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SOURCE: A review of Robespierre the Incorruptible: A Psychobiography, in Commonweal, Vol. XCVI, No. 9, May 5, 1972, pp. 219-20.
[In the following review, Reid favorably assesses Robespierre the Incorruptible, contending that it is a laudable study of the psychological aspects of Robespierre's character.]
The French Revolution was the first major political upheaval in the entire history of the Western nations to deserve the revolutionary epithet. This distinction says more about the relative inconsequence of centuries of successive and diverse political change and development than it does about the depth and seriousness of the events of 1789 and the years which followed. In desperation, partially at least, historians have examined and analyzed the Revolution in its broadest sweep and most far-reaching implications as well as in its minutest and frequently most trivial details. Burke and deMaistre, no less than Marx and Michelet, bestowed on the largely uninformed reading public accounts of what happened and why, already prefabricated according to selective interpretative canons. More perhaps than any other episode in modern times, the Revolution itself, what in fact took place, its causes and consequences, has scarcely been allowed room in the pages of its chroniclers and critics. The moral is devastatingly clear, however reluctant historians have been to own it as integral to their craft. What is objectively important is, of course, of paramount interest to the observer and commentator, but it is not "what happened," it is what is most appealing, after the fact.
The principal agents in the revolutionary drama, if we are to be guided by the recognized authorities, were mostly Parisians, striking figures, individualists, tireless theoreticians, tiresome propagandists. This is ludicrous, on the face of it, almost equivalent to crediting Herb Klein and Eric Sevareid with making contemporary history. But if history is what historians decide to write about, the men of letters effectively insert themselves between the past and us and we have no choice except to weigh their evidence as carefully as may be. The name of Robespierre is practically synonymous with the French Revolution, yet he spent most of his waking hours, from the fall of the Bastille until his execution in 1794, talking—just that, talking. I have no doubt either that he excelled in interminable speechifying or that he was incapable of doing anything else. I do not like him and I cannot imagine that anyone who knew him found him likable. I will admit, in spite of these feelings, that he made history, which is to say that historians made him.
[In Robespierre the Incorruptible: A Psychobiography] Gallo has given us what he calls a psychobiography, something far more ambitious than a slice of conventional history and immensely less reliable. Everyone knows well enough what Robespierre did, in the half-decade during which he survived the Revolution, just as everyone knows what others did to him when they could no longer tolerate his incorruptibility. Gallo approaches his subject armed with Freud and with a lack of subtlety well suited to his topic. Early on the author lays out enough data to convince the most benign skeptic that the Incorruptible-to-be suffered enormous, irreversible emotional deprivation in childhood. From this premise it is a piece of cake to penetrate Robespierre's mind and feelings in every situation, at every crucial turn, whatever the other factors involved. Gallo does his job well enough; he is orderly and thorough and from time to time casts an eye around, to note that France was troubled by more than his hero's agonizing over an unhappy consciousness. The result, inherently a dubious job, is fairly well carried off.
My doubt is pricked by the ambiguity and patent vagueness of the kind of interpretation Gallo has attempted. It may be a generic hazard attached to biography as such, but its risks are more important when the subject is so closely involved in great historic movements. Yet the biographical entry opens upon vistas and perspectives of endless fascination, and Gallo has explored every likely corner of Robespierre's character and personality. The whole adds up to a compelling portrait, of a man hopelessly limited, distorted even, by the legacy of an early life starved of affection and pride of accomplishment and by overweening ambition. Only in his last months, in the late Spring and early Summer before his death, did Robespierre's inner torments escape his rigid self-control. Under threat of deposition and assassination he mounted every available rostrum and poured forth endless vituperation in a self-justifying frenzy that masked as lofty judgment on the betrayers of the revolutionary ideal. Gallo's insights into the man's deepest sentiments and aspirations lift his narrative, finally, to lyrical heights. The end casts its mordant glow back over the five years, almost to the day, since the Paris mob stormed the royal prison. The liturgical symbols with which Gallo clothes the ultimate scenario seem oddly appropriate; one has left the public stage of mass movements and impersonal forces and focused on the altar of a man's soul. The Freudian categories need not be taken at full heuristic value; what matters is the vision of immortality, the glorious prospect of his countrymen's admiration and homage, that shimmered before the spent fanatic's inner gaze.
Gallo's is a study of this man's life-long quest for recognition and a sense of his own worth and dignity. In the midst of turmoil and chaotic events, Robespierre's struggle with his past left him little energy with which to weigh alternatives or preserve balance and moderation. It may be, in Stendhal's words, that his soul was too ardent to content itself with the reality of life. To his adversaries, to posterity, he wanted to bequeath "the terrible truth and death." The truth that stands forth hauntingly in this man's career is the inexorability of death. The flesh is corruptible.
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SOURCE: A review of The Night of Long Knives, in Best Sellers, Vol. 32, No. 9, August 1, 1972, pp. 213-14.
[In the following favorable review of The Night of Long Knives, O'Brien discusses Gallo's use of historical documentation as a basis for understanding why Hitler liquidated several powerful allies.]
"The Führer himself is law and justice." It must be true that the will of the sovereign has the force of law, even if the sovereign is tyrant, or madman, or both. The above quotation is part of the writings of the Nazi jurist, Karl Schmitt, in justification of the wave of murder and assassination by which Hitler broke the power of the SA, Sturmabteilung, "Brown Shirts," People's Militia, or whatever one may care to call them. The action took place over the week end of June 30, and July 1 and 2, 1934.
In addition to … [The Night of Long Knives], Max Gallo is author of Robespierre, the Incorruptible. Long Knives was first published in France, and this edition is a translation from the French by Lily Emmet. It is characterized by the author as a historical narrative, source material for it being the Institute of Contemporary History in Munich, trial documents, newspapers, memoirs, historical studies, interviews, and trips to the scenes of the events.
The Brown Shirts were the bully boys who brought Hitler to power by their violent quelling of opposition to the Nazi party. With Hitler Chancellor under Hindenburg, they became an embarrassment, particularly because these ruffianly braggarts worked for a revolution against the conservative elements who controlled Germany: industrialists, monarchists, and aristocrats. The genius of Hitler realized that he could never attain to the power he craved without the support of these conservative elements.
"The seething brew of ambition, intrigue, and rivalry" which surrounded Hitler consisted of the Wehrmacht, the SS, and the Gestapo, in addition to the SA. Representing these elements were four men: Goering of the Wehrmacht, Heydrich of the SS, Himmler of the Gestapo … and Ernest Roehm, leader of the SA.
It was not too much of a trick for Himmler to convince Hitler of Roehm's disloyalty. Himmler played up every hint of it, warned Hitler of an apparent SA coup, stressed the notorious homosexuality of Roehm and SA leaders, and thus succeeded in presenting to Hitler the opportunity greatly to consolidate his power. Hitler knew the Army despised the SA. Rumor had it that he had agreed to eliminate Roehm and break the power of the SA in exchange for Army support. Hindenburg was dying. Hitler knew he would have to step into his place or risk falling from power.
The tragedy for Hitler was that Roehm was and always had been Hitler's loyal friend, who had manned the barricades for him. For Hitler to sacrifice Roehm must have meant to everyone who could learn the circumstances that no one could be safe from the danger of Hitler's lust for power. There were five years to go before the march on Poland, and the diplomatic adventuring that led to it. The "Night of Long Knives" had much to do with setting the inexorable course.
The writing is vivid and suspenseful, with background descriptions of the beautiful German countryside. There are eighteen pages of illustrations, appendices of extracts of Hitler's and Roehm's speeches, and bibliography.
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SOURCE: "Nazi History: The Haphazard Purge," in Christian Science Monitor, August 23, 1972, p. 11.
[Harsch was a journalist, news correspondent, and author of books on contemporary world politics. In the following favorable review of The Night of Long Knives, he comments on Gallo's literary style and his utilization of the historical record.]
Reporters called it "the night of the long knives." It happened in Germany on the night of June 29-30 in 1934 when Adolph Hitler allowed his fascist revolution to devour its own original children.
The devouring was a savage, ruthless, vindictive affair. What was conceived of as a means of purging the Nazi movement of some of its embarrassing elements ended in a careless butchery of anyone on the purge list of one or another of the plotters. Many were killed because they knew too much. One victim was a man who had dared to suggest changes in the text of Hitler's Mein Kampf. Some were killed because of mistaken identity. A musician named Schmidt was totally innocent of any connection with Nazism in any form—the Blackshirted execution squad had picked the wrong address from the telephone book.
The records are not complete; to this day no one knows exactly how many died on that dreadful night. The mystery to outsiders was whether there actually had been a plot among the leaders of the Sturmabteilung to kill Hitler and his intimates and establish a Brown Shirt dictatorship under their leader, Ernst Roehm.
