributed to the  recent Allied victory. In many ways, Russia's over-the-horizon existence was immensely reassuring. As long as Bolshevism existed as a viable alternative, U.S. cultural control would never reach 100%. To maintain this comforting illusion, intellectual acceptance of the growing evidence  49 that pointed  to Stalin's  great mistakes  and murderous  paranoia,  to  crowded prison camps and organized famines, to purge trials and mass legal murder was accepted at a much slower pace in France than it was in any other Western European country, with the probable exception of Italy. For the French, the "workers' paradise" represented more than economic salvation; it was also an effective shield against the prospect of U.S. cultural absorption. One sees all these forces at work in the early editorials of Temps  modernes,  Les  the intellectual journal founded by Jean-Paul Sartre  and Simone de Beauvoir in the mid-1940s. The magazine's suspicions of the  motivations  behind  America's  Marshall  Plan  became  more  pronounced as events in Italy and Greece increasingly suggested that U.S. economic assistance only came with garrotting political  strings  attached, strings which invariably settled around the necks of left-wing groups. Though opposed to French colonialism on principle, Les modernes'  Temps  editorial board was no less sensitive to perceived French  perquisites than were their Gaullist and republican opponents. Whether monarchist believed  or socialist by conviction,  in the universal  Revolution  or  the  sun  virtually  culture inaugurated kings  of  the  all French  by either  seventeenth  the  and  thinkers French  eighteenth  centuries. Inevitably, this Universal Culture spoke with a French accent. In January of  1945, Sartre was one of the very first  French  intellectuals to visit the seemingly invincible United States. At that time,  the  existentialist  philosopher  was  a  moderate  supporter  of  Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal policies, and an unaligned socialist. Four years earlier, he had somewhat controversially published an essay on Herman Melville in the first wartime issue of Comoedia,  an arts-  50 oriented  newspaper  which  had  been  financed  occupying German forces (Lottman 252).  and  backed  by  the  Like most Frenchmen of his  generation, he saw America first and foremost as a land of material plenty, a place where the economic privations of occupied France did not  pertain.  entering  Sartre  into  sexual  enjoyed liaisons  the  nation's  with  opulence  a number  of  and  hospitality,  American  women,  including "Dolores," the lover who came closest to supplanting Simone de Beauvoir as his principal "long-term companion". As de Beauvoir put it in the third volume of her autobiography, "Sartre etait etourdi par tout ce qu'il vu. Outre le regime economique, la segregation, le racisme, bien de choses dans la civilisation d'outre-Atlantique le heurtaient: le conformisme des Americains, leur echelle de valeurs, leur mythes, leur faux optimisme, leur fuite devant la tragique; mais il avait eu beaucoup de sympathie pour la plupart de ceux qu'il avait approches; il trouvait emouvantes les foules de New York, et il pensait que les hommes valaient mieux que le systeme" (La Force des choses 45.) Even this brief "honeymoon period", though, was shot through with visceral revulsion at the pandemic conformism which first Sartre, and later de Beauvoir, professed to find everywhere in the U.S. In this regard, they clearly echoed Alexis de Tocqueville, that earlier champion of liberty whose mind was always above the fray. Perhaps because they were used to it by now, this quintessentially French reservation does not seem to have unduly disturbed Sartre's American hosts. His criticism of the U.S. State Department, on the other hand, came close to getting him deported. Twenty years later, Sartre would refuse to lecture in the United States on the grounds that this once insurrectionary republic had become the homeland  of  international  imperialism.  Strangely,  despite  the  51 completeness of his ideological disaffection,  the philosopher did not  devote any of his major writings to the problem of the U.S., with the notable  exception  of  La  Putain  respecteuseA  The  few  Sartrean  references to America which do in fact exist must be sought in the speeches, interviews and minor journalism, not in the important essays collected in Situations.  Many nations were of interest to this tireless  literary traveller, including Germany (the land where he completed his philosophical training before the war), Spain, Portugal, Italy, Brazil and Israel. The United States was not one of them. Even Sartre's attraction to American artistic techniques appears to have waned after the late 1940s.  Although Kate and Edward Fullbrook  claim in Simone de Beauvoir  and Jean-Paul  Twentieth  Century  Legend,  their revisionist re-evaluation of the most  important  literary  couple  of  the  Sartre: The Remaking  twentieth-century,  that  of a  Sartre's  breakthrough novel La Nausee was strongly influenced by Hemingway's A Farewell  to Arms,  the validity of their contention is more or less  irrelevant to our concerns, since it seems highly likely that this alleged admiration would have been cast aside at roughly the same time that Sartre  abandoned  literary  narrative fiction  technique—which  is  to  as a legitimate say,  around  twentieth  1949  century  (Fullbrook  and  Fullbrook 84). Indeed, his very praise of U.S.-flavoured writing carried with  it  a certain  American  literature  condescending "lay  precisely  dismissal. in its  For him, pragmatic,  the  value  action-oriented  nature, in its depthlessness and one-dimensionality" (Mathy 130).  4  A title which French bureaucratic prudery once insisted on printing as La p  respecteuse.  of  52 Albert Camus also visited the United States in the late 1940s. Like Celine and Duhamel, he subsequently "expressed astonishment at the beauty of American women, but also experienced what he called their terrifying inaccessibility, and [one of his friends] knew of cases where Frenchmen  had  confessed  to  become him  contemporaneously "Chinatown,  the  impotent  with  afterwards" with  Simone  Bowery,  American  (Lottman  385  de Beauvoir,  popular  dance  women, -  386).  he fell  halls,  for  they  Almost  in love  garish  and  with gawdy  nightclubs with floor shows" (Lottman 388). At one of his New York lectures, a thief stole the cashier's receipts, after which the audience generously made up this loss to their guest out of their own pockets: "Camus  himself  embodiment  of  was  enthralled  American  by  crime"  this  (Lottman  event,  seeing  it  383). Although  as  the  Sartre's  sometime political ally was soon to become his bitter intellectual foe, Camus  expressed  almost  identical  views  on  limitations  of U.S. writing. The Algerian-born  "American  techniques were useful  the  advantages  author  believed  when one was describing  and that  a man  without apparent interior life, and Camus admitted to having used these techniques. But to generalize such use would be an impoverishment, for nine tenths of what makes the richness of art and of life would thereby be lost" (Lottman 418). Thus, '"The American literature we read, with the exception of Faulkner and of one or two others who like Faulkner have no success in the United States, is useful as documentation but has little to do with art'" (Lottman 418). Camus's preference for American artists who were disdained on the home front was a sentiment to be dutifully repeated by countless French critics, writers, philosophers and filmmakers during the past half  53  century. To "discover" a despised American is in some way to make him less American and more French. This transmutational process probably began with Baudelaire's appropriation of Edgar Poe; it continues even now. To return for a moment to La Putain  respecteuse,  the first thing  that strikes the contemporary North American reader about this mid'40s drama is its strangely deracinated quality. Although Sartre had indeed visited the United States before composing this play, he seems every bit as indifferent to place as was the young Brecht before he fled Germany.  Passages such as the following do not inspire confidence in  the author's understanding of U.S. cultural mores: "Us venaient gagner  un  match  Americans  from  quintessentially corporate  pays  de  rugby"  (Sartre  the  Deep  South  British  game  is  des  35). getting  clearly  anglo-saxonnes  To  have  worked  pushing  the  a little too far.  football-mad up  over  myth  of  An  melodrama on the subject of lynching, La Putain respectueu.se the  shameful  path by which Lizzie,  a prostitute  de  from  a the  agitprop describes  New  York,  eventually manages to win the respect of her adopted Southern town by falsely claiming that a local black man attempted to rape her. While she is  initially  reluctant  to  participate  in  this  subterfuge,  so  many  arguments are brought to bear that she is eventually forced to submit to a murderous, socially-sanctioned lie. She is reminded repeatedly that she is not in New York any more, and that Black folks aren't much liked in her new home. As one well-heeled redneck puts it, '"J'ai  cinq  domestiques de couleur. Quand on m'appelle au telephone et que l'un d'eux decroche l'appareil, il l'essuie avant de me le tendre" (Sartre 33). In a place where racism apparently burns as brightly as a Klan cross,  54 the second most Satanic of the Southerners is the Senator, a silvertongued devil who plays "good cop" during the course of  Lizzie's  prolonged brainwashing. I say "second most", because the letter of entreaty that breaks through the Northerner's resistance was reputedly written by his wife. In part, it reads '"...il a tue un noir, c'est tres mal. Mais j ' a i besoin de lui. C'est un Americain cent pour cent, le descendant d'une de nos plus vieilles families, il a fait ses etudes a Harvard, il est officier—il me faut des officiers—il emploie deux mille ouvriers dans son usine—deux mille chomeurs s'il venait a mourir—c'est un chef, un solide rempart contre le communisme, le syndicalisme et les Juifs" (Sartre 55). Again we see the ghost of Duhamel's Mrs. Lytton. She is, however, only slightly worse than everyone else in this particular corner of hell. Sartre's critique of America is painted in the broadest, crudest strokes imaginable. It is a polemic that allows only the most reprehensible, disagreeable aspects of American life, each one magnified to maximum power, to appear upon the stage. Aside from its political signification, La putain  respectueuse  is as geographically and sociologically vague as a  play by Beckett or Ionesco. J'irai of  cracker sur vos tombes seems to have been inspired by one  the more  controversial  moments  in  this extremely  controversial  "melo". After playing Judas by signing her name to the document that falsely condemns him,  Lizzie attempts to assuage her guilt and appease  her conscience by offering the innocent fugitive her revolver, a means by which he might legitimately defend himself. Despite the whore's half-decent intentions, though, the Black victim refuses to accept this existentially meaningful  gift:  55 LENEGRE Je ne peux pas, madame. LIZZIE Quoi? LENEGRE Je ne peux tirer sur des blancs. LIZZIE Vraiment! lis vont se gener, eux. LENEGRE Ce sont des blancs, madame (Sartre 71).  Frantz Fanon  and other radical theorists  would  later condemn  this  "Uncle Tom" passivity as objectively reactionary, even if it did reflect the "Jim Crow" mentality of Southern Blacks prior to the birth of the U.S. Civil Rights movement. The playwright obviously agreed with them; in her memoirs, Simone de Beauvoir explained why the drama was revised for the cinema in a way that allowed the oppressed Black man to take up arms for himself and—by extension—tous les damnes de la terre: "Sartre, d'ailleurs, comprenait le point de vue des communistes: au niveau des masses, l'espoir est un element d'action; la lutte est trop severe pour qu'elles s'y risquent si elles ne croient pas a la victoire" (La Force des choses 129 - 130). A fellow  Saint-Germain-des-Pres  habitue  with  strong  feelings  against U.S.-style racial prejudice was Boris Vian, a bohemian polymath who belonged for a time to the existentialist philosopher's inner circle, eventually losing his first wife to that legendary womanizer, following  56 Michelle's decision to "defect" to Jean-Paul's unofficial harem.  A man of  many talents, Vian was simultaneously France's premier jazz critic, a noted experimental writer, a talented trumpeter,  a good  enthusiast  (please  Samaritan see  to  attached  visiting  bebop  appendix),  musicians,  a cabaret  artist,  a  film  and  a  punster and word game master who was almost as handy in English as he was in French. Of all the French writers of his day, he  was  unquestionably the one most sympathetic to American popular culture, as well as the one with the best sense of humour. In his capacity as France's number one jazz interpreter, it was Vian's enviable duty to squire the major Black musical celebrities who visited Paris around the City of Light. According to Noel Arnaud, "...tous les grands musiciens noirs, de passage a Paris, seront, comme le Duke, les hotes du Club Saint-Germain-des-Pres et de Boris Vian: Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Max Roach, Kenny Clarke, etc" (Arnaud personal  familiarity  with  Black  148). Because of this, his  American  viewpoints  was  almost  certainly greater than those of his French literary peers, since their knowledge  came  almost  exclusively  from  the  mouth  of  expatriate  novelist Richard Wright. Like virtually all white jazz musicians, he willingly acknowledged that the masters of his art were darker-hued than he. At that time, this was one of the few angles by which nonbiased European observers could properly appreciate the depth of Black talent even as it was submerged and blocked at every turn by the organs and ideology of institutional racism. Vian clearly took these lessons to heart. J'irai  cracker  sur vos tombes,  like Vian's later mock-potboilers,  professed to be a French translation of a novel penned by the light-  57 skinned mulatto, "Vernon Sullivan". Since Boris and Michelle Vian did in fact  translate Raymond  Chandler's  novel The Lady in the Lake into  French in 1948, the Sullivan mask was fairly easy to maintain, even if Vian did write his instant bestseller in ten quick days. Because of his position in the jazz community, the fantasy of being a light-skinned "Negro" who could "pass" was a fantasy that obviously appealed to him. He was also apparently inspired by an article that he'd read in an American monthly: "Tous les ans 20 000 Noirs transforment en Blancs. C'est ce qui ressort d'un recent article d'Herbert Asbury du 'Colliers'" (Arnaud  152).  In his bogus preface, Vian asserted that Sullivan's preference for the Black half of his heritage filled him with "une espece de mepris pour les 'bons Noirs'..." and his admiration for "des noirs aussis 'durs' que les Blancs"  (J'irai  cracher  sur vos tombes  9). More pertinently,  Vian  admitted the book's indebtedness to the writings of James M. Cain, as well as to the novels of Henry Miller, a then obscure American author whose more erotic books were sold only in France during the 1940s and '50s. In addition to those cited sources, the last lines of the novel's penultimate chapter are strongly reminiscent of the the denouement of Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, while the book's thematics were largely borrowed from fiction, Native  the pages of Richard Wright's most  famous  Son.  Except for its last nine pages, J'irai  cracher  sur vos tombes is  written in the first person singular. Lee Anderson, the novel's narrator, is, like "Vernon Sullivan", a light-skinned Black who can pass for white; because of the novel's origins, he is also a mask behind a mask. Imbued with a virility equal to his thirst for vengeance—Lee's  family  has  58  suffered  severely from  extremely  hardboiled  the ravages  of Southern  hero buys a bookstore  racism—the  in the small  book's town  of  Buckton, then proceeds to check out the local scene. His musical, as well as his sexual, gifts soon win him the favours of the local "good-time girls": "J'aurais toutes les filles les unes apres les autres, mais c'etait trop simple...."  (Tirai cracher sur vos tombes 41.) Instead he focuses his  attentions on the upper class Asquith sisters, Jean and Lou, the belles of Prixville  (considering  the  author's  familiarity  with  Anglo-American  slang, this might well be a pun in the vein of Dashiell  Hammett's  Poisonville). Every bit as promiscuous as Buckton's uncultured females, they  are  even  more  obnoxiously  racist.  When  Lee—whom  Lou  erroneously assumes to be white—insists that Duke Ellington is a greater composer than George Gershwin, the Asquith sister typically responds, "—Vous etes bizarre... Je deteste les Noirs" (Tirai cracher sur vos tombes 118.)  To keep  Christianity  his  spirit  mean  and  hard,  Lee rejects  the  pacific  which he believes has crippled the will of his  "good"  brother, Tom: "...je crois qu'on ne peut pas rester lucide et croire en Dieu, et il fallait que je sois lucide" (Tirai cracher sur vos tombes 43). The vengeance which Lee subsequently wreaks on Jean and Lou (a noxious  mixture  of  mutilation  and  Spillane's  standards,  impregnation,  murder)  would  never  mind  betrayal,  seem  rape,  excessive  James  M.  torture,  even  Cain's.  sexual  by  Mickey  Such  graphic  misogyny does as much to keep the book's (translated) pages off the American bookshelves of the 1990s as did its graphic depictions of Black rage and explicit sexuality in the 1940s.  In some ways, the book's  power to shock is greater than that of the more extreme fictions of Georges Bataille and the Marquis de Sade. Seeing the book as a two-  59 pronged  attack on Jean-Paul Sartre and Michelle Vian—in  instance,  by  respectueuse,  creating  a text far  more incendiary  the  than La  first Putain  in the second by symbolically slaughtering an "unfaithful"  woman—in no way softens the reader's double reaction of indignant outrage and horrified admiration. If there is such a thing as a maudit,  roman  this is definitely it.  To read subsequent Vernon Sullivan volumes is to be struck by the vast gulfs that separates their muted impact from the sulphurous heat of J'irai  cracker  sur vos tombes. Elles ne rendent pas compte, for  instance, is almost as misogynistic in tone, but in this case the text's anti-female comments are more ironically phrased, reflecting as badly on the (male) heroes "all-American"—and comically  ambivalent—sexual  attitudes as on the "bad" behaviour of the women in their lives. Even when dressed in drag, these braggarts obliviously assert their macho outlook: "Je risque rien, je dis. Moi je suis heterosexuel'" (Elles  ne  rendent pas compte 79).5 The book's hardboiled elements are equally lightly  handled,  although  the novel's  climactic  castration  scene  is  strongly reminiscent of Jim Thompson's more ghoulish endings. As for Et on tuera tous les affreux,  the roman noir elements are now  shot  through with pulp science fiction and espionage elements: "Prendre un coup sur la tete, ce n'est rien. Etre drogue deux fois de suite dans la meme soiree, ce n'est pas trop penible... Mais sortir prendre l'air et se retrouver dans un chambre inconnue, avec une femme, tous les deux dans le costume d'Adam and Eve, 9a commence a etre un peu fort" (Et on tuera tous les affreux 7). It is interesting to note that virtually all white American males in the Vernon Sullivan books are treated as 5  A good colloquial English title for this bagatelle would be Chicks Don't  Count.  60 sexual incompetents, latent homosexuals, confused puritans, and absurd virgins. Most French writers, at one time or another, have played this ego-building card; even Simone de Beavoir, surprisingly, once played it in L'Amerique  au jour le jour. In any event, the Vernon Sullivan series  declined rapidly after its explosive debut. Lynching seemed to be something of a magnet to French writers of the late 1940s. Even Jacques Prevert, that light-hearted poet and doom-laden scenarist, took a few potshots at the phenomenon in his second collection of poems, Histoires.  "Le Lunch", for instance, describes  the extra-judicial execution of a black "maitre d'hotel" who was hanged from a bridge for having the effrontery to gaze down "le decollete/ de la maitresse de maison" (Prevert 53). Although the widespread  French  mistrust of American females is less pronounced here, it is still implicit. How strange that in the land of Claude Levi-Strauss—the man who popularized  the  notion  commodities  within  the  that  females  framework  of  were  essentially  exchange  male  civilization—American  women should be made to appear so often as active agents of racism-inpractice,  rather  than  as just  a tendentious  excuse  trumped  up  by  bloody-minded Klansmen with a marked taste for New World pogroms and ratissages..  Without arguing that white American women were less  racist than their male counterparts  at mid-century—an  argument  for  which there is absolutely no evidence—it still seems most unlikely that they were more virulent in their expressions of racial autocracy. In any case,  their  translation  still-binding of  social  anti-Black  limitations  sentiments  generally  into  violent  prevented  the  action.  The  "demonization" of white Southern women must therefore be explained in psychological, rather than sociological, terms. Just as the New Yorker  61 represented the "good" American, so did the Southerner stand in his for his evil doppelganger. This division of American men into two separate types seems to have been doubly applicable in the case of American women. From the late '40s texts of Sartre, Vian, and Prevert, it would be virtually impossible for the uninformed reader to determine how much pleasure the authors had derived from their encounters in and with the New World. If the land they visited was the land of Cockaigne, the land they described was the land of Mordor. To find a more "binocular" vision of mid-century America, one must turn to the writings of Simone de Beau voir, the first important Frenchwoman  to write about the United  States. Describing her New World adventures in three separate books, de Beauvoir was as generous with her praise as she was scathing in her criticism. Collectively, L'Amerique au jour le jour, Les Mandarins, and La Force des choses comprise the richest French chronicle of American life since de Tocqueville's De la democratie en Amerique.  This achievement  is recognized even in the United States—always a good sign. In a recent New York Times Book Review article, "The Existential Tourist," Douglas Brinkley was fulsome in his praise of the first and least celebrated of these  volumes:  "For  women  and  men,  who  want  to  experience  vicariously Jack Kerouac's open road with less macho romanticism and more existential savvy, 'America Day by Day', hidden from us for nearly 50 years, comes to the reader like a botle of vintage cognac, asking only to be uncorked" (Brinkley 27). Even de Beauvoir's periodic  left-wing  polemics fail to faze this unabashed American admirer: "Although she regularly  mounts her  soapbox  to denounce  everything  from  atomic  weapons to bad food, she exudes maternal kindness to everyone she  62 meets, regardless of his or her narrow politics or jingoistic world view" (Brinkley 27). Indeed, it would probably not be pushing the comparison too far to say that de Beauvoir's books about America are almost as warmly embraced by Americans as Stendhal's pen portraits of Italy were by Milanese, Romans, and Neapolitans. In postwar terms, she sets the standard by which all other French interpreters of America must be judged. Ironically, L'Amerique book at all. Les  Temps  au jour le jour was never intended to be a  modernes  printed de Beauvoir's travel diary of  her first trip to the United States, and that was supposed to be that.  As  she confessed in her autobiography, "Je ne me premeditais pas d'ecrire un livre sur l'Amerique, mais je voulais la voir bien; je connaissais sa litterature  et,  couramment"  malgre  mon  accent  consternant,  je  parlais  anglais  (La Force des choses 137). Her linguistic fluency would  give her an advantage that most of her contemporaries lacked; Andre Breton, for instance, spent the war years in New York without learning to conduct L'Amerique  the simplest  English  conversation.  Although  stylistically  au jour le jour is the roughest of de Beauvoir's three major  American travel narratives, it is also the most detailed, exhaustive, and interesting. The author's American adventures, after all, were only one thread in the broader tapestries of Les Mandarins choses.  and La Force  des  What's more, de Beauvoir's journalistic impressions of the land  were often subservient to the "main story," her intense and emotionally fulfilling  affair  L'Amerique  with  American  author  au jour  le jour  effectively  Thus,  nothing  gets  importance. contemplation  of America, circa  in  and radical, disguises the  way  the of  Nelson  Algren.  U.S.  writer's  de  Beauvoir's  1945-1947. As she recalled in her  63 memoirs,  "J'etais  prete  a  aimer  l'Amerique;  c'etait  la  patrie  de  capitalisme, oui; mais elle avait contribue a sauver l'Europe du fascisme; la bombe atomique lui assurait le leadership du monde et la dispensait de rien craindre; les livres de certains liberaux americains  m'avaient  persuadee qu'une grande partie de la nation avait une sereine et claire conscience de ses responsabilites" (La Force des choses 138). Many of those hopes would be dispelled by her first  U.S. journey,  but  de  Beauvoir would describe even her growing disillusionment with great gusto and skill. Characteristically, de Beauvoir clearly felt more than a little guilty about the pleasure she derived from her first U.S. safari. At the very beginning of her first "American" book, she writes, "...j'ai traverse ce grand pays industriel sans visiter ses usines, sans voir ses realisations techniques, sans entrer en contact avec la classe ouvriere. Je n'ai pas penetre non plus dans les hautes spheres ou s'elaborent la politique et I'economie appeasement  des U.S.A" (rAmerique au jour le jour 7). This tone of does  not  last  long.  Soon  she  is  rhapsodizing  about  Broadway, the Great White Way where "...la lumiere en a lave toutes les souillures; c'est une lumiere surnaturelle qui transfigure  l'asphalte...."  (L'Amerique au jour le jour 13). After years of privation in occupied Paris, de Beauvoir is struck dumb by the giddy opulence of American drug stores and soda fountains. Though slightly more reserved about the value of the U.S. fashion industry (not without justice, she felt that "independent" American women slavishly dressed to please their men), de Beauvoir  gorges  herself  on Hollywood  movies  and  milkshakes,  marvelling all the while at the fat luxuriance of the Sunday edition of The New York Times. She visits New York's Spanish library; she smokes  64 marijuana  with  Greenwich  Village  bohemians;  she listens  to  Billy  Holliday. Above all, she is impressed by the warmth of the people: "Ce qui rend si agreable la vie quotidienne en Amerique c'est la bonne humeur et cordialite des Americains" (L'Amerique au jour le jour 30.) In these early pages, American "minuses" can seem almost like "pluses": "L'arrogance  des Americains  n'est  pas  volonte  de puissance,  c'est  volonte d'imposer le Bien...." (L'Amerique au jour le jour 71). Again and again  she contrasts  American  ways of behaviour  with their  French  counterparts: "Peut-etre les amities sont-elles en France plus solides et plus profondes: je n'en sais rien; mais en tous cas chez nous le premier accueil n'a jamais cette chaleur" (L'Amerique au jour le jour 53). As defensive  the  preceding  element  in  statement de  makes  Beauvoir's  clear,  there  relativistic  is  a  certain  pronouncements.  America might be big and grand, but in some essential way it is and must be spiritually inferior to Europe. Though de Beauvoir dedicated L'Amerique  au jour le jour  to "Ellen and Richard Wright," and visited  many places in their company, she felt no qualms about writing the following passage: "Hemingway ou Wright, si on les compare a un James Joyce, par example, n'apportent rien--ils racontent des histoires,  c'est  tout. Si nous aimons ces livres, c'est par une sorte de condescendance...." (L'Amerique au jour le jour 58). American literature, in other words, is useful to European authors in the same way that Benin sculpture was to Pablo  Picasso;  in  each  case,  a  "sophisticated"  European  derived  inspiration from talented but primitive "idiots savants". This feeling of ownership extends even to that most American  of arts,  syncopated  music: "Le public americain a plus ou moins assassine le jazz, mais il l'aime encore" (L'Amerique au jour le jour 54.) U.S. intellectuals, de  65 Beauvoir  complained,  were totally uninterested  in any living  writer  (such as Sartre or herself): "lis detestent tous les ecrivains vivants parce qu'eux-memes ne sont ni ecrivains ni vivants...." (L'Amerique au jour le jour  59.) This bias in favour  apparently,  directed inward  of the intellectually  deceased  was,  as well as outward. Much later in  her  journey, de Beauvoir would meet "...un professeur de l'universite qui me parle de Dewey, le seul philosophe connu et reconnu en Amerique" (L'Amerique au jour le jour 280.) Culturally speaking, America is still Europe's junior partner, but has the perversity to refuse to admit it. For dramatic  effect,  the  author  sometimes  puts  such  sentiments  American  mouths: "II existe, me disent-ils, une authentique  into  culture  americaine, heritiere de la culture europeene a laquelle elle se rattache directement...." cultural  (L'Amerique au jour le jour 58.) Like so many French  critics  before  and  since,  she  comments  on  America's  indifference to its greatest artists (which is to say, the American artists who  are regarded  as such by French  observers). According  to  de  Beauvoir, one cocktail party intellectual stammers, "'Edgar Poe...je crois bien que c'est un auteur francais....'"6 Fortunately,  not  all  her  comparisons  are  either  invidious  or  judgmental; many are made in a spirit of genuine inquiry: "Ce n'est pas la coutume ici de travailler dans les endroits ou Ton boit: c'est le pays de specialisation" (L'Amerique au jour le jour 23). Much of the material she transmits is both recondite and chilling. Her passages on drug abuse and youth violence fairly echo with sad prophecy. If anything, she seems even more prescient on the origins of Black anti-Semitism. Even in 6 A North American reader cannot help wondering how the academic "rube" in question might have responded if de Beauvoir had mentioned 'Edgar Allan P o e . " This usually shrewd literary tourist seems totally oblivious to that possibility.  66 1945, she reminds us, Washington, D.C. was America's most crimeridden  city.  In  Chicago,  a fifteen-year-old  strangling his eleven-year-old  friend.  boy  was  convicted  De Beauvoir visits the  of  electric  chair waiting at the end of the Windy City's Death Row, emotionlessly explaining, "Quand on execute un condamne, il y a quatre gardiens qui sont designes pour presser quatre de ces boutons: un seul donne la mort et personne ne sait lequel" (L'Amerique au jour le jour 368). Petrified by the Black Dahlia murder, the women of Los Angeles "ont peur de se promener apres minuit" (L'Amerique au jour le jour 123). This now all too familiar introduced  apprehension to  the  rich  was apparently and  famous,  de  then unprecedented. Beauvoir  is  When  anything  but  overawed by their celebrity. At a Hollywood party, she shakes hands with  "la  femme  de Chaplin  qui  est,  comme  d'habitude,  enceinte"  (L'Amerique au jour le jour 300). Such dry wit is quite common in this book by a writer who is often accused of being totally humourless. By the same token, de Beauvoir's impatience with bien pensant  thinking is  as sharp as it is merciless: "Chez les blancs 'eclaire' il y a a New York un snobisme de la musique et de la litterature noire" L'Amerique au jour le jour 320). The author's artistic reactions are generally insightful:  "Ce  que j ' a i senti souvent en ecoutant leur jazz, en parlant avec eux, c'est que le temps meme dans lequel ils vivent est abstrait" (L'Amerique  au  jour le jour 385). In the same way, her brief film reviews are generally sound. After viewing Mr.  