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Between Collaboration and Resistance: French Literary Life Under Nazi Occupation


April 3rd, 2009 - July 25th, 2009

The defeat of France by Germany in May - June 1940 transformed the lives of French writers and publishers. Freedom of expression, almost achieved after centuries of struggle, was now set aside. Writers matter in France, and writers were deeply implicated in the changes of 1940. Some of their colleagues were silenced for racial or political reasons. How should they respond? Should they collaborate? Resist? Wait and see? Or follow some more complicated pathway through the changing course of the war? All of them risked being used by one side or another. Yet they were expected, in a nation that placed a high value on its intellectuals, to offer moral leadership in a time of doubt and uncertainty.

Between Collaboration and Resistance begins with a look at the effects of World War I, the decline of the Third Republic, and the installation of the Vichy regime, followed by thematic sections examining everyday life, collaboration, resistance, the Holocaust, and international solidarities. It features often unique and largely unpublished contemporary documents concerning collaborators like Céline, Pierre Drieu La Rochelle, and Robert Brasillach; resistors like Louis Aragon, Jean Paulhan, and Robert Desnos; and writers who changed their minds like Paul Claudel. One of the exhibition's most remarkable items is the manuscript of Irène Némirovsky's Suite française. Diaries, manuscripts, books, maps, letters, photographs, and other materials are drawn from the collections of The New York Public Library, the Institut Mémoires de l’édition contemporaine, the Mémorial de Caen, and other institutions and private collections.

Docent Tours
Free public tours of the exhibition are conducted Monday through Saturday at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m.; and Sunday at 3:30 p.m. through May 17. All group tours, including school groups, must be scheduled well in advance. Unauthorized tours are not permitted. To schedule a tour, call 212.930.0650. Group tour fees are $7 per person ($5 for seniors); there is no charge for full-time students.

A companion volume to the exhibition is available for purchase at The New York Public Library's Library Shop by clicking here

This exhibition has been organized by the Institut Mémoires de l'édition contemporaine [IMEC]and The New York Public Library, with the cooperation of the Mémorial de Caen.

Major support for this exhibition has been provided by The Florence Gould Foundation.
Support for The New York Public Library's Exhibitions Program has been provided by Celeste Bartos, Mahnaz Ispahani and Adam Bartos, Jonathan Altman, and Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III.

Click here for more information about the related symposium