Roehm had once been one of Hitler's closest associates. He was among the very few whom Hitler addressed by the familiar German "du" instead of the formal "Sie." But by June of 1934, shortly before President Von Hindenburg died, when Hitler was finally within reach of supreme power in Germany, a coolness had developed between the two. Largely it sprang from the fact that the street thugs, ne'er-do-wells, misfits and failures who made up the ranks of the original Brown Shirt units wanted more from the victory of Nazism than Hitler was allowing them. They wanted jobs. They also hated the old upper classes which dominated all phases of German public and business life. They were revolutionaries who felt that their revolution was unfinished.
[In The Night of Long Knives,] Max Gallo has written a dramatic account of the dreadful night and the events which led up to it. The essential details are not new: they appeared in Sir John Wheeler-Bennet's authoritative account of the rise and fall of Hitler's Germany, Nemesis of Power. The Gallo book treats the same material in more detail, and in a style perhaps more suited to today's readers.
As retold it puts to rest convincingly the question of whether there was a plot against Hitler. The answer is no. Roehm and his lieutenants were brutish, extremely unattractive as individuals and greedy for their loot.
But there is not the slightest evidence that they seriously intended to kill Hitler and take over the Nazi movement. Trapped in a plot manufactured against themselves, they were totally unaware of what was intended for them. Hitler lent himself to the manufacture of a false plot, and then took part personally in destroying those falsely accused.
It adds up to a dramatic reminder of what truly dreadful things happened in Germany under Adolph Hitler—not so long ago.
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SOURCE: "Joseph Lee on Interpretations of Hitler, the Man," in The Spectator, Vol. 230, No. 7557, April 28, 1973, pp. 523-24.
[In the following excerpt of a review of several books on Hitler, Lee examines The Night of Long Knives, focusing on its literary style and historical credibility.]
Hitler is much the most fascinating politician of twentieth-century Europe. Stalin, with whom he is frequently compared, faced far fewer problems. Stalin never had to worry about his public. They were already prisoners of a system which Stalin had merely to capture, not to create. Hitler, on the other hand, had to woo a mass electorate, and intrigue for power from outside rather than inside the existing political elite. Once in office, Hitler found the army still a potential obstacle to his plans. Stalin felt sufficiently secure to exterminate his assumed enemies in the officer corps. Hitler had to manipulate his. Hitler set an incredible pace. No politician has ever imposed so many deadlines on himself. It was his constant seizing of initiatives which largely defined the range of options confronting his contemporaries. After making the 'thirties indubitably his decade, he proved an inspiring war leader. The German performance between 1939 and 1945 is the most remarkable in the annals of war, even more remarkable for the resolution displayed in the face of impending defeat than for the stunning early victories. No army in modern history has sustained such a disciplined retreat as the German between the surrender of Stalingrad and final capitulation over two years later. More of the credit for this tenacity must go to Hitler himself than to German military traditions, for long after the common soldiers lost faith in their generals they continued to believe in the Führer, however remorselessly the engulfing tide rolled on….
[Hitler] liked to keep his options open as long as possible. His apparent indecision before the night of the Long Knives, when he had several SA leaders, including his old friend Ernst Roehm, whom he personally arrested, as well as many non-SA men, killed on the pretext of an imminent putsch allows Max Gallo … to construct gripping accounts of that macabre episode [in The Night of Long Knives].
Gallo has won some publicity as Martin Gray's collaborator. "If Gallo were not a professor at the Institut d'Etude Politique," gushes a reviewer cited on the blurb, "he could be mistaken for a Hollywood scriptwriter…." His book is eminently shootable, with bucketfuls of blood brightening up the scene whenever interest threatens to flag. Gallo claims to be writing an historical narrative, but hastens to reassure readers alarmed by such an austere invitation that he intends transcending "the somewhat abstract limits of historical analysis." He succeeds. There are few tedious reflections on the meaning of it all.
The reader who merely wants a rattling good yarn, much of it demonstrably historically accurate, will not be disturbed by the bland assurance that Generals Schleicher and Bredow once counted among Hitler's closest friends, or by the incompatibility between some of the captions and the text, though cognoscenti may be surprised to learn that some Nazis stood so frequently with their legs so wide apart. The eager seeker of knowledge of German weather conditions at the end of June 1934 need search no further for information on where the sun shone, the rain spat or the clouds glowered.
But Hitler himself eludes Gallo's grasp. He remains a shadowy figure, a fly caught in a web woven by Himmler, Goering and Blomberg. This picture does conform to the impression of some observers, who considered Hitler such an evanescent presence during June 1934 that they spoke of virtual abdication. Gallo assumes that Hitler did not decide until June 29 to exterminate the SA leadership and, that immediately on reaching a decision he flew from Bonn to Munich to arrest them himself, before giving Goering, Himmler and Heydrich in Berlin permission to assassinate several other enemies, private and public. Why did Hitler hesitate to move against his old SA friends? Because of the bonds of friendship? Because he 'really' believed in their demands for a 'socialist' revolution? Because he imagined himself the puppet of the army if he were compelled to decapitate its rival, the SA? Gallo evokes a host of possibilities by skilful use of the flash-back technique as Hitler gropes to a decision, though it is unfortunate that he chooses to take us through June on the two hour flight from Bonn to Munich in the early hours of June 30. Hitler's decision was then already taken. In view of Hitler's reluctance to brood on decisions already reached it seems more likely that his mind was moving ahead to the next stage in the course of the flight rather than lingering on the past.
Gallo's reconstruction could well be true, though only if one assumes that Hitler's political brain was paralysed during most of June. Some rather central questions that might held to establish the a priori plausibility of this assumption aren't asked. Did Hitler leave Berlin to attend a wedding reception in Essen on June 28 still undecided on his course of action, or to evade responsibility for the projected murders in Berlin, or to lull suspicious minds? Hitler could conceivably have taken his decision in early June, when he failed to persuade Roehm, in a five hour interview, to moderate his revolutionary tone. Since when had the trip to Essen featured in his schedule? Who selected the victims?… More importantly, was Hitler prepared to give a free murdering hand to Goering and Himmler in Berlin while he himself was in Munich? Is it conceivable that they would have killed Schleicher, an exchancellor whose death might distress the army, without Hitler's consent? Would they have dared murder Strasser, or even Papen's secretary, without Hitler's knowledge? Had Himmler had a free hand he might well have killed Papen and thus upset the whole scheme by infuriating Hindenburg. It seems highly improbable that Hitler should not have been fully informed of these plans. It is not even impossible that he was feigning reluctance to move against Roehm in order to implicate potential Nazi rivals if anything went wrong. The masterly manner in which he began shifting responsibility on July 1 for the 'excesses' onto Goering and Himmler, while retaining credit for his resolute reaction to the threat to the state, may have reflected something more than instant inspiration. Without further evidence it is impossible to accept as final the verdict that sees Hitler as little more than the tool of Goering and Himmler. I find Richard Hughes portrait of a Hitler retaining ultimate control more convincing. Nevertheless, Gallo would point to one crucial possible oversimplification in Hughes's account. Did Hitler, as the consensus suggests, try to save Roehm by refusing to have him executed with the other S. A. leaders on June 30, before finally consenting under concerted pressure from Himmler and Goering on his return to Berlin? This account, followed by Gallo, claims that Hitler directed that Roehm be given a revolver, with a ten minute deadline to commit suicide, on July 1. Only when he refused this last favour to his solicitous Fuehrer was Roehm executed. Hughes, however, has the revolver placed at Roehm's disposal on June 30, without a deadline, and Himmler, not Hitler, ordering the execution on hearing from Munich the following day that Roehm had failed to oblige. Hitler, according to this interpretation, had decided on Roehm's death on or before June 30. That no deadline should have been set seems inconceivable in the circumstances. But why should Hitler save Roehm? Did he really think he might need him against Himmler and Goering? Did he think the generals would condone Roehm's release, or even imprisonment, when lesser fry had been shot? Was Hitler genuinely distraught about his friend?
Uncertainties like these will probably make a definitive biography of Hitler impossible.
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SOURCE: A review of The Night of Long Knives, in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 3723, July 13, 1973, p. 817.
[The following is a mixed review of The Night of Long Knives.]
