André Gide's companions on his journey to the Soviet Union in 1936 : Jacques Schiffrin, Eugène Dabit, Louis Guilloux, Jef Last and Pierre Herbart
This thesis is not primarily concerned with Andre Gide's interest in and subsequent disillusionment with communism and the Soviet Union for this has been sufficiently dealt with elsewhere but is concerned with the five companions he invited to accompany him on his journey to the Soviet Union in 1936: Jacques Schiffrin, Eugene Dabit, Louis Guilloux, Jef Last and Pierre Herbart. Chapter I examines French interest in the Soviet Union during the Interwar period. Four main areas of interest are defined in respect of Gide and his travelling companions: the growth of French interest in Russian culture; the impact of the Revolution and the Soviet Union in France in terms of both literature and literature-based organisations, as well as in terms of political ideology; the rise of fascism in Europe, and the attraction of the Soviet Union as the land of sexual freedom. Chapters 11 to VI examine each of the five figures, highlighting their literary and political development and outlining their interest in the Soviet Union. Chapter 11 outlines the activities of Jacques Schiffrin (1892-1949), an important figure in the Parisian publishing world, who founded the Editions de la Pleiade, translated Russian classics into French (sometimes in conjunction with Gide) and introduced what is now known as the Bibliotheque de la Pleiade. Chapter III covers the career of Eugene Dabit (1898-1936) which spanned a period that saw intense literary and political debate and shows how he was caught up in the inevitable mix of politics and literature as he was involved successively in various groupings. Chapter IV concentrates on Louis Guilloux (1899-1980) and outlines the development in his literary work from works based on a depiction of le peuple to a more personal aesthetics taking in part as its inspiration the breadth of great nineteenth-century Russian authors. It also outlines how he came to terms with his role as a writer in society. Chapter V outlines the activities of Jef Last (1898-1972) who, as a Dutchman, had a wider knowledge of the European political world. He was a militant communist who had already visited the Soviet Union three times before he met Gide. His attraction to communism and the Soviet Union was based on several reasons: economic, political, religious, sexual and cultural. Pierre Herbart (1903-1978) is the subject of Chapter VI. He was an intimate member of Gide's circle and he influenced Gide politically. A member of the communist party, his literary output was, at certain times, influenced by his political commitment. Prior to Gide's journey to the Soviet Union he worked in Moscow as a redacteur on the La Litterature Internationale. The final chapter examines the journey itself, suggesting reasons for what went wrong, causing Guilloux and Schiffrin to return early and an account is given of Dabit's death in Sevastopol. The responses of the travelling companions both to the journey itself and to Gide's publications on his return provide a much more complicated and diverse picture than is normally available while the conclusion shows that the position of Western intellectuals to the situation in the Soviet Union in 1936 was often obscured by immediate tactical concerns such as the Spanish Civil War.