Barbusse and His "Fire": The Last Card of French War Propaganda (Eberhard Demm)
Eberhard Demm Research Centre for Study of Contemporary German and Austrian Civilisation (CERAAC), University Stendhal (Grenoble III), France Barbusse and His Fire: The Last Card of French War Propaganda* Abstract In a new interpretation of the novel Under Fire by Henri Barbusse in its historical and biographical context, the author attempts to demonstrate that this novel is not, as has been tra- ditionally asserted, a pacifist work, but must be considered as an outright propaganda brochure designed to sustain the crumbling French front. For this thesis the author produces additional documentary evidence from Barbusse’s private correspondence in the Bibliothèque Nationale of Paris and other related biographical sources. A succinct comparison of Under Fire with the diary-novel Sous Verdun and its continuation Nuits de guerre by another French war veteran and writer, Maurice Genevoix, helps understand more clearly the specific propagandist character of Barbusse’s novel. This unmasking of the alleged pacifist Barbusse as a resolute representative of French war propaganda had already been published in France and in Germany and was ac- cepted by the expert of Romance literature Olaf Müller. It was passed over in silence, however, by the specialists of French war literature like Nicolas Beaupré and Almut Lindner-Wirsching. Keywords: World War I; France; Propaganda; Novel, Under Fire; Henri Barbusse For the French people 1917 is the ‘year of anxiety.’1 By autumn 1916 a crisis of confidence is starting and in spring 1917 the country is at its wits end. The offensive of the new Supreme Commander...
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