The dramatic story of Hitler's purge of the SA on the night of June 29-30, 1934 is told by Max Gallo [in The Night of Long Knives] in a detailed "scenario in which time shifts both forward and backward, the past flowing into the present, the present moment containing the past", in an attempt "to recreate events not only in terms of general causes and political mechanisms, but also by evoking the attitudes, thoughts and faces of the various actors and … the skies and landscapes which set the scene". His sources are given only in general terms and it is difficult to assess what is vouched for and what imagined in this reconstruction. His presentation is effective, and the events of the June and July days of 1934, when not only Roehm and the other SA leaders but also Schleicher and a number of miscellaneous enemies of the SS were liquidated, are shown in the perspective of Hitler's Deutschland pact with the Reichswehr and his subsequent assumption a few weeks later of complete control of the Reich as Hindenburg's successor Head of State. The plates include a number of unusual photographs which illustrate the story excellently, and the translation is smooth, though the historic present which is so convincing in French tends to jar on the English ear. The flash-back, flash-forward technique gives all that is required by a reader coming fresh to the story, but it needs all his concentration if he is not to be confused by the almost overwhelming detail of this Sekundenstil.
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SOURCE: "The Caudillo: A Strategy for Survival," in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 3739, November 2, 1973, p. 1336.
[In the following review, the critic favorably assesses Spain under Franco, applauding its detailed history of Francisco Franco's rise to power but faulting its examination of the inner workings of the Franco government.]
General Franco has long enjoyed favourable publicity in England. During the Spanish Civil War he was described by conservative and Catholic commentators as a crusader against barbarism, a defender of Western Civilization. In 1937, Douglas Jerrold wrote in his Georgian Adventure that Franco was "a supremely good man, a hero possibly; possibly a saint". Virtually the only dissenting voice was that of the Left Book Club, and with its demise the field was left to a new wave of admirers. These were the Cold War mongers who lavished praise on the new-found "sentinel of the West". Of late, there has been a trend towards appreciative biographies of Franco, the elder statesman, guiding Spain's ship of state on its course of order and prosperity. This view, to the ostentatious delight of Francoist propagandists who have courted foreign intellectuals, is becoming an orthodoxy in Anglo-Saxon circles—following from that other orthodoxy which sees Franco's rising in 1936 as an inevitable but reluctant response to left-wing provocation (see TLS, March 26, 1971 and March 16, 1973).
Among the more unsatisfying features of this benign "orthodoxy" is the fact that, following Francoist sources, it tends to gloss over the repression upon which the régime is founded and consequently to ignore the extent of opposition to it. This is partly a question of sources—pro-Franco material is conveniently available in Madrid, while the student of the opposition faces a search for clandestine literature scattered throughout Europe and South America. Hence, we are still in a position in which the central question concerning Franco's régime—how has it survived so long?—has neither been properly posed nor adequately answered.
Winston Churchill summed up the problem as the military rebels occupied Madrid in March, 1939: "General Franco's triumph opens to him only a vista of difficulties. He cannot live by terror. Half a nation cannot exterminate or subjugate the other half. He must come to terms with the rest of his fellow-countrymen." Max Gallo's powerful and absorbing book [Spain under Franco] gives the most detailed account we have had so far of how Franco proved Churchill wrong and has remained in power to the present day.
This is essentially a political history which has turned a mass of information concerning Spain's diplomacy, economy and society into a most readable narrative. Four main themes stand out: the régime's dominance of its enemies by a heavy repressive apparatus; Franco's skill in tacking to the prevailing diplomatic winds; the weaknesses of the very considerable anti-Francoist opposition and the Caudillo's own blend of nerve and ruthlessness.
In the crucial period when Nationalist power was consolidated after the Civil War, those members of the Left and the working class who did not escape into exile were cowed by a state terror befitting a general who had climbed to power on the backs of Mussolini and Hitler. In the first twelve months after the war, M Gallo tells us, there were one and a half million political prisoners throughout Spain and 100,000 executions in Madrid alone. A police force trained by the Gestapo initiated a cycle of denunciations, arrests and torture.
A more subtle form of repression was, and is, corruption. At its most simple, this consisted of bureaucratic graft and the distribution of monopolies. But the poverty and hunger of the 1940s also spawned a blackmarket and a prostitution network, out of which grew an entire new bourgeoisie beholden to the régime, whose police connived at their existence. Malpractices—ranging from the Argentinian wheat, sent in 1949 to relieve Spain's hunger and sold abroad before it arrived, to the monster Matesa swindle of 1969—have been benevolently overlooked by the régime. The complicity of the corrupt and of those who conducted the day-to-day administration of terror was assured and with it their loyalty.
This is a bleaker picture of Spain than has been previously current in England. Of course, the misdeeds of the 1940s were committed while the world's media were involved elsewhere, those of the 1950s when the Cold War justified everything. Yet it is not an inaccurate picture even when applied to the Spain of the economic "miracle". Workers are still shot—Granada 1970, El Ferrol 1972; torture is still practised—Grimau, the treatment of prisoners after May Day this year; and even as the Matesa scandal died down, there emerged the story of Redondela, the Galician town whose olive oil stocks had been replaced by water.
The control of domestic order has always been complemented by Franco's triumphs in the diplomatic field. Indeed, his survival of his fascist past during the international ostracism of 1944–47 is arguably his greatest achievement. He had regularly declared himself a bitter enemy of liberal democracy and of Bolshevism. When Hitler undertook a war against both, there was no doubt where the Caudillo's sympathies lay. He visited both Hitler and Mussolini—still his only trips abroad—and only economic exhaustion stood in the way of Spain's joining the Axis war effort. His awareness of British control of vital sea lanes also suggested caution. Yet when Belgium and Holland fell, he refused a $100 million credit from the US and in 1941 the British Embassy was attacked by Falangists.
Paradoxically, it was Russia's entry into the war which was to save Franco from his commitment to the Axis, since from the earliest days he had spoken to the Allies of Russia as the common enemy. The Blue Division of Falangist fanatics fighting in Russia enabled him to play down his hatred of democracy and emphasize his continuing crusade against Communism. Thus, he was able to ride the crisis caused by exclusion from the United Nations in 1946 and the UN condemnation of his régime in the following year, for he had struck a chord among the Allies. After Churchill's iron curtain speech at Fulton, it was plain sailing. International anti-Communism converted Franco into a bulwark of Western defence and he was soon happily trading bases for credits.
M Gallo's account of how Franco survived the 1940s goes far to explain the tragedy of the Spanish Left. In fact, his history of the opposition is probably the most original part of his story. Decimated by the Civil War and the slaughter of Francoism's early years, internal opposition was nonexistent apart from isolated guerrilleros. The exiled Republicans continued the struggle against fascism in the French resistance, confident that their contribution to the Allied cause would be rewarded by the overthrow of Franco. The conservatism of the Allies crushed their hopes. A small invasion force of maquisards held out for ten days against a well-equipped army of 45,000 troops. Yet faced by this material superiority of Francoism, the opposition still looked for outside help, and henceforth was condemned to impotence, split into moderates and extremists. The moderates' insistence on their democratic credentials could never be as attractive to the Western powers as Franco's unflinching authoritarianism. The extremists have intermittently tried to start a guerrilla for which they have had neither the fire-power nor the popular support. The only group which seems to have escaped the vicious circle is the Basque liberation army, the ETA.
In the 1960s, the growing prosperity of considerable sectors of Spanish society made the prospects of opposition look grim. But the soaring consumption of television sets and cars concealed the imbalance of an economic growth heavily weighted towards tourism. Deflationary attempts to stabilize the economy hit an increasingly militant working class. Waves of strikes and university demonstrations in recent years suggest that the workers' commissions and a vocal student movement embody a real threat to the régime. M Gallo's book was originally published in 1969 and has not been revised to cover subsequent developments. However, his description of the build-up of crisis illuminates the present situation in which the Caudillo is gradually handing over power to his dry-land admiral deputy, Carrero Blanco, who is increasingly reliant on repressive measures.
The picture of Franco himself which emerges is revealing. He sees through crises with incredible sang-froid and discards members of his team with a dispassion bordering on brutality. He is still seen here to be the familiar grand arbiter between the power groups in whose interests Spain is run. However, it is underlined that the crucial piece in the game is more than ever the army. In his account of the rise to power of Spain's holy mafia, the Opus Dei, M Gallo shows the army in the background ready to quell any disorder liable to arise from the so called liberalización. The overriding impression is summed up in the words of the recently arrived ambassador in London, Manuel Fraga, who told The Times some years ago "Whatever happens, the armed forces will continue to stand surety for the situation, and no solution will be possible without their consent".
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SOURCE: A review of Spain under Franco, in Best Sellers, Vol. 33, No. 21, February 1, 1974, pp. 482-83.
[Colby was an educator, journalist, and author of books about contemporary world politics. In the following review of Spain under Franco, he comments on Gallo's journalistic style and his mixing of historical fact with personal opinion.]
