Tuesday, June 21, 2005


No, not that of Jean-Paul Sartre, who would have been 100 today, but the 70th anniversary of the International Congress of Writers for the Defence of Culture, which opened at the Mutualité in Paris on 21 June 1935. Well, that seems like a good excuse to write about it; in fact, it's something that was on Radio 3, months ago. Much of the material in repeated in this article in The Observer.

E.M. Forster put forward the classic pacifist position that if nations persisted in building up massive stocks of weapons, they could no more be prevented from engaging in war, than a beast that gorges itself on food could be prevented from excreting... He rather lost the audience by talking about the ban on a novel called 'Boy' by James Hanley, which had not even been translated into French, though it was republished in Paris, chez un éditeur spécialisé dans les rejetés du puritanisme britannique and was translated in 2003.

Gustav Regler (link in French) charged the Soviet Union with allowing Hitler to rise undisturbed. An exiled Italian historian cited the case of Victor Serge, a writer imprisoned in the Soviet Union.

Maxim Gorky was supposed to attend, but didn't. Boris Pasternak was a last minute replacement - he was not very keen on going, but  he was told it was an order. Accounts varied as to what he said - delegates couldn't even agree on what he was wearing. 

OK, some Sartre then. Another Sunday Feature from Radio 3. There you could have heard the jazz song ´Some of these days´, that was featured in La Nausée. Shame it´s not on ´listen again´or podcast.


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