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LIFE, LETTERS, AND THE ARTS
TWO FRENCH PRIZE-WINNERS
BOTH M. Maurice Genevoix and M. task of writing Remi des Rauches in a Joseph Delteil — winners of the Gon
winners of the Gon- mood of boredom with the material court and Vie-Heureuse Prizes, re- he had thus been exploiting so freely. spectively — are comparatively young M. Joseph Delteil, who is even men; as indeed they should be, if the younger than M. Genevoix, is in a purposes of the two awards are kept in mind. The Goncourt Prize is awarded by the ten members of the Académie Goncourt, and is naturally destined for young and comparatively unknown writers in the naturalistic traditions of its founders. The VieHeureuse Prize - which was formerly awarded to Romain Rolland for the earlier volumes of Jean Christophe is voted on by a committee of French women writers, and, like the other prize, usually falls to a young novelist.
Raboliot is the novel for which M. Genevoix has been thus signalized. It is a careful and studious piece of ‘regional' fiction, its setting laid on the edge of the valley of the Loire in
MAURICE GENEVOIX Central France, where the author is
[Les Nouvelles Littéraires) entirely at home, being himself a native of Châteauneuf, near Orléans. different narrative-tradition: without To prepare himself for writing it, the being less realistic or less willing to author, in true Goncourt fashion, see the earthy side of human life, spent months among the natives of the he is proudest of his kinship, remote as Sologne district, most of whom are it may be, with Rabelais, — he gives poachers in a kind of semi-legitimate freer rein to the fantastic and the way. He had already written a novel, grotesque. His book based on the life Remi des Rauches, in which he recorded of Joan of Arc was severely miswith equally painstaking fidelity the handled by orthodox critics as flalife of the fishing people of the Loire, grantly sacrilegious, but M. Delteil, familiar to him from childhood. Still who has had a Catholic education, earlier he had written four or five books defends himself as not having intended based on his experiences at the front, to write a book about the saint but of which the most widely read is Sous about the woman; and plenty of Verdun. He turned, indeed, to the critics have justified him.
His latest novel, The Five Senses, is contrast to the type, so often painted a humorous and fantastic tale in which in pre-Revolutionary literature, of an the author parodies the novel of ad- irresolute intellectual wrapped up in venture with all the resources of the his doubts and anxieties. The backmodernist writer of fiction. A plague ground was a fiery one, and lent itself breaks out in Paris with such dev- admirably to representation - rebelastating effect that the President is lion, revolution, mob scenes, civil forced to declare a medical dictator- war. In the beginning, of course, this ship, and the heroine Eléonore, for- was close enough to the facts. Revolumerly a goose-girl, now an official of tion did create a new type of hero in the Institut Pasteur, becomes dictator. the most out-of-the-way corners of In this rôle she decides to order a Russia. But very soon the painting of general exodus of the population to these scenes and types became as the North Pole to escape the infection, stereotyped as that of romantic heroes. and on shipboard the superficial con- Take, for instance, the heroes of ventions of civilized society slip off one Ehrenburg, with their high probity and by one, leaving the characters of the mathematical mercilessness - Ehrenbook free to act as they would in a burg, who always rushes headlong in state of nature. The intent of this pursuit of the latest fashion. device is obviously satirical, and M. ‘Then came disillusion. Instead of Delteil has made the most of his pure Communism, the N. E. P., or opportunities. Naturally he has been New Economic Policy, with its incitereproached by many critics for his ment to profiteering, struck its roots in indelicacy, and The Five Senses is Russian soil. The dazzling panorama probably not a book for the innocent. of street barricades from which the On the other hand, it is said to have world revolution was being proclaimed the saving grace of sustained and gave way to the everyday red tape of healthy humor; and no critic has de- Soviet government offices, energetic nied that in sheer literary quality it is offensives to
offensives to devious compromises, a brilliant piece of work.
revolutionary fighters to officials that looked suspiciously bourgeois. And
instead of the fantastically perfect RECENT RUSSIAN LITERATURE
cities they had dreamed of, the THE Volia Rossii, a strongly anti- Russian Communist writers saw their Soviet but well-informed magazine age-old, terrible Russia - a hostile published in Prague, prints in its element, firm as a rock in its primitivelatest issue two extensive articles on the most recent Russian literature. 'All this filled them with terror. These articles deal chiefly with the Those who keep track of the current writings of men who have, whether of of Russian literature to-day will obtheir own free will or not, taken the serve the reaction in its general tone of Bolshevist catechism as their law. joylessness. Communist writers de
In the beginning of the Bolshevist scribe the darkest pictures that life régime,' says the writer, 'the Soviet presents; they uncover its most dreadfiction-writers, almost without ex- ful sores; if we are to believe them, the ception, delighted in painting the new Russian reality of to-day is a nighthero: a man in a leather jacket, a mare. Two or three years ago such relentless fighter for the Communist writings as those of Pilniak, for inideal, the ruler, the dictator - a true stance, provoked outbursts of indig
nation from the faithful; they were - and in all of the United States, the called “a libel on the Revolution.” theatre is in the hands of merchants. But a great deal of water has flowed Playwrights, producers, and actors under the bridge since then.'