Having recently published a detailed and perceptive volume by this author on Italy under Mussolini, Dutton now comes along with a translation from the French of the same author's history of the Spanish under Franco. (The translation [of Spain under Franco] by Jean Stewart is done with all the ease of original writing, with little trace of alien idiom.) Like the work of any master of political studies, and lecturer on them, this book is rich in detail of trends, forces, and influences, with occasional (but not too many) statistics from other fields—agriculture, industry, and education. It touches on the origin of the Opus Dei and upon its intrusion into public affairs.
The tale starts with the appalling conditions in Spain before the Civil War, treats military events always with their political emphasis, and goes right through the rise of Franco, his increase in personal appeal, his leanings on "repression and restriction," his use of the army "to maintain order," his "life and death struggle" to primacy. Then there was the steadiness of the postwar period followed by "grief, bitterness, despair, and flight" for some and terroristic control, with a slowly transforming and settling situation and still "Franco remained in charge." Students demonstrated, strikes began again. Young poets (oft quoted) were "harried," and the Church continued as "a political force," until finally things seemed to settle down with the nation transformed and Franco still "in charge."
The author has written with the same deliberate detail which he showed in his book on Mussolini, and which we praised him for. He has used an impressive bibliography, but also has shown this almost contemporary history in such detail by very frequent use of reference or quotation from contemporary journalism—for instance: New York Times, New York Herald-Tribune, Washington Times-Herald, United States News, Le Monde, Paris-Match, and L'Illustration, to name a few. He writes for a daily newspaper in Paris, and has the narrative style of a sober journalist. Certain specific facts which he inserts are curious to note, at least, even if they are not very significant.
He says that "when (F. D.) Roosevelt died, the Falangists felt a real sense of relief and joy" for they thought him not conservative enough. He digs up the fact that Ambassador Carlton Hayes was "demanding" during the war that the Soviet communiques be included in the Spanish newspapers. He says that when V-E day came "few hung out their flags for victory," and the falangists were "embarrassed." He declares that Franco "naturally enjoyed the support of the military men in the Pentagon and this contributed considerably to his strength" in 1963. He strongly alleges that in 1968 "the majority of the Spanish people turned their backs on politics, even of the proletariat." He mixes facts with opinionating and strong judgements.
But perhaps this is merely nit-picking at the usual professorial pertness. The volume well deserves to stand beside the Mussolini volume and is a detailed history of important events of our time: I finish this review on the day of the assassination of the Fascist premier Carrero Blanco, in days dominated by politics and placing front-rank emphasis on the Falangists. I paste the new item in my copy as being in tone and tune with the book.
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SOURCE: A review of The Night of Long Knives, in American Political Science Review, Vol. LXVIII, No. 1, March, 1974, pp. 300-01.
[In the following review, Latour states that despite some faults, The Night of Long Knives "is a fine tale of horror for the general reader."]
The Night of Long Knives by Max Gallo chronicles the liquidation of Ernst Röhm and associates, the destruction of the SA as an element of revolutionary political power in the Nazi state, and the gangland slaying of uncounted victims of political or personal vendettas carried out with great verve on June 29-30, 1934 by men then grasping for ascendancy in Hitler's regime…. Mr. Gallo, a French journalist, writes fluently, often grippingly about what Otto Strasser has called "the German St. Bartholomew's," with minimal recourse to research in depth and no scholarly apparatus at all.
As popular history, Mr. Gallo offers a rousing suspense story, featuring as chief plotters Himmler, Heydrich, and Goering, busily manufacturing damning evidence against former comrades-in-arms, and joining an uneasy alliance with military, industrial and conservative political leaders fearful of the SA's radical threat to the Reichswehr and to the financial and industrial establishment. Pushed by these factions, himself in an agony of indecision, Hitler forces himself to make a move which, for a variety of reasons, he dreads. The fact remains: the old Field Marshal lies dying. General von Blomberg's offer—for once the "Rubber Lion" meant business—to trade the SA for the Reich's presidency, prompts the Führer. The unwary Röhm (though hardly an object for righteous compassion), his followers and protegés, and scores of others quite uninvolved are doomed.
Mr. Gallo's somewhat irritating device of telling his story in a series of hectic flashbacks and shifts of scenery, with impressionistic-pointillist effects, does not really obscure the events, which are described with reasonable accuracy, even though the author relies almost exclusively on memoirs, secondary works, and newspaper accounts. Unfortunately, he gives little weight to the bias of his sources: to accept, for example, Franz von Papen's accounts of his motivations and actions at face value seems downright touching. Odd gaffes in the translation are due to the author's frequent use of German sources in a French edition. Still, The Night of Long Knives is a fine tale of horror for the general reader to curl up with on a lazy afternoon or a long evening.
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SOURCE: "The Dream of Empire, Again," in The Nation, New York, Vol. 218, No. 14, April 6, 1974, pp. 441-43.
[In the following review, Frohlich applauds Gallo's command of contemporary history in Mussolini's Italy.]
When on June 13, 1921, Mussolini, as deputy of the young Fascist Party, rose in the Italian Parliament and declared, "We deny that the history of mankind can be explained by economic determinism," he repudiated his Socialist past and opened the way for his new role. Italy with its colorful history of varied forms of small duchies and city republics had never lacked swashbuckling condottieri, and Professor Gallo in his book [Mussolini's Italy] explains how a people can fall prey to a system seemingly incompatible with its temperament. And here is the rub: existing forces, not the temperament of a people, determine its political path.
Professor Gallo follows Mussolini's oblique career from his youth to the pinnacle of his power during the Dollfuss crisis in Austria, and thereafter to his ignominious death. It is most strange that his end is so much like that of another usurper of Roman power—Cola di Rienzi.
Filippo Turiati and Anna Kulishova founded a periodical, Critica Sociale, in 1891. The two had a strong influence on Mussolini and Gallo cites an interesting observation of Kulishova which may be a clue to Mussolini's apostasy from Left to Right. Kulishova thought of him as a "Non-Marxist, not even a Socialist but an individualist and autocrat." In any case, when Bissolati established the Avanti in 1896, Italy had its influential daily Socialist paper, and it eventually joined with Il Trentino, edited by Cesare Battisti, in calling for the reunification of the Trentino and Trieste with the Italian fatherland. This movement gave impetus to the interventionists for Italy's entry into World War I, and in its later course was an important element of fascism. Mussolini, who became editor of the Avanti in 1912, was one of the most fervent proponents of intervention until October 1915 when he was dismissed from that post. With financial help from big industrialists, Mussolini started his own paper, Il Popolo D'Italia, which with his ascendance became the voice of the Fascist Party.
An army which had not learned the lessons of the Western Front entered a fateful war. The Italian defeat at Caporetto in October 1917 marked the ten days that shook Italy to its core and left it with the trauma that later made possible the takeover by the unemployed and rowdy Avanguardisti, the returning stormtroopers. Mussolini shed the last vestiges of his Socialist past in dropping the subtitle of his paper, "A Socialist Daily." He replaced it on the masthead with a name that better expressed its policy: "The Newspaper of Fighters and Producers." This in practice meant an alliance between the military and big business.
The 19th-century Italian bourgeoisie, much damaged by World War I, welcomed the opportunity to finance the new capitalism. Gallo is most thorough in exposing the financial rivulets which nourished the Fascist torrent. The year 1922 was one of economic disaster; this was the climate that made the takeover of the government possible. Big industry got its man in power and could rely on suitable legislation and budgets.
The Concordat with the Vatican placated the old members of the Catholic Party. The assassination of Dollfuss in Austria by the German Nazis aroused Mussolini's fear that the Italian frontier at the Brenner Pass might be violated by the upsurge of German irredentism in the new Italian province of Alto Adige (the former South Tyrol). The attacks in the Popolo D'Italia on Hitler are unmistakably in Mussolini's personal style. The widespread Italian resentment of the role played by the army during the war, Italy's late entry into that conflict, and the shabby treatment of its representatives during the peace conference had to be compensated for by aggression. Mussolini's frantic desire to gain equal status with the West European great powers led to his attempt to achieve supremacy in the Near East—hence his short-lived invasion of Corfu, and the establishment of a stronghold in the Dodecanese Islands.