Verdoux, for instance, de Beauvoir said of its  director "...on a l'impression qu'il a ete intimide malgre lui par son audace" (L'Amerique au jour le jour 27Vp  1  De Beauvoir's substitution of "Mr" for "M" in the title of Charlie Chaplin's film is symptomatic of what has always been the most unintentionally funny aspect of  67 As  she  toured  America,  de  Beauvoir  brought  with  her  the  intellectual baggage of previous French tourists. Following in Georges Duhamel's  footsteps,  she visited the stinking  Chicago, even as she dismissed as bogus the haughty  stockyards  of  academician's  claim that one couldn't see the landscapes of America on account of all the billboards. De Beauvoir's fascination with drugstores, soda fountains, and other prototypical "fast food" outlets had almost certainly  been  primed by Celine's earlier celebration of New York's automat.8 In New Orleans, like so many Parisian pilgrims before her, de Beauvoir listened to a local who spoke "...la francais que la Louisiane a herite du XVIIIe siecle" (L'Amerique au jour le jour 223). A trip to Niagara Falls invokes the shade of Atala's  creator: "Assurement, au temps de Chateaubriand,  avant que fussent baties les usines et les pavilions touristiques, ce paysage devait etre saissant" (L'Amerique au jour le jour 93). Nearby, she found a body of water that was "fantastic" in beauty: "Le lac est  French writing about America. English language spelling mistakes, misquotations, errors of agreement, idiomatic usage and capitalization are so ubiquitous in even the best French publications that anglophone readers must sometimes wonder if these untranslated passages have been proofread at all. These problems are exacerbated by an attribution of cultural habits that are totally alien to Americans. Thus, in Elles ne rendent pas compte, we read of an abstemious young man "...qui ne bois que du Perrier" (Elles ne rendent pas c o m p t e 77). In 1953 America, the non-alcoholic beverage of choice would obviously have been Club Soda. Even more comically, Jules Verne has U.S. Civil War veterans bellowing "Hurrah! Hip! Hip! Hip!" in the place of the standard "Hip! Hip! Hurrah!" (De la terre a la lune 32). While more recent writers, such as Pascale Quignard and Philippe Djian, tend to reproduce a more idiomatically exact English than did their francophone predecessors, this problem has been by no means resolved. 8 At the time she was writing, Celine was in exile, facing a death sentence in his native France for intellectual collaboration with the enemy. Of all living French writers, Celine was unquestionably the one she could least afford to cite favourably.  68 beau comme un paysage de Jules Verne...." (L'Amerique au jour le jour 93).9 When  not  following  in  the  footsteps  of  her  illustrious  predecessors, de Beauvoir preferred to go where Americans feared to tread. In this way, she visited Harlem, entirely on her own, despite her friends' entreaties not to. Here, she clearly felt, was the New World's New World. Of white America's ghetto fears, she wrote: "Qu'un bourgeois trop riche ait peur s'il aventure dans les faubourgs ou Ton a faim, c'est naturel [d'avoir peur]. II se promene dans un univers qui refuse le sien et qui un jour en triomphera. Mais Harlem est une societe complete, avec ses bourgeois et ses proletaires, ses riches et ses pauvres qui ne sont pas ligues dans un action revolutionnaire, qui souhaitent s'integrer a l'Amerique et non le detruire" (L'Amerique au jour le jour 40). De Beauvoir's Harlem is remarkably similarly to the urban playground of "Gravedigger" Jones and "Coffin Ed" Johnson, the fictional  policemen  created by Black expatriate (he lived in France for many years, before permanently settling in Spain) author Chester Himes. The Harlem that both of them described now exists no more than does the following swatch of prosperity-altered America: "Le Nevada est le pays le plus desert, le moins peuple et le plus pauvre des U.S.A." (L'Amerique  au  jour le jour 153). L'Amerique observations. contemporary  au  De  jour  le  Beauvoir  plight  of  jour  provides  U.S.  is  exceedingly  a penetrating  screenwriters—a  rich account  plight  in of  which  such the was  subsequently replaced by even worse perils. She makes veiled allusions  9 By the last decades of the 20th century, America will seem increasingly "science fictional" to French intellectuals such as Jean Baudrillard. More about this anon.  69 to cultural figures who might well be Gore Vidal, Dwight Macdonald and George Stevens. She explains why Jewish neighbourhoods can flourish in New York but not in Chicago, the Illinois city where competing Irish and Polish proletarian clans attack each other with an imperishable hate. She mentions the quotidian horrors of Jim Crow laws, without dwelling unduly  on  lynching,  this  detestable  expression. She charts the first  social  system's  most  steps taken by American  extreme politicians  during the early stages of the Cold War, and feels the cold breath of McCarthyism breathing down her neck. She speaks of Philip Wylie and the cult of "Momism," of an up-and-coming Black preachers named "le rev. A. Clayton Powell" (L'Amerique le jour le jour 62), and of a notably non-monolithic  culture:  "II  y  a  un  regionalisme  intellectuel,  en  Amerique; Henri [sic] Miller n'a pas beaucoup d'importance a New York, mais sur cette cote ouest ou il habite on le tient pour un genie" (L'Amerique le jour le jour 147). When de Beauvoir loves a place, she's not afraid to let you know it: "Nulle part la poesie du passe americain que dans les rues du vieux Boston...." Even her occasional "bloopers" are more amusing than annoying. It seems most unlikely, for instance, that she saw "une eglise de XlVe siecle" in Texas since the  European  colonization of the United States did not begin until le seizieme  siecle.  (L'Amerique au jour le jour 212). Still, despite her guiding sympathy for America, and regardless of the new intellectual territory which she staked out, Simone de Beauvoir fits seamlessly into the tradition of French literary tourism. Like de Tocqueville, de Beauvoir lamented the lack of true individuality in the United States: "En Amerique, I'individu n'est rien. II fait I'objet  d'un  culte abstrait...." (L'Amerique au jour le jour 100.) Her feminist views in  70 no  way  incline  her  towards  a  sympathetic  view  of  American  womanhood. She scorned what she saw as the coed's cult of frivolity, and clearly  disapproved  of the fact that 50% of female  university  students were still virgins: "Les college-girls exterieurement si faciles ont evidemment de fortes defenses interieures" (L'Amerique au jour le j o u r 334.) Putting her own unique spin on the standard French male critique of Yankee puritanism, de Beauvoir attributed this  unfortunate  state of affairs to non-stop war between the sexes: "Un des faits qui m'a ete tout de suite sensible en Amerique, c'est qu'hommes et femmes ne s'aiment t  pas" (L'Amerique au jour le jour 333). She attributed the  ubiquity of alcohol in America—a criticism exactly opposite to the one made by Georges Duhamel 20 years earlier—to America's need to break through the puritan straightjacket body.  of anti-sexuality and hatred of the  Like Claude Levi-Strauss, de Beauvoir's European sensibility  was overwhelmed by the very size of New World towns: "Les villes d'Amerique sont trop grandes; a la nuit leur dimensions se multiplent, elles deviennent les jungle ou il est facile de s'egarer" (L'Amerique  au  jour le jour 144). It would be all too easy to imagine Duhamel or Celine sneering  at  violemment  "les  toilettes  feminin,  [qui]  presque  m'ont  sexuel"  etonne  par  (L'Amerique  leur  caractere  au jour le jour  330).10 Like both her predecessors and her successors, the author initially "hung out" mainly with fellow French people in America. She was no way  clannish,  Americanism 10  though.  In particular,  she despised  of the local Petainists, disgraced  the vulgar  political  exiles  antiwho  Perhaps the strangest plank in the French cultural superiority package is the rather peculiar notion that primitive sanitation in some way bestows seriousness of purpose on a non-flushing nation.  71 insisted  that "cette attitude est la seule possible pour un  Francais  installe dans ce pays" (L'Amerique au jour le jour 24). Shortly after expressing disdainful  this  sentiment,  however,  de Beauvoir  comes up with  statement that must have made her Petainist  a  "opponents"  turn green with envy: "Si meme les intellectuels dits de gauche sont si fiers des boites de lait condense que leur gouvernement nous dispense, comment s'etonner de l'arrogance de la presse capitalistc.a I'egard de la France..." (L'Amerique le jour le jour 48). She is as appalled by Uncle Sam's lack of interest in France's universal culture as was that staunch conservative humanist, Georges Duhamel: "Le pire est que beaucoup de Francais sont complices de cette attitude; nos capitalistes font une active propagande anti-francaise  en Amerique; peut-etre est-ce leur  servilite  qui autorise certains Americains a parler de la France a une Francaise avec ce ton accusateur: le ton des officiers allemands quand ils disaient en occupant un village: 'Voila ou nous ont conduits vos politiciens et vos Juifs" (L'Amerique au jour le jour 281.) Here as elsewhere, she expresses the underlying belief common to so many  French  intellectuals  that the idea of France  is  somehow  separate from its political misdemeanors, while the idea of America is not. Though de Beauvoir would later play a major role in the French intellectual resistance to the War in Algeria, in America she feels no obligation  to  justify  France's  postwar  crimes  in  Indochina  and  Madagascar, never mind the still-festering wound of Vichy. In the City of Light, she can think of no analogous emblematic simile for U.S. ghettos: "Fiche au coeur de New York, Harlem pese sur la bonne conscience des blancs comme le peche original sur celle d'un Chretien" (L'Amerique au jour le jour 40). When de Beauvoir learns that the U.S.  72 State Department has forbidden the overseas distribution of The Incident  Oxbow  because said western dealt with the subject of lynching, de  Beauvoir, like any one of her noose-haunted contemporaries,  eagerly  reports this fact as if contained some almost cabbalistic secret. If de Beauvoir understands why so many American leftists abandoned Stalin in 1936, she clearly still regards this defection as a form of naivete at best, and possibly of mauvais foi. is quite happy to compare  Like an American tourist in Asia, she  an unfamiliar  place to a familiar  one:  "[Rockport est] St. Tropez moins colore...." (L'Amerique au jour le jour 304.)  Rapidly  wearying  of  her  trans-Atlantic  playground,  Beauvoir goes to see Roberto Rossellini's neorealist film, Roma: aperta  de citta  primarily "[pour] le plaisir de voir un film qui ne fut pas  americain"  (L'Amerique au jour le jour 335). Her disaffection is not  total, but it will prove to be permanent: "Aimer l'Amerique, ne pas 1'aimer: ces mots n'ont pas de sens. Elle est un champ de bataille...." (L'Amerique au jour le jour 389). De Beauvoir decides to return to her patrie:  "II va falloir reapprendre la France et rentrer dans ma peau"  (L'Amerique au jour le jour 389.) If America is France's "Other", it is an Other that can make Insiders seem Other to themselves, it would seem. According to de Beauvoir, only in France can a French citizen  fully  occupy his or her mental skin. With the exception of her affair everything  de  L'Amerique  au jour  the  aforesaid  Beauvoir  had  le jour.  incidents  did  to  say  with Nelson Algren,  virtually  about  said  America  was  in  Some of her subsequent re-imaginings of sometimes,  however,  provide  a  certain  balance to the more lopsided aspects of her original text. In Le s Mandarins,  for instance, de Beauvoir's grasp of American politics—or,  73 rather, of the perception Americans—had disappointed  grown  of by  American  leaps  by the capitalist  and  politics  bounds.  super-power's  shared  While  world  by  she  most  is  still  view, she is no  longer surprised by it, as one can tell from the following speech by one of the novel's few major American characters: "—Je ne comprends pas ce prejuge contre I'Amerique, dit Bennet.... II faut etre communiste pour ne voir en elle que le bastion du capitalisme: c'est aussi un grand pays ouvrier; et c'est le pays du progres, de la prosperite, de l'avenir'" (L_es Mandarins 383). Bennet's defensiveness, of course, is almost identical to de Beauvoir's own in L'Amerique  au jour le jour, albeit with the political  polarities reversed. It seems highly unlikely that the author could have written this speech without coming to terms with her immediate postwar insecurities. This softening confused  with  a weakening  of attitude should not, however,  of ideological  rigour,  complaint makes clear: "—Tous les intellectuels  as the  be  following  americains  plaident  l'impuissance, dis-je; c'est 9a qui parait un curieux complexe. Vous n'aurez  pas le droit de vous indigner le jour ou I'Amerique  completement fascisee et ou elle declenchera la guerre'" (Les  sera  Mandarins  534). As the author pointed out in her memoirs, the Korean war had in fact increased her hostility to U.S. foreign policy, and possibly to the United States tout court: "Depuis la guerre de Coree, mon aversion pour I'Amerique n'avait pas diminuee" (La Force des choses 395). Towards the end of her first travel book, the author somewhat belatedly conceded, "Nous avons d'autres facons que les Americains d'etre malheureux, d'etre inauthentiques, voila tout: les jugements que j ' a i portes sur eux au cours de ce voyage ne s'accompagnaient d'aucun sentiment de superiorite" (L'Amerique au jour le jour 389). As we have  74 just seen, this claim is more than a little questionable. Its good faith, though, is not. After the Second World War, French intellectuals would try  to  extend  their  imaginations  to  the  point  where  they  could  apprehend America the way it really was, instead of just re-confirming inherited hopes and fears. Much of the impetus for this came Claude Levi-Strauss  and the new science of structuralism. For  from this  reason, it probably behooves us to say a few words about the great anthropologist's first impressions of America. Before "discovering" America in the early 1940s, Levi-Strauss had "discovered" Brazil six years before. Thanks to the exigencies of the Second World War, his first U.S. port of call was not New York but Puerto Rico. Thus, his second American encounter, like his first, took place in a "Latin" corner of the New World. This chance circumstance was  to  permanently  colour  his  perception  of  cultural  difference,  distance and similarity: "Le hasard des voyages offre souvent de telles ambiguites. D'avoir passe a Porto-Rico mes premieres semaines sur le sol  des  Etats-Unis  me  fera,  dorenavant,  retrouver  l'Amerique  en  Espagne. Comme aussi pas mal d'annees plus tard, d'avoir visite ma premiere universite anglaise sur le campus aux edifices neogothiques de Dacca, dans le Bengale oriental, m'incite maintenant a considerer Oxford comme une Inde qui a reussi a controler la boue, la moissure et les debordements  de  la  vegetation"  (Levi-Strauss  36).  This  extremely  perceptive tourist was singularly impressed by the artificial  "antiquity"  of America: "En visitant New York ou Chicago en 1941, en arrivant a Sao Paulo en 1935, ce n'est done pas la nouveaute qui m'a d'abord etonne,  75 mais la precocite des ravages des temps"! 