Jean Guéhenno : an inter-war intellectual
The study of Jean Guehenno in the inter-war years is divided into three main parts. The first deals with the development of Gw!henno's personality and ideas, which preceded the publication of his major works, and explores his debt to certain literary figures. The second deals with the main texts Caliban parle and Journal d'un homme de 40 ans, whilst the third explores his role as editor and director of Europe and Vendredi respectively. The first chapters consider the difficulties Guehenno encountered in reconciling academic success with his poor origins. Moreover they present the problem of his experience of the First World War, his decision to become a teacher and the influence of Daniel Halevy in his early literary career. The second part is an analysis of Guehenno's two most important texts. With respect to Caliban parle the issues raised include co-existence in a world without God, the solution of a contractual society with all its implications for culture, and the problem of revolution as a personal spiritual ideal. In the case of Journal d'un homme de 40 ans, where Guehenno reaffirms his earlier individualism, his discovery of a style to suit his intellectual preoccupations is considered, as is the fact that his work is primarily a personal protest against war. The third section of the thesis deals with Guehenno's role in Europe as well as in Vendredi and with the extent to which these papers reflected the interests of his major works. Furthermore, in the case of Vendredi the problem of the confrontation between idealism and political necessity posed by "engagement" is examined, using Guehenno's articles on the Front Populaire and the U.S.S.R. The conclusions drawn are that Guehenno is an important influential and representative member of the group of "intellectuels engages" which worked in France in the inter-war years, because his work raises their common problems of intellectuality, class, culture and pacifism. Equally importantly however, his case illustrates the dangers posed by intellectual commitment to a political cause - dangers which led him to adopt an ultimately conservative position, and which on a more general level led to the dispersal of the "intellectuels engages" as a group.