The founding of an Empire meant the founding of colonies. October 1935 marked the birthday of the Blitzkrieg, waged with tanks, poison gas and dive bombers against a primitive Abyssinian Army. Their defeat brought no glory to the Italians, only the illusion of grandeur and the title of Emperor to their king—as well as that of Duke of Addis Ababa to Marshal Badoglio, who later would have liked to forget this phase of his career. The civil war in Spain found Mussolini on the side of Franco. (His were not the only Italian forces in the conflict; in the International Brigade, fighting to defend the Republican government, was the Garibaldi Battalion manned by antiFascist exiles, and among them Pietro Nenni, Luigi Longo, Palmiro Togliatti.) Thereafter, the signing of the anti-Comintern pact and the formation of the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis tied Italy's destiny to Germany in return for guarantees not to violate the Brenner frontier. That left Mussolini no choice in his reaction to Hitler's occupation of Austria, in contrast to his stand during the Dollfuss crises.
The days of Munich and the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia are thoroughly covered by the author. World War II found Italy again a latecomer on the side of its ally, and again with an inadequately equipped army. Hitler promised to deliver the necessary supplies and weapons and his promise brought 250,000 Italian soldiers to the gates of Stalingrad and a disastrous retreat. The Allied landing in Sicily, the abandonment by the Italian forces of the island of Pantelleria, the open withdrawal of the Italian industrialists from the sinking Fascist ship are all put in fascinating perspective in Gallo's book. He spotlights the role of King Victor Emmanuel III, who clung to fascism rather than open the door to forces that might threaten the monarchy.
When, faced with complete defeat, the Grand Council of the Fascist Party stripped Mussolini of his military command, it also abrogated the Fascist constitution and restored supreme power to the King. Mussolini was arrested and Marshal Badoglio, Duke of Addis Ababa, appointed Prime Minister. At this point the downhill course of fascism gains momentum, and Max Gallo, the author of Night of the Long Knives now turns to events which he narrates with a masterly dramatic sense. Mussolini is dramatically abducted to Munich and later established in the Villa Feltrinelli on Lake Garda, the same luxurious place to which he had exiled Gabriele D'Annunzio in earlier years. Hitler's decision to keep the old dictator around was prompted by his need for a personality to head the puppet government of the new "Socialist Republic" which was created as a counterweight to the monarchy under Badoglio.
Mussolini is now a shell eroded by syphilis, a virtual prisoner of his S.S. supervisors, left with a sham pretorian guard, humiliated by the generals of his German ally. His former comrades and advisers are brought to trial by him, accused of treason, to make common cause with the Badoglio regime. Four of his old hierarchs, his son-in-law Ciano, Farinacci, Marinelli and De Bono are condemned to the firing squad and executed; thirteen others are condemned in absentia. This was the last chapter of Mussolini's Italy. A new Italy would try to revive those aspects of the moral and intellectual life of the nation destroyed by twenty-one years of fascism. The ignominious end of Mussolini and his mistress at the hands of partisans is Gallo's final epos. This section is written with a novelist's instinct for the high drama of crime and punishment.
Max Gallo puts before us the facts expertly gathered, documented with the names, locales and incidents which became synonymous with the exploitation of a distorted patriotism. The literature about the rise and fall of fascism in Italy is voluminous. Whereas much of the German record of the same period has been written by Nazi generals and freed war criminals in well-remunerated memoirs, Max Gallo has contributed to the relative objectivity of the Italian story, making sophisticated use in particular of the newspapers and magazines of the time. And while there was an Italy that was heart and soul with the Mussolini regime, there was also an Italy of expatriates who could not publish their writings in their homeland and had to seek refuge in Switzerland and France. It is most gratifying that Max Gallo draws on the testimony of the voices that Mussolini could not still.
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SOURCE: A review of Spain under Franco, in America, Vol. 130, No. 19, May 18, 1974, pp. 403-04.
[Sánchez is an educator and author of books about Spanish politics and religion. In the following favorable review of Spain under Franco, he applauds Gallo's writing style and use of historical detail while faulting his one-sided view of Francisco Franco.]
At age 81, Francisco Franco has managed to stay in absolute power in Spain for 35 years, longer than any Spanish executive since Philip V in the early 18th century. He has controlled one of the most politically volatile people in Europe with threats and blandishments, but he has managed to stay on top.
How has he done this? Arthur Whittaker tells the marvelous story that on Franco's desk there are two stacks of paper, one labeled "problems that time will solve," and the other "problems that time has solved." The Caudillo's chief occupation, the story goes, is transferring papers from the first stack to the second. The French historian Max Gallo [in his Spain under Franco] sees Franco as having "the ability to change one's line in order to preserve what is essential—power."
Gallo's study is well-written, full of important statistics and facts, chronologically well-developed and comprehensive. But Gallo is so one-sidedly anti-Franco that his interpretation inevitably suffers, and at times the story becomes nothing more than a dreary history of abortive rebellion and political repression. The Civil War is seen in such simplistic terms that it leaves one wondering how the Nationalists won; after all, a sizable number of Spaniards supported Franco, else no amount of German and Italian aid would have helped.
Gallo's handling of the postwar period is much better. He shows how Franco manipulated the other powerful institutions, the Church, the Falange, the Army and the monied interests to perpetuate himself in power. He describes in detail the various crises of the early years: support for the Axis, then neutrality, the condemnation of Spain by the Potsdam conference and then by the United Nations in 1946, and agitation by the monarchists for the return of the Pretender. At the same time, he shows how American aid in the early 1950's was such an important factor in stabilizing Franco's rule. The book, while generally weak on the Church, has an excellent study of Opus Dei's rise to influence. It also includes facts on guerrilla activity against the regime that cannot be found elsewhere. On the economic miracle of the 1960's, Gallo's statistics show that per capita income rose from $281 in 1958 to $637 in 1966, while the cost of living did not even double during the same period.
Naturally, much of the history of recent years is taken up with the problem of succession, both to the Crown and to Franco's own position. Unfortunately, the book was published too late to take into account the recent assassination of Luis Carrero Blanco. In any event, much of the Caudillo's power has been based on a diminishing asset, namely the vivid memory of the Civil War.
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SOURCE: "Demon into Clown," in Books and Bookmen, Vol. 19, No. 10, July 1974, p. 46.
[Lustgarten is a freelance writer and broadcaster. In the following review of Mussolini's Italy, he favorably assesses Gallo's writing style, historical competence, and biographical skill.]
Was Mussolini a Fascist? Or a Socialist? Or an Anarchist? In fits and starts, by twists and turns, all three. That, at any rate, would appear from the bare record of his political acts, his formal declarations. But [in Mussolini's Italy] Max Gallo's vivid portrait is that of a character less complex, and—in one sense—more consistent. He depicts Mussolini as an opportunist; motivated by ambition, uninhibited by doctrine, pursuing any path and exploiting any instrument which—in his own opinion—at any particular moment might best serve his undeviating purpose. 'Insanely individual,' the author says, 'he was primarily concerned with power, and for himself'.
This judgement is borne out at every stage in Mussolini's life of glory, violence, perfidy, and farce. It was opportunism that made him oppose the war with Turkey over Libya in 1911; that made him support the Red Week strikers in 1914; that made him—as editor of Avanti—demand neutrality on the eve of World War One, and that made him—as editor of il Popolo—demand intervention less than four months later. It was opportunism that made him—in September 1919—cheer d'Annunzio when he seized Fiume for Italy; and yet made him—in November 1920—approve the Rapallo treaty with Yugoslavia which acknowledged Fiume as an independent state. It was opportunism that made him (revolutionary, anti-clerical, republican) bargain with big business, the Vatican, the Crown. It was opportunism that made him, in 1935, appear to join 'the Stresa front' against aggressive Germany; that made him, in 1938, through the Manifesto on Race, import antisemitism into Fascist policy; that made him, in 1940, deliver a token blow at a France which the Wehrmacht already had defeated. A pattern of egocentric cynicism, each. And the list could be indefinitely extended.
The remarkable career of this amoral mountebank has already been reflected in distinguished writing. For instance, Gaetano Salvemini's Origins of Fascism in Italy…. Salvemini, though, adhering very strictly to his title, dealt with Mussolini only in that context; his book began with an economic survey and ended with the Lateran agreements. Mr Gallo adheres rather less strictly to his title, which anyway allows him wider scope and longer span. Beginning with Mussolini's birth and ending with his death, he supplements the earlier writer's work by chronological expansion, and complements it by a different approach. Salvemini—fundamentally—was writing history, in which Mussolini featured solely as a participant in events. Mr Gallo—fundamentally—was writing biography, in which events featured solely as a setting for his subject. Moreover, Salvemini was a philosophical historian (school of Acton rather than Macaulay). Mr Gallo is a dramatic and intimate biographer (school of Roy Jenkins mixed with that of Lytton Strachey). He presents, as well as il Duce, Benito Mussolini, the omnivorous lecher of the tiny ante-chambers as well as the national leader of the vast Mappamundo Room.