1 (Levi-Strauss  107). What  most overwhelmed the anthropologist about the New World, however, was the very un-European vastness of the place. As he wrote in his most famous book,Tristes  tropiques,  "...je l'ai ressentie devant la cote et  sur les plateaux du Bresil central dans les Andes boliviennes et dans les Rocheuses du Colorado, dans les faubourgs de Rio, la banlieue de Chicago et les rues de New York" (Levi-Strauss 86). To feel at home in this new environment,  the exiled Frenchmen felt the need to re-calibrate  his  sense of scale and space: "...sans doute, objectivement, New York est une ville, mais le spectacle qu'elle propose a la sensibilite europeene est d'un autre ordre de grandeur: celui de nos propres paysages; alors que les  paysages  systeme  americaines  encore  plus  nous  vaste  et  entraineraient pour  quoi  eux-memes  nous  ne  dans  un  possedons  pas  d'equivalent" (Levi-Strauss 86.) By  trying  geographical,  to  rather  explain than  French  discomfort  sociological,  in  the  Americas  terms, Levi-Strauss  in  hopes  to  demystify the problem. His matter-of-fact attitude is far removed from Jean-Philippe Mathy's more sociological approach to the phenomenon. For him, the dilemma is indisolubly linked to the fall of the regime:  ancien  "The advent of a market society was the undoing of the  traditional intelligentsia" (Mathy 7). Since America is the market society par  excellence,  by extension it became the devil incarnate, Old Europe's  new Carthage, its demonized "Other". In this new vacuum, the French felt  threatened  universal 1 1  "in  their  role  as the  self-proclaimed  leaders  republic of letters...," a position to which the Gauls  of  a  first  Obviously, Levi-Strauss is speaking exclusively here of post-European construction; the ruins of pre-Colombian America are amongst the oldest on the planet.  76 appointed themselves, Mathy believes, in 1558 (Mathy 35). Even now, this is a role which has not been entirely abandoned. In La defaite de la pensee—"new  philosopher" Alain Finkielkraut's 1987 cri de coeur o n  behalf of this long-vanished "universal" culture—the ideological villains of the piece might be Herder  and de Maistre,  and  their  political  inheritors ignorant cultural relativists and undemocratic Third regimes, but "born again" barbarism's principal economic  World  beneficiaries—  working almost entirely offstage, it must be admitted—would appear to speak with an American accent. A propos of Levi-Strauss's relativism,  Finkielkraut  complains,  "Le  roi  est  nu:  cultural  nous  autres,  Europeens de la seconde moitie du XXe siecle, nous ne somme pas la civilisation fugitive  mais  une  culture  particuliere,  une  variete  de  l'humain  et perissable" (Finkielkraut 87). Any temptation to take the  preceding  statement  at face  value is immediately  dispelled  by  the  following: "Dans le proces intente a la barbarie, les Lumieres siegent desormais  au banc des accuses, et non plus  a la place  que  leur  reservaient tout naturellement Leon Blum ou Clement Atlee: celle du procureur" (Finkielkraut 81). To invert Yeats's famous words, the best lack all conviction, while the worst are filled with passionate intensity. Finkielkraut's fear of New World/Third World barbarism will, by now, sound  remarkably  familiar  to  readers  of  this  chapter:  "L'identite  culturelle a deux betes noires: l'individualisme et le cosmopolitanisme" (Finkielkraut 105). The indignant philosopher never condemns America by name; by the same token, he never invites it to share the dock with the "individualistic, cosmopolitan" nations of Europe, the confederacy  intellectual  over which France still apparently presides. This  moral  supremacy, it would seem, resides in that nation's unique refusal  to  77  indulge in cultural chauvinism of any kind: "Au siecle des nationalismes, la France—ce fut son merite et son originalite—refusa l'enracinement de 1'esprit" (Finkielkraut 138). The thought that French "universalism" is in fact a particularly strident and arrogant form of cultural does not seem to have occurred to him.  nationalism  Only in America, and possibly,  at times, in England, does one find equivalent intellectual hubris. A number of French writers, of course, "absorbed" America in a much  quieter,  more  matter-of-fact  manner.  Marguerite  Yourcenar  spent much of her life in the state of Maine, but the experience of her adoptive homeland was not reflected in her writing.  While  one finds  much material about Japan and ancient Greece in the Pleiade edition of her complete  works, Yourcenar's  U.S. references  are more or  less  restricted to two appreciations of Anne Lindbergh's undervalued talent and the announcement that "un petit groupe d'amateurs eclaires" had mounted the first-ever Poussin exhibition in New York (Yourcenar 468). Maine was to her what the Greek islands are to so many  literary  expatriates: a place to digest the events of the past and write about things that have little to do with the immediate present. Of important French writers, only Andre Breton—who occupied war-time New York as if it were a quarter of Paris filled with an unusually large number of anglophone  tourists—and  Paul  Claudel—the  conservative  Catholic  playwright who was France's ambassador to Washington in the 1920s— were less preoccupied with the meaning of the New World than she. 12 12  While it is true that she was somewhat more garrulous on the subject of America in her letters to her friends, even there Yourcenar's attitudes towards the New World were more than a little ambivalent, both before and after she accepted U.S. citizenship in 1947. Her first description of the U.S. in her published correspondence is typically Eurocentric: "J'aurais aime vous parler de l'Amerique...il faut pourtant vous dire que I'ete indien est admirable, et que le paysage, en automne, arbore la livree de Peau-Rouge, l'epiderme cuivre d'Atala"  78  Yourcenar's  overwhelming  interest  in  times  past  and  places  distant most likely accounts for the veil of silence she drew across her U.S. sojourn. She was, in any case, something of a recluse. No such charge could be levelled against Saint-John Perse, however. A high ranking French diplomat and Free French hero who was stripped of his citizenship by the Vichy government in 1940, Marie-Rene Alexis SaintLeger Leger (the poet/ambassador's real name) corresponded with Winston  Churchill  and Franklin Delano Roosevelt,  regularly  worked  for  Archibald MacLeish at the U.S. Library of Congress, was best friends  (Lettres a ses amis et quelques autres 56). Elsewhere, while describing the topography of the Maine Island where she spent the better part of her life, Yourcenar insisted that this New World earth "ressemble un peu, je crois, aux Ardennes, si seulement les Ardennes et leurs forets etaient au bord de la mer" (Lettres a ses amis et quelques autres 193). Of the American Northeast in general, the author explained that "Cette region s'appelle la Nouvelle-Angleterre, mais ressemble plutot aux pays scandinaves" (Lettres a ses amis et quelques autres 432).Though generally considered to belong to the political right, Yourcenar, like so many other French intellectuals of all political persuasions, expressed great sympathy for the plight of U.S. Blacks—she translated James Baldwin's early writings, as well as many "Negro" spirituals—and insisted that she was singularly free from anti-Communist prejudice. In 1960, without much enthusiasm, she voted for John F. Kennedy, primarily because of "la basse propagande anticatholique" (Lettres a ses amis et quelques autres 189) employed by the Republican camp. References to American writers are still painfully few and continentallyoriented. What follows is the closest thing there is to a specific recommendation: "Je vous ai parle d'un court roman americain qui me parait interessant a traduire a cause de ses vertus d'actualite: ANTHEM d'Ayn Rand" (Lettres a ses amis et quelques autres 72). Like Yourcenar herself, Ayn Rand was a European intellectual adrift in America. More than 700 pages will pass before she praises another U.S. writer, Edith Wharton, and then only obliquely. On the other hand, this very Gallic Yankee was seemingly struck by certain random elements in popular U.S. culture. She would repeatedly praise Bob Dylan's song "Blowin' in the Wind," for instance, describing it as "l'un des plus beaux poemes de notre temps" (Lettres a ses amis et quelques autres 622). Carlos Casteneda's "Don Juan" books, Adele Davis's nutritional tomes, and Ralph Nader's anti-consumerism broadsides were likewise singled out for occasional praise. At times, Yourcenar's critiques of the New World sound "typically French": "les grandes nations technocratiques ne sont pas de grandes nations intellectuelles" (Lettres a ses amis et quelques autres 505). More commonly, though, they reflect her own state of "stoic" isolation: "...je me fais, je l'avoue, une idee...peu favorable de la litterature americaine, en particulier, et de la litterature contemporaine en general...." (Lettres a ses amis et quelques autres 505).  79 with the attorney-general of the United States,  lived in various parts of  the country between 1940 and 1950, was inspired to write much of his best poetry during this long period of exile, and was inducted into the National Institute of Arts and Letters at the very end of his protracted and highly  productive  stay. The deliberate  obscurity  of his  work--  rhyhmic, repetitive prose poetry loaded with oblique invocations amorphous  deities  and  even  vaguer  natural  forces—more-or-less  precluded the presence of specific place names and characters in Neiges,  and Vents.  to  Exil,  There is nothing unusual in that. What is textually  far more surprising is the lack of concrete detail that one finds in his correspondence, speeches and short articles. In communication with an American critic, he wrote, "...J'aime et j'admire la litterature americaine dans  son evolution proprement  americaine...."—and  then neglects  to  provide a single example of a work or writer of whom he approves (Oeuvres completes 555.) In homage to T.S. Eliot—the Anglo-American poet who had assured Leger's warm U.S. reception with the aid of an exquisitely rendered translation of his best-known work, Anabase  —  Saint-John Perse translated the first few lines of The Hollow Men into French, but readers will look in vain for a concrete appreciation of this or any other Eliot poem. To be fair, in one letter the author/diplomat did come close  to praising a 1944 Allen Tate collection of verse for  specific reasons, but his letter to e.e. cummings is mainly polite hot air. Its opening phrase is typical: "De vous, poete ne et tres princier...." (Oeuvres  completes  1041). Leger was always willing to encrust his  prose with bombastic "antiquity". His "Hommage a Jacqueline Kennedy" began as follows: "Quand les Furies du drame antique font irruption sur la scene moderne, cherchant encore la mesure de l'etre humain a la  80 limite de l'humain, il semble qu'elles veuillent epargner, pour la mieux supplicier, une victime d'elite entres toutes choisie, et comme prise en temoignage, pour repondre de la force l'epreuve" diplomat  (Oeuvres liked  completes  everything  about  humaine du plus atroce  de  535 - 536). Seemingly, this poetthe  United  States  except  its  unfortunate adhesion to the real world. Belgian-born novelist Georges Simenon lived in the U.S. for a decade, and did indeed situate a number of his books in his new place of residence. Inspector Maigret's first impressions of the "Big Apple" were somewhat depressing, as befits a noirish text: "II pleuvait. On roulait dans un quartier sale ou les maisons etaient laides a en donner la nausee. Etait-ce cela, New York" (Tout  Simenon 545). Maigret is  annoyed by America's irritating lack of apartment house concierges and telephones with double ear-pieces. Conversely, he is delighted by the capacity of American bars and the miracle of room service. Rather intriguingly, at this time (circa 1947) the inspector's U.S. hosts believe that his French nationality means the visiting flic must hate whiskey, an assumption which leads one to suspect that this particular beverage had not yet caught on in Paris. As always, Simenon's alter ego is very observant. He enters New York neighbourhoods  that are cities unto  themselves, "...avec [des] maisons pas plus haut qu'a Bordeaux ou a Dijon...."  (Tout  Simenon 597). Like Celine, Maigret's creator would  discover "...la Cinquieme Avenue et ses magasins de luxe aux vitrines desquels il s'arreta" (Tout  Simenon 570.) Like Simone de Beauvoir,  Francois Combe, the displaced French actor hero of another Simenon novel, Trois chambres  a Manhattan,  would be struck by "...les lumieres  de Broadway, avec de la foule noire qui coulait sur les trottoirs" (Tout  81 S i m e n o n 203). Simenon was as susceptible to the exotic charm of the American  Southwest  as  anyone:  "Tucson  est  la  plus  charmante  caricature de 1'image que tous les Europeens se font de la 'conquete de l'Ouest': le desert, les villages fantome, l'influence mexique si proche, le spectre des missions espagnoles et celui de Geronimo... Tout y est. Dans la vieille ville reconstitute on ne serait pas etonne d'assister a l'attaque d'une diligence" (Assouline 549 - 550).  Although a man of the right  who had fled France to escape the taint of being considered one of the Nazis' intellectual collaborators, even Simenon was eventually  driven  from the shores of his once adored America by the rise of McCarthyism. As his principal biographer put it, "Ce torrent de boue, de haine et d'injustice acheve de dissiper ses dernieres illusions sur une democratic qu'il avait quelque peu idealisee" (Assouline 579). In the early 1940s, of course, the moral question seemed much simpler:  it  was  quite  possible  for  anti-Nazi  French  refugees  to  distractedly approve of the United States without in any way being interested in the country itself. This state of mind certainly applied to Andre Breton's Surrealist circle, which tended to treat New York like a Gallic outpost on Mars. It was also true of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the aviator/novelist who was, at that time, one of the most admired authors in the world. Virtually all of Saint-Exupery's polemical writings during the years 1941 - 1944 were devoted to the evils of Nazism, the need for occupied Frenchmen to overcome their political differences, the moral necessity of fighting for Free France without psychologically succumbing to General de Gaulle's self-aggrandizing caudillismo,  and—a very distant  fourth priority—America's moral responsibility to rescue the world from an evil political system that was inherently inimical to its own. While  82  living  in  expressed  disagreeable  safety  his solidarity  in  America,  the  author  with those of his fellow  countrymen  regardless of their political loyalties, had actually fought 1940,  as opposed  to those who—biens pensants  repeatedly who,  for France in  all, of whom his  particular bete noire was the dictatorial "pope" of Surrealism—merely whinged  from  comfortable  armchairs.  Even  while  travelling  on  a  troopship to North Africa with the Allied invasion fleet, Saint-Exupery tended to see America as a means, not an end: "Les cinquante mille soldats de mon convoi partaient en guerre pour sauver, non le citoyen des Etats-Unis, mais l'Homme lui-meme, le respect de l'Homme,  la  liberte de l'Homme, la grandeur de l'Homme" (Saint-Exupery 398). These "universal" virtues were not, of course, universal at all; they were, rather, the humanistic patrimony of 1789. Within  the overall  framework  of  Franco-American  intellectual  relations, Jacques Maritain is one of the more difficult individuals to situate.  An  orthodox  Catholic  philsopher,  Maritain  was  neither  a  backward-looking reactionary like Paul Claudel, a machine-hating antimodernist  like  Georges  Bernanos,  Simone Weill, nor a left-leaning  a  Christian/Marxist  hybrid  like  believer like Francois Mauriac. A  regular visitor to the United States, in the mid-1950s Maritain wrote a book on his impressions of the country in his hosts' language, English. Prior to this, however, he had often participated in cultural exchanges between  his  two  favourite  countries,  using  radio  broadcasts  and  interviews as his preferred forum. During the Second World War, he was a propagandist for the Free French cause, a propagandist who never tired of reminding his fellow Frenchmen of the ties of amity that bound them to America: "Dans ce message je vous dire que le peuple de France  83 tient  toujours  americain...."  une  place  (Oeuvres  privilegiee  completes.  dans  Vol.  le  coeur  du  peuple  VIII 387). Of all French  interpreters of America, he was perhaps the one most loath to overgeneralize. In a pre-war interview, he explained, "Je ne suis pas de I'ecole de M. Claude Farriere, auquel les Etudes reprochaient  recemment  d'avoir juge des choses de Chine, apres avoir passe quelques jours seulement Reflexions  dans le pays" (Oeuvres sur  I'Amerique,  Vol.  