Wallstein Verlag

Wolfgang Matz

France against France

Authors between Literature and Ideology

240 pages, 12,5 x 21,0
ISBN: 978-3-8353-3078-8 (2017)


German Version

Wolfang Matz’s brilliant literary history of a country torn between the nation and Europe.

France is a divided country. On the one hand there is the republican, secular, city-based left, arising from the ideas of 1789 that changed the whole of Europe, and on the other the national, Catholic, often anti-Semitic right that harbours a wish to seal off France from international modernity. It was once believed that this division had been overcome: in the First World War, all parties joined forces to defend their country. But France became a defeated victor; between the wars, internal struggles rendered the republic defenceless against totalitarian ideologies and the military enemy. The invasion in 1940 seemed to set the seal on this state of defencelessness.
Due to the lasting crisis, French authors became political in a way they had never been before. On the example of literary highlights as well as texts that are almost unknown in this country, Wolfgang Matz, the »brilliant comparative troublemaker« (Süddeutsche Zeitung), shows how the intellectual is caught between the extreme right-wing and the radical left, between an unconditional pacifism, which is prepared to accept collaboration with the opponent, and national resistance: e. g. André Gide, Céline and Jean Giono, Simone Weil, Georges Bernanos and Drieu la Rochelle. In the second post-war era, the theme is again the ideological power of interpretation, both of the past and for the future: what is France, torn as it is between the nation and Europe? This basic conflict shapes France up to the present day, giving this book a present-day relevance that is sometimes almost uncanny.

Wolfgang Matz, born in 1955, lived in Poitiers (France) from 1987 to 1995, where he taught at the Institute of German Language and Literature and worked as a literary translator. Since then, he has worked as a publishing editor in Munich. He was awarded the Paul Celan Prize and the Petrarca Prize for his translations of French prose and lyric poetry. Publications include: Adalbert Stifter oder Diese fürchterliche Wendung der Dinge (Adalbert Stifter or this Horrific Turn of Events, 2016); Die Kunst des Ehebruchs. Emma, Anna, Effi und ihre Männer (The Art of Adultery, 2014).
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