Some people object to any close inquiry into the private lives of bygone public men. I understand without sharing their objection. The public and private personalities of a man are, like Siamese twins, by nature bound together; disclosures about the latter often cast light upon the former. Mussolini as a youth 'chasing girls and having them on staircases'; as a young man, contracting syphilis, never properly cured (which did not prevent him including 'pestilential syphilitics' in his choice vocabulary of dialectical abuse); as dictator, receiving countless demireps in the Palazzo Venezia 'where he had them on the floor'—I do not regard these as irrelevant scraps of scandal, but as proof that the fascist messiah was a diseased and randy boor.
Admittedly, however, such details are etceteras. But Mr Gallo does not fail us with the main material. He is particularly good on the period past the peak; when Mussolini's luck had turned and the deadly rot set in. Actually long before uninformed observers realised. While any vestige of a stage and an audience remained, Mussolini still acted the part of Superman when he had shrunk to the role of a Nazi gauleiter and lackey of the Fuehrer whom he had once dwarfed and despised. The Axis and the Pact of Steel, in their own time paraded (and accepted by a multitude) as Mussolini triumphs, were in fact early milestones on the road which—via the Fascist Grand Council's revolt, the royal dismissal, the impotent and absurd 'Social Republic' of Salo—led to the Partisans' firing squad at Bonzanigo and the crowds spitting on the corpse dumped in Milan. A bad road for Italy; unrelieved disasters. A worse road for Mussolini: unrelieved humiliations. And none can have been more painful than his performance as a War Lord, evoking derision from friend and foe and neutral, transforming him within three weeks from demon into clown. Westbrook Pegler, on 7 January, 1941, in a piece for the World Telegram exactly caught the mood—a piece which, for that reason and its hilarious invective, I cut out and have ever since preserved.
What a bum that never adequately to be laughed at palooka, Benito Mussolini, turned out to be the minute they rang the bell, yanked the stool from under him and sent him out to fight. History has given us some memorable bums in the ring and some historic stumblebums in command of nations too, but never one like this ludicrous tramp with a silly tassle dangling before his eyes from a trick hat designed to make him look ferocious and scare the world … What a bum this Duce is, this colossal phoney who placed himself at the head of a mob of burlesque show generals in lion-tamers uniforms and backed by all the chiselling grafters and posturing fancy dans in Italian suburban society.
That was Mussolini, seen through the eyes of a columnist at the time of his Greek Fiasco. This is Mussolini, seen through the eyes of a historian three decades after he died.
Without a thought for tactics or strategy, without the faintest knowledge of military problems.
There is, of course, a contrast in style, in idiom. But, on Mussolini's merits as a warrior chief, the conclusions of Gallo and Pegler are the same …
One final word about Mussolini's Italy as a whole. In his Foreword, Mr Gallo announced his aim; to sketch a complete but also a living history. That aim he has admirably achieved. I note that he lectures on contemporary history at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques in Paris. If he is half as good on the platform as he is on the page, the House Full notice should be up whenever he appears.
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SOURCE: A review of Mussolini's Italy, in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 3778, August 2, 1974, p. 828.
[In the following review, the critic favorably comments on Mussolini's Italy, contending that it is good "popular" history.]
Max Gallo's book [Mussolini's Italy] does not claim to offer a distinctive interpretation of Mussolini and Fascism; it relies almost completely on secondary sources. M Gallo has written an unashamedly "popular" history, and his book should be judged in those terms. It is, in effect, a series of dramatic set-pieces linked by narrative; it ranges from Mussolini's errant and itinerant youth and early manhood, through the March on Rome, the Matteotti affair, the Ethiopian conquest and the Second World War, to the final collapse of Fascism and the humiliation of the dictator's corpse in a Milan garage.
Il Duce himself monopolizes the centre of M Gallo's stage, and the author's fascination with the "human angle" often reduces the impact of what was undoubtedly a turbulent life: "He was Il Duce whom Chamberlain and Hitler had taken by the hand, whom the Pope had received; he was Il Duce, the peer of the greatest, with the kings, the marshals, the heads of states round him, and the crowd like a sea beneath the balcony of Palazzo Venezia; and he was a hunted man in a corner of a foreign truck…." They don't write scenarios like that any more.
Like all good epics, Mussolini's Italy is overweighted in favour of the dramatic incident. The Fascist system in its maturity during the 1930s receives cursory treatment; M Gallo is thirsting for the next piece of action. Yet despite omissions and lapses into banality, the book works. M Gallo has flashes of genuine intuition, and at his best succeeds in evoking something of the atmosphere and feel of the Fascist era. One paragraph describing the Arditi, for example, brilliantly captures the mood and conduct of those guerrilla units, whose members undertook individual and largely superfluous acts of heroism across enemy lines during the First World War, and found a peacetime outlet for their reckless brutality in the Fascist squads. The final sections, describing Italy's disastrous performance in the Second World War and the disintegration of the regime, also make powerful reading.
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SOURCE: A review of With the Victors, in Publishers Weekly, Vol. 206, No. 8, August 19, 1974, p. 74.
[In the following review, the critic favorably assesses With the Victors.]
In this sensitive account, history and conjecture are imaginatively interwoven in the story of Marco Naldi, son of an Italian landowner. [With the Victors] begins in the fall of 1917 at the time of the Italian defeat at Caporetto. Marco's father is killed in the war and he is gruffly befriended by Ferri, one of his father's contemporaries, who later becomes a prominent Fascist. Marco enlists in the army in his father's place and also makes friends with Alatri, a Communist. In the Post World War I Italian political upheaval Marco feels he should take his place with the aristocracy, which now means Fascism, especially when he is mocked and insulted by the peasants for his wartime bravery. Yet he also feels bound by the principles of noblesse oblige which characterized his father, at least in part. And Marco is also prone to the fears and weaknesses of the flesh. Naturally, torment follows in this interesting perspective on the important figures and events of the Mussolini era. By the author of Spain under Franco.
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SOURCE: A review of With the Victors, in The New York Times Book Review, October 6, 1974, p. 40.
[In the following unfavorable review, the critic assesses Gallo's literary style and development of characters in With the Victors.]
[In With the Victors] Max Gallo's Marco Naldi is one of those superheroes, like Robert Briffault's Julien Bern or Upton Sinclair's Lanny Budd, who leads a panoramic life on the stage of history. He meets world leaders in person, and makes the scene of big political happenings. Naldi starts as a lieutenant in the Arditi after Caporetto, and joins the fascist movement when the war is over. He becomes an aide to Mussolini's son-in-law, Count Ciano, specializing in press relations. These include Merry Groves, of The New York Times ("a very dark young woman with short hair curling over her forehead and a face full of laughter"). Also Maud Kaufman, a Trotskyite journalist married to a Stalinist, by whom Naldi has a son. And Elizabeth Loubet, an undercover media maid, whom our hero finally marries. Meanwhile, Naldi is on the spot wherever big things are happening from Abyssinia to the Russian front.
What is wrong with The Victors? Well, rhetorical questions, for one thing. Marco asks too damn many of them, like:
Why was there only the connivance of habit between us, after a few drinks in the middle of the night came the time for nondeforming mirrors and confessions, why would I do nothing; why did our bodies, though, skin against skin, go to each other and why did we let them go, without illusions and almost without pleasure?
There are too many apostrophes, too much hot air, too many names without bodies, and just not enough of the detail that simulates human life.
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SOURCE: A review of The Poster in History, in Saturday Review, Vol. 2, No. 6, November 30, 1974, pp. 20-2, 24-5.
[Hollander is a lecturer in fine arts and author of the book Moving Pictures (1989). In the following excerpt, she reviews The Poster in History, contending that the book is a "sloppy treatment" of the subject.]
Poster art has a separate history, although, as we have seen, serious artists have lent their talents to the genre. The Poster in History, by Max Gallo …, is authored by a French historian of journalistic, rather than scholarly, accomplishments who has no art-historical background to speak of. The posters illustrating the book date from 1789 to 1970; they are divided into sections corresponding to historical periods that represent successive eras of social change in which poster art reflected prevailing attitudes. The text, translated from the French, describes this process but omits any stylistic commentary on the posters, which is a pity, since the style is an integral part of the poster's message. Some early ones are even obviously incorrectly dated, in view of the evidence of dress and other details in them. These errors are perhaps supposed to be redressed by the inclusion of a diffuse essay by Carlo Arturo Quintavalle on the development of poster art, illustrated mainly by small black-and-white examples of still other posters. This book is a somewhat sloppy treatment of a subject that is much in need of study. One would have liked to have seen it responsibly done.
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SOURCE: A review of Le cortège des vainqueurs, in French Review, Vol. XLVIII, No. 3, February, 1975, pp. 664-65.