VII  1083). In  Maritain began the book by assuring his  readers that in this study "...on politique...si  completes.  ne  trouvera...aucune  allusion  je devais jamais ecrire sur ce sujet, et plus  sur la politique  Internationale,  toujours flatteuse  meme pour  j'aurais  a  la  particulierement  bien des choses a dire, et pas  les pays que j'aime  le plus"  (Ouevres  completes. Vol. X 768). As you have no doubt already guessed, those two countries were America and France. Most of what Maritain has to say about the U.S. is extremely flattering to the national amour  propre;  Southern American racism being somewhat soft-pedaled,  though  even  it's not entirely ignored. In general, Maritain approves of American materialism and the country's preference for the future over the past. His few  criticisms  sound  more like gently  chiding Jansenism  than  blistering jeremiads; basically, he accuses Americans of being too good to be true. The following  statement is fairly typical of this line of  thought: "Au premier coup d'oeil il semblerait meme que I'Amerique croit a la maniere de Jean-Jacques Rousseau en la bonte de la Nature, en la bonte naturelle de 1'Homme" (Oeuvres completes. Vol. X 867). Clearly, such a put-down carries about as much sting as one of Sophie Portnoy's autocritiques. While generally avoiding trans-cultural specifics, Maritain professed to believe in "...une  mysterieuse  affinite,  une singuliere  et  84 profonde  sympathie,  convergentes"  qui  rendent  leur  destines  historiques  (Oeuvres completes. Vol. X 768).  In this respect, at least, Maritain's socio-cultural allegiances seem less anomalous. Politically, he is an Atlanticist, one of those right-ofcentre French intellectuals who opposed both the French  Communist  Party and the existentialists in their undisguised preference American  side  occasionally  of  the  Cold  War.  Both  Gaullist  and  for  the  non-Gaullist,  even socialist, the Atlanticists were a not  insignificant  factor in the intellectual life of post-war France. The most prominent member of this faction was unquestionably Raymond Aron. In U.S. journals of the 1970s and '80s, it was quite common  to  champion  see  of  negative  Aron  portrayed  democracy  (pro-Communist)  whose  as  the  "positive"  presence  policies  of  (pro-American)  effectively  Jean-Paul  blocked  the  While  this  Sartre.  Manichean duality theoretically imbued the hard French left with a political power it never in fact enjoyed, on the mythological level it did fill a certain void. Sartre could be dismissed as all theory and no sense; Aron, on the other hand, was as unimaginatively pragmatic as Benjamin Franklin himself. No State Department official could read the following passage and not preen: "La Revolution americaine fonda la Republique et les libertes, la Revolution francaise dechaina un quart de siecle de guerres  et  donnerent decadente  laissa des  en  lecons  heritage aux  une  nation  Bolcheviks"  354.) The rationale  for  dechiree.  (Plaidoyer  Plaidoyer  Les pour  can found  Jacobins l'Europe in the  introduction to Aron's study of post-war U.S. foreign policy: "Je deteste la tyrannie stalinienne impose a cent millions d'Europeens au lendemain de la guerre menee au nom de la liberation des peuples" ( R e p u b l i q u e  85 Imperiale  13). When one reads both statements together, the gist of  Aron's pro-Americanism becomes clear. The author wants to live in a prosperous, non-Communist Europe; in order to do so, the United States must appear strong and its moral authority more valid than that of its opponent.  In the post-war world, no Frenchmen,  with the  possible  exception of hardcore Gaullists, seriously believed that France was still a great  power  that  could  independently  determine  its  own  political  destiny. To survive, one had to choose between champions. Sartre chose Russia, Aron the United States. In both cases these alliances were made primarily  out of interest in the future  of Europe and the  cultural  survival of France. Within this mindset, the Soviet Union was no more real than the U.S.A.; both were powerful abstractions that provided the background for the more serious business of foreground life. Each one was neither entirely real nor entirely fictitious. One of the last traditional French travellers to the New World was Michel Butor. Like Saint-John Perse, Butor wrote about the U.S. mainly in verse, although his verse was as concrete as the older poet's was amorphous. Mobile,  for instance, is a sprawling 500-page prose poem  that describes a day in the life of 50 states. Catalogues of ethnic publications  printed  in  small rural  towns  lie  cheek-by-jowl  beside  historical vignettes of doomed Indian messiahs and runaway slaves. As in Leger's work, repetition is important, but in this case it is used to represent uneasily  the  homogenization  of  America,  a  homogenization  co-exists with the nation's heterogeneity. Dedicated  that  to the  memory of Jackson Pollock, abstract impressionism's best-known action painter, Mobile  can be read as a kind of splintered prism, a drunken,  kaleidoscopic image of a nation in perpetual motion. In structure, the  86 work bears some resemblance to Ezra Pound's Cantos,  even though its  high-speed,  are  removed  sometimes  from  deliberately  Pound's  superficial  reference-rich  verse.  lines  light-years  Announcements  of  the  author's own presence in America are few and often funny, as when, in a catalogue  section  devoted  to  local  birds,  he refers  to  "Butors  americains...." (Mobile 373). Only rarely does the verse turn lyrical: "La merjles  flamm.es  des  des grands hotels,/les  raffineries  derriere  nous,/les  damiers  signaux des avions dans le cieljle  lumineux  bruit du vent  dans les derricks,/oublie  ta blancheur dans la nuit" (Mobile 468). More  commonly,  it involves  details  historical  passages  unsurprisingly,  relating  are replete  with  chasing to  details  Native  chasing  and  details.  The  African-Americans,  de Tocqueville's  doomed,  fatalistic  romanticism. In the same "traditional" vein, Butor opened 6 810 000 d'eau  par seconde  litres  with quotes from Chateaubriand to explain the eight  tones of voice which would be employed in this "etude  stereophonique"  of Niagara Falls. Various pairs of newlyweds say their piece as the honeymoon town passes through the four seasons of the year. "Quentin," a visiting professor of French at the University of Buffalo and almost certainly the author's alter ego, laments his sexual solitude in such a place: "Et moi qui suis loin de ma femme vivante, separe d'elle par toute l'epaisseur de l'Atlantique" (6 810 000 litres d'eau par seconde 273). Various pairs of Black gardeners function as a kind of Greek chorus throughout the work. Butor gives Chateaubriand the book's last word, reproducing  the title and sub-title of the early nineteenth-  century  author's best-known work: "Atala, ou les amours de deux sauvages dans  87  l'epaisseur de l'Atlantique" (6 810 000 litres d'eau par seconde 273). Various pairs of Black gardeners function as a kind of Greek chorus throughout the work. Butor gives Chateaubriand the book's last word, reproducing  the title and sub-title of the early nineteenth-  century  author's best-known work: "Atala, ou les amours de deux sauvages dans le desert" (6 810 000 litres d'eau par seconde 281). Butor is a transitional figure in the history of French travellers in America. While Philippe Djian, Philippe Labro, Philippe Sollers, Julia Kristeva, Pascal Quignard, Jean Baudrillard, and many other  French  writers will continue to regale French readers with their adventures, either  in  America  or  among  Americans,  their  grounding  will  be  somewhat different. For the "children of Marx and Coca Cola," France and America will no longer be the mutually exclusive entities they once seemed to be. With Euro Disney encroaching on the Eiffel McDonalds business  fast-food  virtually  outlets  putting  by the minute, and  centuries-old airwaves  bistrots  and movie  Tower, out  of  screens  completely dominated by U.S. (sub) cultural product, France is no longer the reassuring Beauvoir  fortress  so gratefully  to which  Georges  Duhamel  and  Simone  retreated. By the same token, America,  de now  fighting for economic supremacy against Japan, Southeast Asia's "young tigers," and an economically bullish European Economic Community, is no longer the island of isolation it once was. In Chapter Four we will continue this discussion within a radically changed historical context, a time when the largest corporations are in many ways more powerful than long-established nation states. It is now painfully  obvious  that  William  Gibson's  dystopian  near-future  of  powerful companies "in cahoots" with organized crime while ordinary  88 citizens struggle to survive in continental power blocs with no obvious political authority no longer belongs to the realm of science fiction. Like cyberspace  and cybercrime, these are quotidian realities which  will  have an incalculable impact on the first half of the twenty-first century. For our descendants, the notion of national travellers foreign  places  in search of exotic experience  might well  visiting seem  as  impossibly quaint as a visit to the beach without recourse to powerful sunblocks. To find  anything unique might appear as improbable  as  discovering Dr. Livingstone in the jungle. By, say, the year 2050, no twist of the Amazon river might be more than fifty miles away from the nearest home entertainment centre, while the doors of even the most austere  temples,  churches,  pagodAS,  and  minarets  might  well  be  At some point within the next hundred years, presumably,  the  overshadowed by the ubiquitous golden arch.  foreseeable future which I have described will be radically changed by any number of unforeseen natural catastrophes, economic upsets, and social revolutions. How this metamorphosis will occur, however, and whether it will be for the better or the worse, is still, at the time of this writing, anyone's guess. Thus far, we have restricted our investigation primarily to the upper end of Franco-American travel literature; in Chapter Two, we will both broaden and lower our sights, zeroing in on the history of crime fiction in France, America, and—for the first time—Italy. Within the context of this study, France and the U.S. should be thought of as past and present phases of global cultural power. Italy, for a variety of reasons, provides an interesting contrast to these poles. As "creative" as America and France, Italy has failed to exercise cultural hegemony over  89 the world since the Fall of the Roman Empire, even though it has probably contributed more to the arts than any other nation. Open to, according to some critics, an alarming degree of outside influence, it is also intensely insular, cosmopolitan and provincial at the same time. Because its "greatness" and "weakness" are so hopelessly intertwined, Italy makes the ideal sounding board for two more resilient powers who, nonetheless, fear that they, too, might "break". The relationship ship of social history to the creation of distinct crime genres will also be considered in some detail. The stories  of  an economically  conservative,  socially  detective  egalitarian  society  founded on the strength of a loosely-commanded, arms-bearing militia are sure to differ from those of an equally revolutionary, but more established polity founded on the bones of an ancient monarchy, while the police fictions of both are sure to seem alien to the lives of a people whose immersion in local culture is immense, but whose experience of a viable, universally-recognized political authority is extremely limited. If the comparisons between these contrasting  cultures  are not  always simple, obvious or linear, this is all to the good. Cultural crosspollination has become the defining mode of late twentieth century life, after all, and, like every "biological" process, it is somewhat messy. For this reason, the shapes of chapters two and four (the latter  section  expanding the parameters of this sociocultural dialogue still  further,  with  to  its  analysis  of  Quebecois  self-perceptions  in  regard  the  province's unhappy role as an outpost of both Old and New World empires in a troubled present where micro-nationalisms while macro-nationalisms  wax  wilt and wane) must be "romantic",  wildly while  chapters one and three can afford to be "classical". Only in this way can  90 we hope to achieve a three-dimensional view of what goes, is going, or has already gone.  91  Chapter  Two: Mid-Atlantic  Melodrama: or. A Meeting of the Mafias  Determining dates of cinematic origin is almost as difficult  as  pinpointing precise moments of evolutionary change in the history of the world. As Tag Gallagher wrote of the cowboy movie in his truculent essay, "Shoot-Out at the Genre Corral: Problems in the 'Evolution' of the Western", the linear progression of form championed by Thomas Schatz and other genre critics is largely illusory. Between 1909 and 1915, Gallagher sneered, "there were probably more westerns released each  month than during the entire decade of the 1930s" (Grant 205).  Most of these movies are now lost, and film historians are generally unfamiliar with the few that remain. Thus, they are ignorant of the period fact that, by the time of the First World War, "cliches [were] already an issue" (Grant 206). As it was with the western, so it is with the detective While D.W. Griffith's The Musketeers  story.  of Pig Alley (1912) is sometimes  described as the world's first true gangster movie, it almost certainly benefitted from the innovations previously pioneered by numerous nowforgotten genre pieces. Motion picture "firsts" generally refer to the successful  launch  dates  of  subsequently  imitated  conventions  and  ideas, concepts which would typically have been worked out long before their formal induction by the film industry as a whole. While one can, with some assurance, enumerate the inventors of technological cinema, it is far more dificult to identify the medium's  ideological and aesthetic  milestones.  What  92 this means, essentially, is that cinematic history, like all history, is written  not just  by but for the  "victors"  (a  word  which,  in  early  filmmaking idiom, is often synonymous with "survivors"). This is something readers should keep in mind while processing these reflections on the relationship between the American crime story and its French and Italian equivalents. Attempts to nail down precise turning points in the history of film  noir  and poetic realism, of the  polar and the mid-Atlantic gangster movie, are foredoomed to failure by the incomplete  archives and commercially-driven  memory of  motion picture industry itself. Boxoffice successes are almost  the  always  remembered; boxoffice failures are often forgotten. This disclaimer means that the widescreen policier not begin with The Musketeers The Italian,  probably did  of Pig Alley, or, more obscurely, with  a 1915 vintage potboiler which Michel Ciment described as  "une premiere version miniature du Parrain II de Coppola...."  (Ciment  21). Indeed, that honour might not even belong to a French  short  released in 1901. According to Jean-Pierre Jeancolas, On considere generalement L'Histoire du crime, attribue a Ferdinand Zecca, comme le premier 'polar' de I'histoire du cinema francais, 'drame en six vues," du la catalogue Pathe de 1901, long de 115 metres, qui evoque successivement I'assassinat d'un banquier, I'arrestation du meutrier dans un cafe (mauvais lieu), la confrontation du meurtrier et de sa victime a la morgue, le meurtrier dans sa cellule (cette scene est fameuse aussi par les incrustations dans le haut de I'ecran qui illustrent les reves, ou les souvenirs, du prisonnier), I'arrivee du bourreau et la toilette du condamne, enfin I'execution sur la bascule a Chariot—ce dernier tableau aurait choque par son realisme, au point que les exploitants I'auraient souvent supprime pour eviter des ennuis avec avec les polices municipales en un temps ou il n'existait pas encore de censure ministerielle (Jeancolas 90).  