all alike are merchants. Artists in the The article then mentions stories by true sense of the word simply do not Anna Karavaeva, Pilniak, Zorich, all exist in the Anglo-Saxon theatre. As descriptive of provincial life under an things are they cannot.' arbitrary administration. The humor- Whose winged words are these? ous tales of Artiom Vesely, who tells They might have been uttered by Mr. the story of a half-illiterate fellow and Shaw in his old cantankerous days, or his ascent to commissarial rank, relieve only yesterday by Mr. George Jean somewhat the pages of the current Nathan. As a matter of fact, they number of Krasnaia Nov, a literary were used by the most distinguished journal published in Moscow; but the of Denmark's contemporary actors, bulk of the pieces in it are characterized Johannes Poulsen, in an interview with by this critic as 'awesome human a representative of the Daily Telegraph. documents' - revelations of adminis- Poulsen in not a familiar name in trative abuses, weird realistic pictures English-speaking circles, but on the of ignorance, savagery, bloodshed. Continent he is regarded as a producer
The critic's last paragraphs are the second only to Reinhardt and as an most significant, for they point to the actor - he is the star of the Royal germs of hope that are to be found in Theatre in Copenhagen — second to Russian literature to-day - and per- none. He comes of an illustrious theathaps in Russian life itself. "The scath- rical line, for both his father and his ing, satirical tendency breaks forth uncle were great men in the Royal vigorously, regardless of every Com- Theatre of another generation, and his munist taboo, every censorship regu- father created for the first time on any lation, every government decree.' No stage the principal male rôles of all of such license was possible three years Ibsen's plays. So brilliant was his ago. What is being printed to-day performance in these parts that the could be called real freedom of speech great playwright insisted on having as compared with what prevailed in the world première of each of his those very recent times. ‘After a dramas given in Copenhagen instead period when boundless and shameless of in Norway. Johannes Poulsen has praise of Communist achievements inherited this tradition, and is reputed was the watchword, writers naturally to play Helmer in The Doll's House have fallen into reaction and now with a distinction superior even to his picture the darkest reality they can father's. find. They overlook the bright spots But he is not very sanguine about that undoubtedly exist; but then, it the theatrical state of affairs in the has always been the tradition of modern world - outside of Denmark. Russian literature to struggle against Not only is the theatre, in his opinion, the evils of the day by revealing and dominated everywhere by business to satirizing them.'
the exclusion of high-minded professionalism, but the drama itself, from a
literary point of view, is on the decline. A DANISH ACTOR-MANAGER
Of the modern writers for the stage,' ' "In all of Great Britain, — since the he says, 'not one gives promise of turnIrish Free State considers itself apart, ing out anything of lasting value. We in Denmark are especially saddened by will be with the authorities, since he is the absence of anything approaching a
known to have humanitarian sympaclassicist so far as the theatre is con- thies; and, in the light of the article cerned. For a time it appeared that that appears elsewhere in this issue, Italy — in the person of Pirandello that uncertainty is not remarkable. was to give the world something truly Istrati's three books are all in the big. But this hope was cherished by picaresque vein, and their plots laid in fewer and fewer of the world students Near Eastern settings, the romantic of the theatre. Pirandello has failed to possibilities of which the author has fulfill his earlier promise.'
A GOR'KII OF THE BALKANS
A FASCIST ACADEMY ROMAIN ROLLAND, like many great
One of the measures recently approved writers, has been, as Falstaff would say, by the Italian Cabinet provides for not only an artist himself, but the the creation of an Italian Academy, cause that is art in other men. Except roughly on the model of the French for his friendship and encouragement,
Academy. There will be sixty members Panait Istrati, a young Rumanian instead of the forty French Immortals, novelist, would even yet be earning his however, and they will enjoy an inliving by taking photographs on the come of thirty thousand lire a year and 'Promenade des Anglais' at Nice. the right to wear a blue uniform with Though born not far from Bucharest, gold facings. Members will be aphis father a Greek smuggler and his pointed on the King's or the Prime mother a Rumanian peasant woman,
Minister's recommendations, and thus Istrati had not lived in his native the Italian Academy will not, like its country for more than twenty years French model, be self-electing and since the time when, as a boy of self-perpetuating. The first academitwelve, he was seized with the Wander- cians will, naturally enough, be d’Anlust and set out on a course of very nunzio and Marconi; Signor Farinacci precarious travels.