[In the following review of Le cortège des vainqueurs, Crosby praises the book's detailed historical setting and literary style but faults the poor character development.]
Sealed off by time from any further physical or moral actions of significance, an old man turns toward the past and to an accumulated sum of events whose finality is an accusing silence. In writing his life for his son Philippe, Marco Naldi is attempting to reach a young man he has never known and, at the same time, to release his spent life from the opacity of appearances.
The bulk of these fictional memoirs spans the rise and defeat of Fascism and Naldi's involvement with its leaders from 1917 to 1945. Naldi's years of moral oscillation are framed by two terms of duty as a soldier. From World War I and his first battle with the Italian army on the Pavie at age seventeen to a decisive moment when, during the long trek back from Russia, he repudiates the double standard in his life, Naldi is caught up in myths: the myth of heritage, of class, and, above all, the myth of history as destiny. Though he eventually sees these forces as meaningless constructs of words without substance, Naldi still allows himself to be swept along by an idealogy he privately refuses.
It is this sense of meaninglessness, mixed with that of the inevitable, that gives Marco Naldi his justification for falling into step with the "cortège des vainqueurs." He moves on special assignments from Rome to Ethiopia, to embassies in Berlin and Paris, never out in the arena, but standing close behind the tribune of the powerful, contemptuous of the leaders, horrified by the acts of brutality performed in history's sacred name, yet allowing moments for overt commitment to slip away. A self-imposed inner code based on a distrust of all cllectivités, a belief in individualism, and in the concept of a "complicité limitée" permit an equivocal position that unites both faithfulness to duty and occasional clandestine activity.
In Nice, at the very end of the war, Naldi marries a resistance worker—a gesture as belated as his decision for active opposition to Fascism. Two "wrecks of war," he and Elizabeth grow old together, and in silence. In an ending that seems artificially contrived to match the pattern of his life, Naldi's manuscript is stolen unread from his son's car, relegating his past once more to ambiguous obscurity.
Max Gallo, a contributor to L'Express, is well-known as an historian of the Fascist and Nazi years. In his Avertissement, he expresses his hope for his first novel "[que] comme l'a dit Aragon, 'le menti dans le roman' permette de 'montrer le réel dans sa nudité.'" Max Gallo's knowledge of the period is sure, he is an impeccable craftsman, the possessor of a vigorous and sensual style. Yet, in the long run, [Le cortège des vainqueurs] is disappointing. In Naldi's act of testimony, the self, as its own witness, becomes its own alibi—a stance that precludes any ironic distance, creating, instead, an aura of sentimentality that is further accentuated by Naldi's tendency toward exalted feelings and banality of expression: life is hard—or brief; he is a pawn, in a rut, or caught up in a carnival. A certain uniformity in the long look backwards is imposed by the character's near-total recall that carries very little of shifting perspectives in time or in the flux of the personality. In consequence, Naldi's character lacks dimension or mystery; it is dulled, stained by the historical scene, by the massive and somber tones of Fascist black and Nazi brown. The monotonous repetition of the same mistakes, his moral passivity, are neither redeemed nor illuminated by the author's vision, for the language is transparent, without overtones or ambiguities; moral implications regarding conformity and freedom, esthetic implications regarding permanence and change remain implicit. A film could release them. Until such a time, the Cortège des vainqueurs is a somewhat long and triste corbillard.
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SOURCE: A review of Les hommes naissent tous le même jour 1: Aurore, in The French Review, Vol. 53, No. 1, October, 1979, pp. 151-52.
[In the following review of Les hommes naissent tous le même jour 1; Aurore, O'Connor favorably assesses the book's literary style and plot but faults the character development.]
Max Gallo is a frequent contributor to the book review section of L'Express, and is well known as an historian of the Fascist years in Europe. Eight long novels written and published in the course of the last six years also make him a remarkably prolific novelist, and a successful one to judge by the regularity with which his books figure among the best sellers in France. Les Hommes naissent tous le même jour, true to form, was on the list for nine weeks during 1978. This is the first of a two-volume sequence; the second volume, Crépuscule, appeared in April 1979. As Gallo says in his foreword, he is continuing the "exploration imaginaire du vingtième siècle" which he undertook with Le Cortège des vainqueurs and the three-volume La Baie des anges. He sees these books as elements in a "fresque romanesque" devoted to this century of progress and upheaval. Each is independent of the others and can be read separately, but they share a common historical background, and in each one finds a minor character from the previous book. Other novels—other elements in the fresco—will follow.
The title Les Hommes naissent tous le même jour is to be taken in the figurative sense that all men—and women—resemble each other through a shared common destiny, and in a literal sense as well: the novel traces the lives of seven individuals, four men and three women, all born on 1 January 1900, in various parts of the world and with various socio-economic backgrounds. Gallo follows the seven into their fortieth year, "le milieu de la vie": it is 1939, and Europe is on the brink of World War II. By that time the action has taken us to the United States, France, Germany, Russia, Poland, China, and South America, and we have relived many of the events that mark the first four decades of the century: World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution, the Stalinist purges, the Spanish Civil War. History is inextricably woven into the lives and fates of the seven main characters, and we see its unfolding through their eyes. In some cases it overcomes them; in other, fewer instances it is influenced by them. Allen Roy Gallway, son of a San Francisco laundry woman and a sailor, becomes a famous novelist and journalist (Gallo/Gallway?); the Pole, Sarah Berelovitz, becomes a renowned concert pianist and a secret Communist courrier; her life is linked to that of the bureaucrat Serge Cordelier, son of a French scientist. Anna Spasskaia, born of wealthy parents in Saint Petersburg, joins the Bolsheviks. The others are no less interesting, but fewer pages are devoted to them—the Chinese Lee Lou Ching, the Bolivian Dolorès, the German Karl Menninger. These lives are interwoven, and paths cross and re-cross, sometimes unbelievably (unbelievably only because this is a novel). Nowhere has it been clearer that Gallo is a strong believer in chance.
Les Hommes naissent tous le même jour is an eminently readable book once one develops an interest in the characters, which always takes a little longer when the author is telling several stories instead of one. Gallo's style is natural, almost conversational, and his ability to convey the atmosphere of different settings and social milieux is unerring. But the primary focus is on the characters, and in my estimation he does not succeed in making them live, with the possible exception of Allen Gallway. They hold our attention, but we never really get inside them. Whether this is the author's failing or a built-in drawback of the form the novel takes is hard to determine. I felt mildly irritated by the preview or trailer effect sought (and achieved) in the short final chapter of the book: what will become of these people, Gallo asks? "Qui peut le dire en ce mois de janvier 1939?"
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 859
SOURCE: A review of La fontaine des innocents, in World Literature Today, Vol. 67, No. 3, Summer, 1993, pp. 583-84.
[In the following review of La fontaine des innocents, Cooper favorably assesses its plot, themes, and characters.]
On two levels, both factual and symbolic, the title of Max Gallo's massive new novel [La fontaine des innocents]—his nineteenth—solidly anchors the work in today's Paris, intimately allying the traditional and the new, as it is in the Halles district where the eponymous fountain is located. The very structure and development of Gallo's powerful novel as well as its overall theme are closely linked to the famous Renaissance fountain, well known for its Jean Goujon statues of graceful nymphs, erected on the site of a medieval cemetery by the same name, in pious homage to the Holy Innocents of the New Testament slain by Herod. The time span of the novel is two years, from late 1989 to early 1991, with many hang-ups from a recent past. As in other novels by the historian Gallo, contemporary history and fiction convincingly intermingle.
The factual element of the title is present from the start, as the novel opens near the Forum des Halles with two of the main characters from opposite sides of society who are to play a major role throughout the novel and around whom everything revolves. Anne-Marie Bermont, a divorcee and a career woman in the publishing business, has come to do some Christmas shopping. She is assaulted by a hoodlum, later identified as Jonas, whose sinister recurring presence in the novel means only serious trouble for everyone concerned. The reader next becomes acquainted, floor by floor, with the other tenants of Anne-Marie's apartment building and with people she meets at her workplace, with her politician husband Julien Rivière, and with their teenage daughter Isabelle and her teachers and classmates at the Lycée Montaigne, as well as Isabelle's problems when she becomes entangled with the wrong crowd. This approach provides the novelist with a wide range of mushrooming possibilities to explore many different milieux, thus building a new Comédie humaine of his own (actually an Inferno) of the late twentieth century.