93  Five years lensed  Les  later, Georges Melies, the father of fantasy Incendiaires,  filmmaking,  an atypically realistic look at an arsonist  whose mania leads him to the scaffold. Two years after that, Victorin Jasset shot Nick  Carter, a 9-part serial that was inspired by American  detective stories then being published in French translation—a tradition which would assume major importance after the Second World War. One of Carter's  principal foes was Zigomar,  a criminal  mastermind  who  preceded Fritz Lang's Dr. Mabuse by almost two decades. Advanced intellectual circles were particularly keen on Fantomas Surrealists  [being]  struck  by  Feuillade's  vision  of a  (1913), "The 'defamiliarized  reality'" (Abel 75). For early twentieth-century poet Michel Bouzat, the masked master criminal was "Mon frere en Sade/mon assassin/superbe et  malfaisant/mon  bouquet  tragique/ma  grande  ombre/ma  tache  pourpre/indelible" (Fantomas 1201). That Fantomas, Zigomar and their affiliated friends and enemies were the natural by-products of France's commercially-driven  entertainment  industry,  owing  nothing  at  all  to  the dictates of "high" art, made them seem all the more appealing to members  of an artistic avant-garde  with deep cultural  reservations  about both the classic and romantic canons. They rejoiced in the fact that Feuillade's name "commence comme feuilleton" (Dufreigne 15). Such  Gallic  precocity  is  anything  but  surprising.  Until  the  outbreak of the Great War, French studios controlled more than 60% of the world motion picture market. In their heyday, studio heads Louis Gaumont and Charles Pathe were far more powerful than the American moguls who would succeed them as captains of (celluloid) industry in  94 the 1920s and '30s. For twenty years Paris established leads which Hollywood and New York could only hope to follow. At the turn of the century, the City of Light was, like Berlin and Vienna, one of the principal germinators of new cultural ideas. As T.J. Clark emphasized in The Painting where the creation of les grands service these diversions.  "It  of Modern magasins  Life, Paris was the place  and the classes needed to  innovations opened the floodgates to a rash of began,"  he  suggested,  "with  the  new  feuilleton,  the  chromolithograph, and the democratization of sport, and soon proceeded to  a  tropical  tobacconists,  diversity football,  of  forms:  museums,  drugstores, movies,  news  cheap  agents  romantic  and  fiction,  lantern-slide lectures on popular science, records, bicycles, the funny pages,  condensed  Frangaise"  books,  sweepstakes,  swimming  pools,  Action  (Clark 235).  While searching for material to adapt to the screen, early French filmmakers proved particularly susceptible to the charms of the serialized newspaper novel. Les Mysteres de New York (1915) was quite shamelessly inspired by Eugene Sue's feuilleton, Les Mysteres Paris (1842). In Le Cinema  de  frangais, film historian Georges Sadoul said  of Louis Feuillade, the unchallenged king of the cinematic chapter play, that his thrillers had adopted "avec une verve facile, les utilisees par Emile Zola dans ses Rougon modestly, contemporary  Macqart..."  methodes  (Sadoul 16). More  French film critic Thierry Jousse  his enthusiasm for Feuillade's 1915 serial Les Vampires  expressed  (in which the  anagrammatical Irma Vep made her onscreen debut) in the following terms: "La force, encore presente, de cette serie est de nous plonger directement dans I'atmosphere de la Belle Epoque, d'un temps ou le  95 roman populaire croisait le serial et les journaux pour composer recit  de violence, d'aggressions  nocturnes,  d'assassins  en  un  cagoule  noire, de femmes mysterieuses, d'orgies de cabarets" ("Les Vampires" 120). During the early years of the 20th century, onscreen crime in American were  movies typically occurred in comedies  popular)  or westerns  (where  shoot-outs  (where  and  kidnappings  punch-ups  were  preferred). Although organized crime was already well-established  in  American cities, it was seldom at the centre of movie plots, being used primarily as a temptation with which to lure poor-but-honest  country  boys off the straight-and-narrow-path. In 1910, memories of the "wild West" were not only still vibrant, but virtually current. No one could be sure the last Indian war had been fought; train robberies were occasionally outlaws  from  committed, while holding  up  nothing, technically,  banks  on  horseback.  stopped The  still  Western  chronological  proximity of the cowboy's heyday contributed greatly to his cinematic allure. Despite occasional sorties in the direction of the mob—Josef von Sternberg's  1927  silent  feature,  Underworld,  being  the  most  distinguished of these—the Hollywood studios would not constitute the gangster movie as a separate genre until the early 1930s, at a time when the novelty of sound recording equipment allowed directors to reproduce the chatter of machinegun fire and the squeal of getaway tires. In the words of Italian film historian Giuseppe De Santis, during the early days of the Great Depression "L'America...era preoccupata...di creare una nuova formula destinata, insieme all'altra che portava alia rabata  la vita dei gangsters, a sostiture  con successo  il  glorioso  'Western'..." (De Santis). Michel Ciment, on the other hand, taking a  96 longer (1992) view of U.S. cinema, sees the genres as complementary, rather than successive: "Le cowboy et le gangster sont les deux grands figures legendaires de rAmerique. lis incarnent une nation, jeune et puritaine, qui nait dans la violence et reduit volontiers les problemes a des contrastes simples: blanc et noir, bien et mal" (Le crime a I'ecran 15). Such a view is, of course, entirely compatible with D.H. Lawrence's definition of "the essential American soul [as] hard, isolate, stoic and a killer" (Lawrence 68). It is also, as we saw in the last chapter, entirely in keeping with the standard  French view of the United States, a  sometimes paranoid, sometimes prescient, sometimes deadly accurate perspective  in  which  the  fatally  effete  refinement  of  aristocratic  European culture is at the mercy of the harsh but vital barbarism of the New World. In  France,  meanwhile,  criminal  demographics  from the American norm. In the early 1900s, delits  differed  flagrants  greatly were  as  urban as they were rural—which is to say, "Sicilian"—in Italy. At the turn of the century, Joseph Bonnot's gang of anarchists pioneered the motorized  bank  robbery  in the  streets  of  Paris.  It was  his  near  contemporary exploits that fascinated the French public, not the fading memories of Jesse James and Billy the Kid. While crime-hinged plots might have played a limited role in early  Italian  melodramas  (particularly  in  the  so-called  "arcade  movies," which flourished in Naples during the late 1890s and early 1900s), the industry as a whole generally preferred to define itself in terms of such epic celebrations of Roman antiquity as Cabiria  (1913)  and Quo Vadis (1912). While these early features might have acted as a catalyst on the cinematic sensibilities of D. W. Griffith, the American  97 man of the theatre who almost singlehandedly defined the parameters of commercial narrative moviemaking, they did not—indeed, they could not—endow Italy with a healthy, multifaceted film industry. As in other areas of  popular  "escapist  trash".  culture, the nation found  In his Quaderni  dal carcere,  itself  obliged to  import  one of the topics imprisoned Marxist  theorist Antonio Gramsci returned to again and again was the absence of an indigenous, home-grown popular literature. "Perche la letteratura italiana non e populare?" he asked rhetorically (Gramsci 2108). The absence of indigenous crime novels was a subject which seemed to particularly vex him, despite  his elaborate and frequently  ingenious  attempts to explain the situation in terms of the specifics of recent  past.  "Una  certa  fortuna  ha  avuto  in  Italia  la  Italy's  letteratura  popolare sulla vita dei briganti," he complained, "ma la produzione e di valore bassisimo" (Gramsci 2121). Crime novels, Gramsci continued, were usually written by conservative foreigners. Even Hungarian and Australian novelists, he complained, fared better in his country than did local authors.  By relying so heavily on French popular literature, he  worried, Italians might pick up certain ideas which were alien to their cultural tradition-such  as the time-hardened Gallic prejudice  against  all things  English. Of crime novel aesthetics, he wrote, "In  letteratura  poliziesca ci sono queste  d'intrigo-l'altra  artistica...."  endowed the policier  (Gramsci  due corrente: una 2129).  On the  one  questa  mecanicahand,  he  with impressive antecedents, seeking its origins  in the works of Balzac, Hugo and Poe. On the other hand, he was clearly attracted  to  its  lack  of  high  art  "respectability":  "II  romanzo  98 poliziesco e nato ai margini delle letteratura sulle 'cause celebri'" (Gramsci 2128). Of course, having access to books and periodicals, within the claustrophobic universe of Mussolini's prison system, but not to films, Gramsci had very little to say about the state of Italian cinema. Nevertheless, many of the notebook charges he makes against Italian popular literature could just as easily have been advanced against Italian popular film. Thinly-veiled envy is often present when Gramsci writes about French popular culture. Why this should be so is more or less selfevident. Of all continental powers, France was unquestionably the most successful when it came to entertaining its citizens with home-made divertissements.  While the Third Republic was certainly not immune to  the seductive blandishments of Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley, it was anything but a cap-in-hand cultural dependent. What's more, France was an exporter of popular culture as well as an importer. Jean Gabin could hold his own on the home—and, to a much lesser extent, global—front against Clark Gable, just as Edith Piaf could sing Billy Holliday to a European draw, while France's achievements in the "higher" arts were literally non-pareil (even if, as in Hollywood, many of the nation's most distinguished cultural workers were actually foreign-born). Despite the undeniable artistic accomplishments of Weimar Germany and Soviet Russia, on the multi-laned highway of cultural imperialism, France was the one continental nation with the generic versatility to give at least as good as it got. In a pinch, it could satisfy most, if not all, of its cultural needs—a form of national self-sufficiency  which American  entertainment conglomerates have been attempting to erode with ever  99 greater missionary zeal for the past half century. (This is a subject we shall return to, at greater length, in Chapter Four). The Third Republic was able to maintain this enviable  position  because of its versatility. Its publishing houses produced pulp as well as belles  lettres,  just as its recording studios were equally  receptive  to the airs of Edith Piaf and Claude Debussy. Like the Americans, their principal  rivals  and  de facto  antagonists,  the  French  successfully  bridged the gap between "high" art and "low". For every Marcel Proust and Jean Cocteau there was a Georges Simenon or Francis Carco. By mid-century, there would also be Louis-Ferdinand Vian,  authors  popular  who  literature  deliberately  obscured  and "art", even  if their  the  Celine  and  boundaries  works  were  Boris  between  read  almost  exclusively by aficionados of the latter. Why this should be so is a subject we shall return to later. According to Gerald Mast, "The French film in the first decade of sound may have been the most imaginative, the most stimulating of its generation:  a  subtle  blend  of  effective,  often  poetic,  dialogue;  evocative visual imagery; perceptive social analysis; complex fictional structures; rich philosophical implication; wit and charm" (Mast  199).  This favourable assessment, it seems, was visible to more than just posterity. In Mists  of Regret,  his book-length study of French poetic  realism, Dudley Andrew writes, "A survey of the New  York  Times  reviews for the whole decade [of the 1930s] shows not only the large number of films that played in the city (170 are reviewed) but also how highly  they  outscoring execution"  were  valued:  a great  majority  are  praised,  often  Hollywood in artistry, taste, and maturity of content (Andrew  13).  These  reviews  "repeatedly  [gave]  for and the  100 impression that something about French mores, tradition, education, or language [destined] its better films to be serious, candid, atmospheric, and strangely dark" (Andrews 13). This strange darkness, born at the anxious intersection where the brave new hopes of Leon Blum's National Front government encountered fatalistic  premonitions  of the coming war with  Nazi Germany,  was  what poetic realism was all about. Making its precocious debut in the early 1930s in the form of Jean Gremillon's early masterpiece, Petite  Lise,  the movement coalesced out of a number  of  La  unlikely  antecedents. Perhaps the most Gallic of these is the belief, shared by Alain Resnais and many others, that "Emile Zola is the father of French cinema...."  (Andrew  27). "Curiously,"  Dudley  Andrew  notes,  "Zola's  impact in this era stems not from his status as novelist (storyteller in prose)  but  from  the  presence  in  his  novels  of  two  extremes:  'photographic naturalism' on the one side, and the visionary, metaphoric  heavily  imagery that, on the other side, he uses to paint  his  melodramas" (Andrew 162). While Andrew's emphasis on the great naturalist's importance to French  cinema  complicated Through  cannot  be  disputed,  this  than the previous statements  Their  Films,  influence suggest.  was In  far  The  more French  Robin Buss points out that the ubiquity of Zola  adapatations  resulted  in  a  chronological  anomaly  known  as  contemporain  vague," a Never Never Land Paris where Fords could  "le  co-exist with hansom cabs, and gas jets with electric lights (Buss 31). For a similar—albeit aesthetically inferior—parallel to this trend, one must look to the "B" westerns of the 1930s and '40s, low budget genre pictures where Roy Rogers and Gene Autry would alternate  between  101 horses  and station wagons when it came time to pursue  anachronistic  decidely  villains.  Besides conflating historical epochs when cinematically the  great  naturalist's  novels,  French filmmakers  shared  adapting  an  equally  uncertain attitude in regard to Zola's political positions. If the author of "J'accuse" was the fearless champion of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, the dauntless opponent of obscurantist oppression who might well  have  been murdered for his public stance, his "entomological" literary eye did not win him many friends on the left. Marxist critics, such as Georg Lukacs, repeatedly compared the author of Germinal  unfavourably to  Honore de Balzac, the great exposer of early capitalism. No matter how far he stuck out his neck on behalf of the downtrodden, the fact that he had  written  "...il  y  a  une  determination  absolue  pour  tous  les  phenomenes humains" could be neither forgotten nor forgiven (Zola 23). In La Roman  experimental,  Zola stated his position as follows: "Sans  me risquer a formuler des lois, j'estime que la question d'heredite a une  grande  passionelles  influence de  dans  I'homme"  les  (Zola  manifestations 24). What  he  intellectuelles wanted  "substitue a I'etude de I'homme abstrait, de I'homme I'etude de determine  I'homme par  les  naturel, soumis influences  du  aux  lois  to  et  do  was  metaphysique,  physico-chimiques  milieu...." (Zola  24).  By  et  reducing  mankind to little more than a natural outgrowth of interlocking social and biological forces, Zola offered little hope to those who saw in humanity  a  less  circumstances,  deterministic  was  quite  blank  capable  slate of  which,  "re-writing"  under itself  the for  right the  common good. On a certain level, social pessimism must always be seen as a form of conservatism.  102 In any  event,  simultaneously denying  the  it is hard to  alienate  imagine  both wings  metaphysical  a more  of the  individuality  French  of  men  perfect  way  intelligentsia.  and  women,  to By  Zola  distanced himself from the Catholic right. At the same time, his belief in social laws more Charles  rigid and absolute than those promulgated  Darwin and Emile  struggle.  