will certainly follow soon — but what Full as those years must have been of Signor Croce? That illustrious of misery and denial, they furnished critic has all the earmarks of the born the adventurer with a practically inex- academician; but is he likely to be haustible fund of experiences for lit- recommended by the Duce? erary use when, on becoming a protégé of the distinguished author of
A CORRECTION Jean Christophe, he took to writing the tales and novels that have won for SINCE publishing the translation of him the title of 'the Gor'kii of the a recently discovered manuscript of Balkans.' His three books - Kyra ‘King, Queen, and Jack,' by Hans Kyralina, L'Oncle Anghel, and La Christian Andersen, we learn that an Présentation des Haidouks — were all English version of the story did appear written in French, and now Istrati in the January 1869 Riverside Magazine proposes to return to Rumania to live, for Young People. Julius Clausen, the to translate these books into Ruma- Danish librarian who discovered the nian, and to write henceforward in his manuscript, was apparently unacnative tongue. It appears to be some- quainted with the fact that it had ever thing of a question how popular he been printed in America.
side them. Mr. Cole, moreover, does not men tion Bentham. It would not be difficult to show that not the least of his many great services to the cause of social reform was to devise criteria of social good which, in the hands of the philosophers of labor, were far more destructive of the existing order than the abstract metaphysics of natural right. And nothing shows more forcibly the power of his doctrine than the speeches of men like Brougham and Macaulay. So, too, Mr. Cole discusses some of Disraeli's notions, but has no place for Dickens. Yet it could be argued with justice that the latter did as much as anyone in his time to bring home to men the reasons why amelioration was essential.
A Short History of the British Working Class
Movement, by G. D. H. Cole. Vol. I. 17891848. London: Allen and Unwin. 68.
(H. J. L. in the Manchester Guardian] THIS is the first of two volumes in which Mr. Cole proposes to write the history of the British Labor movement in all its varied aspects, from its real origins in the Industrial Revolution down to the present time. The book will mainly interest those who are beginning the study of the subject rather than those who are already acquainted with its outlines. Like all that Mr. Cole writes, it has the great merits of clarity, a firm control of the material, and a definite and consistent point of view. It is not, of course, original; it is built upon the classic work of Mr. and Mrs. Webb, of Max Beer, and of Mr. and Mrs. Hammond. But its materials are freshly handled, and it reads throughout like the book of a writer fully equipped to write in terms of the sources themselves.
Mr. Cole has been so anxious to make his book a system of wide generalizations that it loses a good deal of the play of personality. His figures tend to become the sport of blind, economic forces, and to lose, in consequence, that sense of pungency which gives to history so much of its light and shade. He would doubtless reply that the economic forces have a cumulative effect far greater than personality can hope to achieve. That is, in the main, true. Yet it is important to remember that the men who make movements in their turn also fashion their substance. Not a little of the failure of Chartism was due to the fact that it never produced a single leader of real competence. Mr. Cole has a horror of the tactical skill of Francis Place, the Schnadhorst of his generation; yet the guess may be hazarded that one place in a political campaign will take it further than fifty men like Orator Hunt or Vincent or even so noble a figure as William Lovett.
It is a pity that Mr. Cole did not devote a little more space to the examination of the political and economic doctrines of the time. His method of separating the Labor movement from other phases of the national life gives it a sense of separateness from the rest of the national life which it did not, in fact, possess. Few of its doctrinaires had a sharp-cut philosophy of their own; and it is significant that then, as now, their intellectual leaders mainly came from a class out
Memories and Melodies, by Nellie Melba. London: Thornton Butterworth. 28.
(The Nation and the Atheneum) It would not be difficult to make Melba's life into a fairy story — how there was a poor goosegirl who took a kitchen shovel in her hands and struck open a gold mine in the cabbage patch, and great kings paid her homage, and she lived in silks and finery happily ever afterward. It is true that the facts are slightly less romanticMelba's father was the son of a Scotch farmer, and came to Melbourne with a pound in his pocket and made a fortune. But it is also true that his daughter was so short of funds when she took lessons from Marchesi in Paris that she had, only one dress, which she wore week in, week out, in spite of Marchesi's protests.
Then suddenly the mine was discovered the bottomless gold mine in Melba's throat. In an incredibly short time she was appearing in Brussels, singing to an incredulous, silent, finally uproarious house, and waking next day to find herself, soberly and solidly, famous throughout Europe. Indeed, every door was open to a woman with that voice; every city in the world clamored to hear it. But the golden voice was lodged, as such voices often are, in a shrewd, businesslike body. She did not penetrate to strange places, nor sing strange songs. 'Home, Sweet Home' rang out almost incessantly in the palaces of kings and millionaires. But once at least the prosperous pilgrimage was interrupted, and she stooped over Sarah Bernhardt on her deathbed. The great actress whispered, 'Ah, Melba . my golden voice needs me no longer, for I am