The symbolic importance of the title becomes clear as one progresses through the novel. Indeed, it underlines the unifying theme linking all episodes (sixty-nine untitled chapters) and the many characters from every walk of life whose paths are somehow crossing—all very plausibly intertwining, as is characteristic of Gallo's work. Deterioration of modern society at all levels is the central theme, with a sense of organic decomposition as seen by Parrain, a journalist (Paris-pourri, Paris-connerie), and the resurgence of racism, the alarming increase in corruption and violence, and finally the victimization of the unfortunates, whether children, adolescents, or adults, caught in a maelstrom of destruction—i.e., a new Massacre of the Innocents. The most perceptive characters, such "innocents" as Hélène Milner, a language teacher, and François, her husband, who is a police inspector with a degree in Philosophy, or Gilles Duprez, a Don Quixote-like writer working on a livre-enquête exposing a former war criminal, all feel that they are seeing the end of an era: "Et qu'ils allaient vivre, qu'ils avaient déjà commencé à vivre … des temps troublés."
Gilles Duprez intends to call his book Scènes de la vie parisienne fin de siècle, in an update of Balzac. Other Balzacian titles come to mind in relation to La Fontaine des Innocents and the milieux depicted by Gallo: Scènes de la vie politique, particularly L'envers de l'histoire contemporaine, for the world of politics; Les illusions perdues for the world of journalism and Paris publishing houses, with the addition of course of big-time television, through the interesting character of Brigitte Georges, an anchorwoman and talk-show hostess in deadly rivalry with her estranged husband, a journalist at Le Monde.
Like Balzac studying city maps before writing his novels, Gallo, for authenticity and evocation of a given milieu, gives each of his numerous characters a specific address as well as a definite age and profession. Where a character lives or works is very much part of his or her personality, as are the places familiar to that individual, the cafés or brasseries, bistros or restaurants, squares and streets, subway stations or R.E.R. Paris place-names are richly evocative without a need for description. Such details accurately compartmentalize the different layers of the Paris populace. Thus Paris (with its periphery and banlieue) emerges as a major character in Gallo's novel. La Fontaine des Innocents is the drama of contemporary Paris, changed from the City of Light to a city of bizarre, shapeless graffiti creeping all over like ivy, une ville difficile à vivre, where life, loaded with frustration and anguish, has turned, as for Julien Rivière, into a trompe l'oeil. At the end one realizes how pertinent were the two quotations chosen as epigraphs by the author: one from Balzac's Père Goriot—"Paris est un véritable océan. Jetez-y la sonde"—and one from Aragon's Plus belle que les larmes: "Paris de nos malheurs … Paris plus déchirant qu'un cri de vitrier."
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 749
SOURCE: A review of L'amour au temps des solitudes, in World Literature Today, Vol. 67, No. 4, Autumn, 1993, p. 772.
[In the following favorable review, Cooper comments on the character development and the mixture of history and fiction in L'amour au temps des solitudes.]
Over the last three decades Max Gallo has enjoyed a nonstop literary career, in both fiction and nonfiction, with some fifty titles to his credit, including best sellers and Livre de Poche reissues. As in his preceding novel, La Fontaine des Innocents … L'amour au temps des solitudes again intertwines contemporary history and fiction. "Tout y est imaginaire," the author declares. "Et donc tout ce qui est écrit ici peut avoir eu lieu."
Through his central character, the aging career woman Catherine Vance (née Kemsky), the novelist concentrates on the tragic aftermath of earlier dramatic events in individual lives and their long-lasting repercussions on younger family members. Catherine has been traumatized for life by her ordeal during World War II in Nice as a Jewish refugee arrested by the militia in 1942, which she somehow survived. The fact that Catherine is the central character of the novel, and the pivot around whom everything revolves, is emphasized by the author's choice of the illustration on the book's cover: a reproduction of Matisse's Woman by the Window, a solitary figure seated next to a window opening onto the Promenade des Anglais.
The story ranges from Paris (now and over fifty years ago), to Nice and Antibes, to Italy, and to war-torn Yugoslavia. Thus, well anchored in contemporary European experience, L'amour au temps des solitudes once more rings a bell, stirring lifelong memories. The epigraph, borrowed from Pestalozzi, stresses the underlying theme (and the lesson): "You may chase the devil away from your own garden, but he will still be there in the garden of your son." History is made of repetitions through different generations, and such is the case here.
An expert novelist, Gallo varies his narrative approach and supports his story with a superb inner architecture. A cryptic summary of moods or events is provided in filigree by the titles given to each of the nine parts, vague enough to intrigue the reader and maintain suspense.
The novel begins in the first person, je being a reporter, Vincent Janovers, just back from Malawi, who brings his work to his boss (Catherine Vance) and unexpectedly meets a mystery woman in the street, who reminds him of a lost love. All the characters are at least glimpsed in the twelve chapters of part 1, entitled "She Was Still Such a Beautiful Woman." The cast is fully set at the very start of a crisis, as in classical tragedy. Its being the only part written in the first person establishes Vincent as a participant as well as a witness, heralding his own importance in the novel as a point of convergence. Part 2, "Nighttime Is for Remembering," concentrates on the mystery woman, Jeanne (Catherine's daughter), whose life is falling apart as she mourns the death of her son Matthew, a recent suicide at sixteen. It is the third and longest part, "Under the Mask," however, that is the actual core of the novel, focusing on the older woman. As Catherine stands at the door of her daughter's apartment, where she used to live as a child, her past is revealed in flashback. In her obstinate will to survive after her imprisonment during the war years, Catherine has been blocking off her feelings and has kept her memories to herself. She has learned to wear a social mask like a second skin, reflexively, in self-defense—this at the expense of her own family but bringing her success in her work as the director of a feminine magazine she founded. Writing has been for her a refuge, to prove to herself that she was still alive and in control, "pour tenter une fois encore de bâtir avec des mots un mur qui la protègerait des souvenirs, du gouffre où ils l'entraînaient." All the characters here wear a "mask" of some sort as self-protection, hiding some weakness, sorrow, remorse, or shame. It is "le temps des solitudes." Only Vincent and Jeanne, perhaps, may learn to accept themselves as they are and unite forces in a newfound love. The child they rescue together from a burning city in Croatia may provide the hope for a new beginning. As to Catherine, she returns alone to Antibes, at peace near the sea, "so close, so tranquil, so deep."
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 563
SOURCE: A review of Le regard des femmes, in The French Review, Vol. 67, No. 1, October, 1993, pp. 160-61.
[Kopp is an educator and author of books about French literature. In the following favorable review, he comments on the plot, themes, and literary style of Le regard des femmes.]
Max Gallo appears fascinated by the relationship between the public and private elements which make up human existence. He is capable of introducing the public individual and uncovering the hitherto unknown private facts which explain the public persona, but in the same manner he is capable of introducing the private individual and explaining the public facts not known previously by the reader (or seer). In the end, a persona is formed, one which satisfies the viewpoint of everyone who may be interested in the character in question.
In [Le Regard des femmes,] the "look of women" or perhaps "the way women look at others" forces the "hero," a diplomat and member of the European commission, to define himself as the result of being caught in an amorous conflict. We have already experienced this manner of observing in Robbe-Grillet, the obvious example being La Jalousie, in which we view everything through one pair of eyes and are not always sure of what we see because the seer may be sifting the information. In Le Regard des femmes, the author presents a lengthy passage during which the reader gets to know the wife (Lisa) of the voyeur (Philippe) through the latter's eyes. This may at first seem unexciting, the way that many of the New Novels have a curious dullness about them: little happens but the authors have sufficient style that the reader remains fascinated.
In Le Regard des femmes Gallo has succeeded in bringing together literary qualities which, combined, provide pleasurable reading. The plot starts out simply as a tale of the disintegration of a marriage, then grows to depict a social milieu which includes political intrigue, academic interest (Lisa is writing a dissertation on a fifteenth-century adventurer), friendships, lovers—old and new—and a secret from World War II which rises from the past like the hidden treasures on a sunken boat, to affect definitively the principal players in this complicated social game. Gallo brings together all the threads of intrigue in a manner reminiscent of Balzac and Proust. But the final analyses are left to the reader just as they are in a work by Robbe-Grillet, Sarraute, or Duras.
Mature readers may come away convinced that the new world order of the 1990s is as significant as the changes of the fifteenth century when the Ottoman Turks were moving closer to Western Europe. Students, however, may be limited to views of marriages and love affairs in different states of disintegration. The parallels between such personal relationships and the political relationships (past and present) may also require some clarification for any but the most discerning student. The novel may also seem rather slow to students. Gallo's language and style are not complicated, but the lack of action may try their patience; important points in the uncovering of this mystery require several retellings in versions which differ from character to character, none of whom is truly sympathique. For the mature reader the work may be seen to reveal an art at least the equal of the New Novel, but with the added attraction of a contemporary intrigue.
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