Biology,  proletarian  Durkheim  it seemed, would  will-to-power.  Even the  made a mockery always  delayed  get  the  of  by  collective  better  announcement  of  the  that  "Je  suis un republicain de la veille" could not undo the damage he had already done to his progressive image (Zola 299). Fortunately, psychologie  as  Jean  du cinema,  Mitry  reminds  us  in  Esthetique  et  the seventh art "est forme structurante autant  que forme structuree" (Mitry 27). Taking Mitry at his word, for almost eighty years French filmmakers have re-cast Emile Zola in their own, usually  less  forbidding,  image. We  have  already  the aesthetics  seen  Feuillade  managed to superimpose  Macquart  novels on a subject as unlikely as Fantomas.  how  of the  Louis Rougon  On the other  hand, in his version of la Bete humaine (1938), Jean Renoir cut out the book's middle class characters entirely, focusing exclusively on its diegetic  proletarians.  Nevertheless, having said all this, one is still hard pressed to explain away the fatalism endemic to films pitched in the key of poetic realism  without  recourse to Zola. With very few exceptions,  realist cinema was made  poetic  by left-wingers: anarchists, socialists  and  members of the French Communist Party. How could they accept a metaphysics which seemed to assume the permanent nature of the current  hierarchical  order?  Even  after  consciously  rejecting  Zola's  103 social determinism, poetic realist cineastes  seem to have absorbed it  subliminally. How else can one explain the snug sanctuary of friendship, marriage, and community aboard the Seine river barge in Jean Vigo's L'Atalante  (1933), or the fleeting independence of the worker-owned  publishing  house  in Jean  Renoir's  Le Crime  de M. Lange  (1936)?  Cinematic attempts to establish a new and more equitable social order were  tentative,  progressive  and  usually  filmmakers  doomed  rejected  to  with  failure.  their  The  heads  Zola held  which almost  unlimited sway over their hearts. With the coming of sound, screenplays assumed new importance in the making of movies. Before the invention of the boom mike and the camera blimp, snappy dialogue was expected to galvanize all scenes where the viewers could actually see the actors' mouths move. No longer could scenarios be roughed out on the back of place settings during lunch hour. Synchronous sound required professional writers, not amateurs. Consequently,  Hollywood's  major studios  recruited  literary  talent from the major New York publishing houses, as well as from the Broadway stage. William Faulkner, Lillian Hellman, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, and John Steinbeck were all employed from time to time  as  contract  screenwriters.  As  a  rule, these  literary  imports  looked down upon this sort of work, travelling to Hollywood only when impending bankruptcy made $500 weekly paycheques seem irresistable. It was the time of the Great Depression, and movies were where the money was. This disdain was fully returned by the studios. Only rarely were  literary writers permitted to produce screenplays  of their  own  choosing. More commonly, they would be used to embellish the dialogue of  dull  contract  writers,  to  add  sparkle  to  lacklustre  scenes.  To  104 producers, screenwriters  were  universally  known as "schmucks  with  Underwoods." For French writers, things were very different.  In the  snidely  superior Scenes de la vie future, French Academician Georges Duhamel might have scornfully asserted that "Je donne toute la  bibliotheque  cinematographique du monde, y compris ce que les gens de metier appellent pompeusement leurs 'classiques', pour une piece de Moliere, pour un tableau de Rembrandt, pour une fugue de Bach," but he was in the minority (Duhamel 51). More typically, Nobel Prize winner Andre Gide resented the fact that Roger Martin du Gard, another Gallic winner of the world's  most celebrated  draft script of La Bete humaine French  writers  would  literary  prize, got to write the  first  in place of his own august self. While  regularly  whine  about  the  ways  in  which  literature was deformed by the seventh art, it seldom inveighed against the idea itself. From their vantage point, the cinema seemed to be so far behind the book and the play in terms of cultural importance, it usually failed to arouse their fears, even if it occasionally their  displeasure.  (For  somewhat  different  reasons,  incurred  Hollywood  producers felt much the same way about TV until the late 1940s, when the new medium began to dangerously encroach upon their economic turf). Unsurprisingly,  a  distinguished  caste  of  professional  screenwriters grew up under this regime. The most accomplished of these were Jacques Prevert, Marcel Pagnol, and Charles Spaak. Of the three, Prevert—with the possible exception of Cesare Zavattini, the only  scenarist  generally  more  in  film  highly  history praised  whose by  contributions  critics  than  were  to  films  those  were of  the  105 directors for whom he worked—unquestionably exercised the greatest influence on the development of poetic realism. This is a subject to which we shall return at the proper time. This said, one should attitude  not allow these differences  to obscure the fact that the  relative  aesthetic  French and American cinema in the 1930s was in large  in  cultural  success  of  part due to the  high quality of their scenarios. Thanks to the awkwardness of early sound equipment, Depression-era movies were seldom distinguished by their visuals. Consequently, actors had to shoulder the burden dropped by the cinematographers, and this was only possible when the words they  were  given were  up to cinematic  snuff.  Whether  admired  despised by themselves or their employers, screenwriters now  or  made  the difference between success and failure. In the particular case of the crime film, this verity was even truer than usual. As Paul Schrader pointed out in his famous essay "Notes on Film Noir",  one of the principal  pre-requisites  behind this enduring  '40s  style was the "influence...of the 'hard-boiled' school of writers. In the thirties,  authors  such  as  Ernest  Hemingway,  Dashiell  Hammett,  Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, Horace McCoy and John O'Hara created the 'tough,' a cynical way of acting and talking that separated one from the world of everyday emotions—romanticism with a protective shell" (Grant 174). According to Dudley Andrew, a similar school of French tough guy writing fecundated the French film industry around the same time: "Between the wars a publishing boom at Gallimard, Grasset, Plon, Flammarion, and smaller  houses  sanctioned  serious  popular  fiction  coming from the pens of a new brand of professional writer... None of these could be called intellectual, nor did any of them aspire to be  106 intellectual  in their lives and work, writing of workers, peasants,  sailors, and criminals on the run" (Andrew 155). So far as the history of the French crime film was concerned, by far  the  most  important  critic/screenwriter  Andre  of these were Lang  once  Pierre  famously  Mac  Orlan—whom  described  as  "un  bourgeois sauvage" (Lang 233)—the slang-friendly Francis Carco, and the prolific Belgian author, Georges Simenon. Mac Orlan's penchant for underworld  heroes  with  poetic  souls  eventually  resulted  in  the  publication of a screenplay and several articles devoted to and inspired by the life and works of Francois Villon, the 16th century dean of Gallic artist/thugs (a taste he shared with the aforesaid Carco, a fellow Montmartre flaneur). Le Quai des brumes (1927) and La Bandera (1931), his two most influential novels, would serve as blueprints for two of the best widescreen examples of French poetic realism. In place of "realisme poetique", Mac Orlan preferred the term "le fantastique social"  to  describe  his  tales  which  engendered  "'disquiet  and  mistrust'...in the manner of nocturnal street photography rather than eldritch lore" (Andrew 15). His plots also linked desperate acts to desperate financial straits in a way that was at least as Balzacian as it was Zolaesque. Francis Carco was Mac Orlan's almost exact contemporary, and dealt in very similar material set in the same milieu. Stylistically, however, his books were much more experimental. The author's "deft handling of slang immediately created for Carco an authority as well as fixed  his  popular  Jesus-la-Caille regarded  as  image-expedient,  yet  restrictive"  (Weiner  82).  (1919), Carco's most important book, is generally French  literature's  first  successful  experiment  with  107 underworld argot. Certain  Sort  meaning  of  invert,  Idiomatically translated, the title could be read as A Fag, since jesus and  caille  was  was a  a  19th  turn-of-the-century century  term  mercantile  word  referring to style or flavour. While nowhere near as slangily dense as Albert Simonin's 1953 masterpiece, Touchez pas au grisbil, la-Caille  is nonetheless written in decidedly non-standard  Jesus-  French. A  typical passage runs as follows: "L'coup des bourriques. Menard et le gros Dupied empoignaient le mome. Je ne les ai pas vus entrer, et v'la bien la preuve que c'etait une combine: ils devaient etre planques dans le  placard"  (Carco  fiction—the the  15).  Certain  recurring  motifs  in  French  importance of female loyalty, and its presumed  emotional  emphasis  on  male  bonding,  whether  crime  scarcity; explicitly  homosexual or not; the debased sociology and exchange economy of fllle and mec within the apache sub-culture—were codified in Jesus,  even if  Carco could not take credit for inventing them. More or less contemporaneously, in 1930 Georges Simenon gave birth  to  his  most  enduring  creation,  Inspector  Jules  Maigret,  decidedly un-American detective who was "plebeien, stable, apolitique, buveur,  mefiant,  fumeur  routinier,  de  pipe,  chaste,  bourru,  neutre,  discret,  securisant,  sedentaire,  a  instinctif, mangeur,  peu  liant..."  (Assouline 208). Maigret would glide through la France profonde  of the  'tween-war years in the same way that Mac Orlan and Carco would nostalgically epoque.  recreate  the  apache-haunted  Montmartre  of  la  belle  Between them, they would create an indigenous French universe  of crime, a universe which could accommodate any number of imported American  underworld  constellations.  Foreign  traditions  welcomed precisely because local traditions were so strong.  would  be  108 For political reasons, French filmmakers of the 1930s could not be too specific about the relationship between poverty and crime. In 1937, for instance, Jean Renoir was obliged to hide his enthusiasm for the  Popular  Front  behind  a  historical  tableau  set  in  the  French  Revolution at a time when the Popular Front government it implicitly praised  was  still  in  power.  Nevertheless,  French  filmmakers  did  manage to side, in most cases, with economically oppressed whites (oppressed  North  villainous/comic  Africans,  extra  status  of in  course,  the  many  were  still  adventure  relegated  to  films  in  set  France's Saharan and Magrebhi colonies). To a certain extent, this was as  true  of  right-wingers  as  it was  of  militants  on  the  left.  This  attitude actually preceded the early books of Pierre Mac Orlan, and the other mecs durs authors of the 1920s and '30s. As Georges Sadoul reminds us, it truly begins in 1901 with "les premiers grands succes de Ferdinand Zecca. lis introdusaient a I'ecran la vie des 'basses classes': proletariat et criminels" (Sadoul 11). Like the American film industry during the 1920s, '30s and '40s, French  cinema  was  profoundly  affected  by  the  legacy  of  Middle  European Expressionism imported by emigre German cineastes. Lotte H. Eisner, in L'Ecran inescapably proliferation  "German"  this  demoniaque, movement  Though  sought to demonstrate really  was,  the  of "film noir" techniques and thematics—most  how  post-war of  which  were derived from Ufa-style Expressionism—tends to dilute this claim. No matter how imbued with Sturm und Drang ideology, certain "Teutonic" ideas proved to be eminently exportable. "Dans les films allemands," she wrote, "I'ombre devient I'image du alchemical  process which would later be reproduced  destin"—an  on the  sound  109 stages of Paris and southern California. (Eisner 95). They would be equally influenced by G.W. Pabst's Joyless  Street, "la quintessence des  visions germaniques de la rue, des escaliers et des corridors, plonge dans  une  demi-obscurite;  I'architecture  'Ersatz'  c'est  aussi  la consecration  definitive  de studio, derivant de I'expressionisme"  de  (Eisner  174). While Expressionist echoes would ring with equal effect through the  cinemas  methods 1920s,  of  and the  United  States, the  two  countries'  of appropriating this technique were very different. Hollywood  successfully industry  France  was  already  competing  was  its  systematically  national  first  target  film  of  attempting  cultures.  opportunity,  The  to  In the co-opt  Swedish  Scandinavia's  film once-  thriving movie business being effectively gutted by the loss of Victor Sjostrom, Mauritz Stiller, Greta Garbo, and other luminaries. Basically, the American studios did not care—as, indeed, most of them still do not—how these cultural immigrants fared in their new surroundings. If they  learned  to accommodate  themselves  to the  American  factory  system, well and good; if they did not, Hollywood producers had the satisfaction  of  knowing  they  had  at  least  removed  potentially  dangerous economic competitors from the world market. For Hollywood, it was a win-win situation. Thanks to the rise of Hitler, the  steady  trickle of German emigres soon became a flood. Many of the masters of film noir, the most Expressionist of all American film styles, got their start in Ufa's giant enclosure. Billy Wilder's Double and Sunset  Boulevard;  Heat (1954); Otto  Fritz Lang's Scarlet  Preminger's  Laura  Indemnity  (1944)  Street (1945) and The  (1944): without  these  features, the movement would never have gotten off the ground.  Big  seminal  110 In  France,  Hollywood,  things  it was  were  traditional  a for  little  different.  anti-fascist  On  and/or  the  trail  to  Jewish-German  filmmakers to make pit-stops in Paris, interrupting their journey  long  enough to shoot a film or two, their salaries being used to finance the fateful  move  filmmakers deepened  to  the  United  absorbed the  the  already  States.  legacy  of  pronounced  By  doing  poetic strain  of  this,  realism,  these even  Expressionism  exiled  as  they  running  through French cinema, a strain left by the many Franco-German coproductions Sadoul  undertaken  reminds  us,  in the 1920s and early  "La  [premiere]  guerre  1930s. As  [mondiale]  Georges  entraine  un  renversement totale de la situation [economique], au profit des EtatsUnis, et en second lieu, de l'Allemagne" (Sadoul 144). To survive this new world order, "French producers were forced to take a slightly partisan position, aligning themselves with the Germans in a 'European' effort to stave off Hollywood domination" (Andrew 172). If German and Central European directors did not make the same "splash" in France that they made in America, Middle European film technicians did. Marcel Carne's moody masterpieces did not succeed solely on the strength of his directorial eye and Jacques Prevert's brilliant scripts; they equally  beholden to Alexandre Trauner's  brooding sets and  were  Joseph  Kosma's haunting scores. These two irreplaceable collaborators  were  both born in the Austro-Hungarian city of Budapest. At the same time, the French cinema received an influx of Russian immigrants that was considerably greater than the one absorbed by Hollywood.  In  Dudley  Andrew's  words,  "Numerically  the  Russian  presence in the [French] cinema went far beyond the German" (Andrew 177).  Director  Dmitri  Kirsanoff  and cinematographer  Boris  Kaufman  111 both  carved  infrastructure vogue  for  enviable  positions  for  themselves  of the French film industry.  Dostoevsky  had  infiltrated  within  What's more, "A  Paris  with  the  the  certain  well-educated  Russian and German emigres" (Andrew 162). For  "Dostoevsky",  Punishment." fictional  should  probably  read  "Crime  and  That book, it should be recalled, enriched the realm of  archetypes  malignant  one  police  with  agent  Inspector  in world  Porfiry,  literature.  perhaps  French  the  culture,  most having  already produced Hugo's mercilessly "just" Inspector Javert, as well as Vautrin,  Balzac's  arch-Nietzschean  criminal  turned  police-  commissioner, was obviously in an ideal position to insinuate the sly sleuth  from  St.  Petersburg  into  its  imaginative  universe.  Georges  Simenon was one period writer who fell completely under the great Russian's sway. In a recent article, Manuel Vasquez Montalban writes, "Dans le cycle Maigret, presque tous les criminels ont quelque chose de Raskolnikov  et  le  commissaire  apparait  comme  le juge  que  tout  criminel souhaiterait avoir pour avouer son delit" (Montalban 105). In 1935, Andre Lang scripted and Pierre Chenal directed what is generally considered to be the best screen version of Crime and  Punishment—not  least because it was shot in an Expressionist style. In the process, the parameters of the French crime movie were further refined. The "high" art  of  Zola  and  Dostoevsky  could  now  happily  co-exist  with  the  "popular" writing of Simenon and Mac Orlan; Ufa-style Expressionism, with  its emphasis  on striking cinematography  and entirely  artificial  sets, could be re-cast in a Franco-Russian mold. This rich gumbo of influences and motifs could, as we shall soon see, only be enriched by the addition of American ingredients. Almost from the beginning, its  112 style was as much international as it was national. Such forms can only benefit from the widening of the cultural gene pool. Across the Atlantic, German Expressionism came to America in a slower, more gradual manner—a manner inseparable from the steady consolidation of Nazi power. The gangster films of the early 1930s had as much to do with the teething problems of sound film as they did with any native or imported aesthetic. Screeching tyres and yammering tommyguns  provided  sounds that  did  not  need to  be  lip-synched.  Inspired by the urban gangster wars engendered by Prohibition, they allowed Hollywood filmmakers to make movies whose central figures were amoral villains. Howard Hawks's Leroy's Little Caesar  Scarface  (1930)  and  Mervyn  (1931) were both thinly disguised biographies of  Chicago's most notorious citizen, Alphonse Capone.  The vast majority  of these onscreen mobsters were of Sicilian origin, a fact that  had  more to do with the Italian mob's victory over rival Irish, Jewish and Polish gangs than it did with any nativist bias. William Wellman's Public  The  Enemy (1931) was somewhat unusual insofar as it depicted an  American veteran's entry into crime as the result of his inability to find remunerative work in the wake of the First World War. In general, though, American mobsters were "foreign". They were also rich, and—as the Great Depression deepened—this wealth became a cause for concern among motion picture moralists. Tuxedoed banquets in the company of beautifully dressed  showgirls  came to seem increasingly alluring to unemployed Americans as the bread lines lengthened. Thus, gangster films per se were no longer made, having been replaced with the more acceptable "G-man" pictures, underworld dramas where the heroes were not "foreign" gangsters but  113 native agents of the FBI. Along with Mae West's double entendres, Maureen O'Sullivan's nude swim in Tarzan and His Mate (1934), and the eponymous giant ape's violent and sexual indiscretions in King  Kong  (1933), gangster movies were one of the prime reasons why Hollywood chose  to  shackle  itself  artistically  with  the  set  of  self-imposed  restrictions which would be known to posterity as the Hays Code. While French cinema was certainly no stranger to censorship, it never  suffered  from  such  chafing  constraints—ironically,  under German occupation. Still, as we read in French  not  even  Film, "[Louis]  Feuillade began by celebrating master criminals who stop at nothing, but the pressures of censorship made him turn later to the figure of the avenger" (Armes 23). This would appear to be a close approximation of the  anti-crime  Feuillade  was  strictures wont  to  of  the  have  Hays  his  Code,  masked  until  villains  we  recall  slaughter  roomsful of social luminaries, an anarchistic excess which  that entire  Hollywood  gangsters, even in their heyday, would never have been permitted to contemplate, never mind enact. Extremely strict in regard to politics and national "honour", French censorship was much more  laissez-faire  in matters of crime—particularly when the crimes in question to be passionels.  happened  Marcel Carne, curiously, was the French director who  suffered most from film censorship's obscure whims. A nude shot of Arletty was excised from all prints of le Jour se leve (1939)  by the  bluenoses of Vichy, and it still cries out to be re-inserted. This is perhaps the  least "French" of Carne's  More typical is the filmmaker's  run-ins with the  run-in with "Commandant  authorities. Calvet", a  military officer who, after seeing a workprint of Le Quai des brumes, a bleakly  poetic  portrait  of a deserter  on the  lam from the  colonial  114 infantry, "demandait prononce  seulement  et que, lorsque  les pile soigneusement pele-mele  que le mot [deserteur]  le soldat se debarrasse  ne soit  jamais  de ses vetements,  et les pose sur une chaise,  au lui de la  il  jeter  dans un coin de la piece...." (La Vie a belles dents 90). Prior  to the contemporary American hysteria over the issue of flag-burning, such fussy concern with the miniutiae of national honour would have seemed vaguely absurd, even to a Hays Code censor. Since Gabin was doomed to die for  his "sins", anyway,  a little sloppiness  with  his  uniform, one might have thought, could easily have been forgiven. In  the  early  —technically,  most  1930s, of  most  them  of  were  the  major  "German"  Austrians—working  (Erich von Stroheim; Josef von Sternberg)  in  directors Hollywood  had been established in  Hollywood for many years. Expressionist influence on von Stroheim was correspondingly weak—he was, after all, a disciple of Zola—while von Sternberg's was strong but indirect, stemming largely from his  1929  visit to Berlin, the trip that saw him accomplish the double coup of directing  Der  Blaue  Engel,  the  first  first-rate  talking  picture, a n d  "discovering" its star, Marlene Dietrich. Of Hollywood's early Germans, he alone can be considered a true progenitor of film noir. Because there was never any question about who did what, where, and why, the gangster movie was generically cut off from the mystery  story  and  detective  thriller;  it  was  a  howdunnW.  not  a  wfrodunnit, having more in common with the war movie and western than  with  its  more  obvious  generic  relations.  Gangster  fiction,  as  epitomized by the writing of Rowland Brown—an author reputed to have "underworld laws  (Peary  connections"—followed 30).  Poverty  was  of  its own set of dramatic  use  ruthlessly only  insofar  simple as  it  115 provided a motivation for criminals to climb socially; onscreen, the pleasures of being criminally on top of the world vastly outnumbered the  inevitably violent wages of sin climactically  meted out to  mob  anti-heroes by the Puritan strictures of the Hays Code. In other words, gangster films in their early '30s American guise were separated from their European roots to the point where they could pass as nativist phenomena, even if—according to the rules of heartland amour  propre, as well as period criminal demographics—most  underworld  anti-heroes  international  only  were  after  not.  it had  The  been  genre  would  cross-fertilized  of its  become by  film  truly  noir, a  crime story/Expressionist hybrid which was brought to fruition by the window  of  cinematic  opportunity  perceived  by  German  refugees—  deracinated, embittered, frustrated and on the run from Hitler—in the years immediately preceding and following the Second World War.  Fury  (1936), and You Only Live Once (1937), Fritz Lang's first two American features, are now often described as the ur-films of the noir stylistic. In  the  process  of  directing  them,  Lang  furthered  the  postwar  internationalization of crime movies in a way that could not then have been easily imagined. Before embarking on a more specific American policier, fully  the  study of the French and  however, it would probably be best to consider more  importance  of  German  Expressionism  to  both  cinematic  genres. While Edvard Munch and a number of other late 19th and early 20th century painters and playwrights have been described as protoExpressionists, the empire-wrecking were  movement was imbued with new power  carnage  expressions  of  of  1914-1918.  French  If Dadaism  disaffection  with  the  and  by  the  Surrealism  conduct  and  116 aftermath of the First World War, post-war Expressionism was—in this respect  at least—their  L'Ecran  demoniaque,  spiritual sister. As Lotte  H. Eisner wrote  in  "Mysticisme et magie, forces obscurs auxquelles  de tout temps les Allemands se sont abandonnes avec complaisance avaient fleuri devant la mort sur les champs de bataille" (Eisner 15). Neither  playful  hostile  to  nor  outward-looking,  contemporary  "L'expressionisme,  Gallic  declare  schools  Edschmid,  atomique' de I'impressionisme  Expressionism  reagit  of  was  artistic  contre  implicitly  expression:  le  'depiecement  qui reflete les chatoyantes  equivoques  de la nature, sa diversite inquietante, ses nuances ephemeres; il lutte en meme temps contre la decalcomanie bourgeoise du naturalisme et contre le but mesquin ...de photographer la nature ou la vie quotidienne" (Eisner 97). For physically and emotionally scarred veterans such as artist Oskar Kokoschka and filmmaker  Fritz Lang, "il serait  absurde  de...reproduire [le monde] tel que[l]...." (Eisner 97). For them, external objects and events were useful only insofar as they helped to reveal their  protagonists  "fantaisie  secrete" (Eisner  97). Since  it was  the  ideal method for exploring the more obscure corners—not to mention plumbing the more sinister depths—of the soul, psychoanalysis was, .of course, all the rage. In film after film, "[les] ombres manifeste inspiration  freudienne...."  (Eisner  97).  Expressionists  were  une  likewise  strongly drawn to the Talmudic myth of Lilith, Adam's disobedient first wife, the metaphysical symbol of conflict and strife, of war within the very heart of the patriarchal family, a great beauty armed with the talons of a bird of prey, a female fury who "[at] times...is an angel who rules over the procreation of mankind, at times a demon who assaults those who sleep alone or those who travel lonely roads" (Borges 149).  117 Appearing  first  in the  plays  of  Frank Wedekind—which  were  later  brilliantly adapted for the screen by G.W. Pabst in the late 1920s, their seductive protagonist being physically embodied by American  screen  idol, Louise Brooks—the figure of the evil temptress or femme  fatale  would eventually become one of the emblematic figures of film noir. It is surely not coincidental that so many "bad girl" names (Lulu; Lili; Lolita; Lola Lola) begin with a capital "L," a circumstance which turns them all into de facto homonyms of Lilith, the seductive beauty with claws that rend. Of course, in practice this separation from all things French was not as absolute as it was in theory. Fritz Lang, for example,  was  immensely fond of "les figures a cagoules qui viennent tout droit des VAMPIRES de Feuillade...." (Eisner 162). In German films, "...comme chez Feuillade, comme  dans  tous  ficelee leur victimes" (Eisner  les serials,  les  kidnappers  emportent  162 - 163). If the ubiquity of  postwar  Franco-German co-productions exposed French filmmakers to the tics as well as the abilities of their German confreres, they returned the favour  four-fold. Even so, the Gauls learned a lot. Inspired by the  post-1917  German practice of shooting every scene on an artificial stage, French set designers began to build trompe I'oeil street scenes and interiors that rivalled the most lavish accomplishments  of Ufa, then  the best-equipped studio in Europe, if not the world (an which—unfortunately  for  the  Weimar  republic's  advantage  notoriously  import/export balance—did not translate into a commanding  dismal German  position in the international movie mart). Alexandre Trauner and Lazare Meerson shone in this metier,  while the sets of Jacques Feyder's 1934  118 historical  comedy  La Kermesse  heroique  were  so sumptuous  they  attracted for a time the sort of tourist who is irresistably drawn to "mad"  King  Ludwig's  castles  in  Bavaria.  Imagination,  intelligently  employed, more than made up for the modest budgets with which most Gallic  filmmakers  were  obliged  to  work.  French  cinematographers  studied the psychologically revealing camera angles pioneered by Karl Freund, brilliantly  and  came  crafted  up  scripts  with  their  own  established  counterparts.  high  literary  Carl  Mayer's  standards  which  French screenwriters, with growing success, struggled to surpass. The knowledge that "shadows can become the image of Destiny"  subtly  inflected the ubiquitous nocturnal sequences that were as much a part of poetic realism as they were of film noir. Indeed, in the aftermath of World War Two, the fatalistic scripts and dark camera angles of such gloomy features as Le Jour se leve and Le Qual des brumes were widely regarded  as  nothing  less than  cinematic  fifth  columnists,  defeatist  movies that fatally sapped French morale on the battlefield, creating the mood which allowed morose poilus to be ground to powder by the optimistic  storm-troopers  of  the  Third  Reich  during  the  shameful  summer of 1940. Neither neorealist studies of poverty nor sentimental romances'— the motion picture genres which one would ordinarily expect to provide the most universally  convertible  forms  of cinematic currency,  given  the ubiquity of global misery and the probably genetic human need for love—have proven to have the wide-spread appeal of the crime film. As Claire Vasse put it in her essay, "L'enigme 'cinema': La Nouvelle et le polar",  Vague  "Le genre policier est certainement la chose du monde  cinematographique la mieux partagee" (Vasse 105.) French crime films  119 were visibly affected by foreign influences even in the 1930s, and— more surprisingly still, even in the works of Jean Renoir, that most "typically French" of French directors. As Charles Tesson would have it, "Autant Toni,  construit sur une symetrie de meme nature, est un  film dont la forme narrative doit beaucoup a I'Amerique du melodrame, celle de Griffith et surtout de Chaplin...autant La Bete humaine  est un  film place sous la signe croise de Lang et de Murnau. Lantier est le frere de M (le 'ich kann nicht' de la pulsion criminelle) et la sequence de barque de I'Aurore,  celle ou le mari tente d'etrangler sa femme puis  renonce, est la sequence  cachee dont La Bete humaine sera la traversee  du miroir en deux temps" (Tesson 67). Like  most  fictional  genres,  the  crime  story  precedes  the  invention of the motion picture camera by many centuries. If Gilles Deleuze was right when he claimed that "I'Ancien Testament n'est pas un epopee ni une tragedie, c'est le premier roman...," then the killing of Abel  is  literature's  first  murder  mystery,  and  Cain  fiction's  first  "tra?tre...le personnage essentiel du roman, le heros" (Dialogues 53). If one broadens the definition of crime to include transgression, then humanity's first delit flagrant  must fall on the shoulders of Adam and  Eve—on the symbolic level, the Ur parents of hairless apes. What this means, basically, is that most Western narratives deal with characters who have breached divine or secular laws or both. Even so, the invention of the policier  proper is generally credited  to Edgar Allan Poe. In his short stories "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" and  "The  Purloined  Letter",  the  American  author  introduced  world  literature to its first private detective, the Chevalier C. Auguste Dupin: "This young gentleman was of an excellent—indeed of an  i