Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Was Gertrude Stein a Fascist?

Alexandria Campus faculty came to grips with that question after reading Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice. Although author Janet Malcolm doesn't exhaustively explore Gertrude Stein's political life, she does inform us that Stein was an opponent of Roosevelt, deplored the New Deal, felt that people should take responsibility for their own economic well-being, and was a vocal supporter of Franco in the Spanish Civil War.

Right-wing politics were the way to go among the literary avant garde in mid-century. Stein's near contemporary TS Eliot once described himself as an "Anglo-Catholic in religion, a classicist in literature, and a monarchist in politics." Ezra Pound moved to Italy in the 1930s and was an outspoken supporter of Mussolini. Evelyn Waugh converted to the Catholicism and staunchly supported conservative social and political positions throughout his life (Waugh was convinced, for instance, that Picasso was a hoakster who was taking people in).

Was Stein a fascist? Despite being Jewish, and living in a straightforwardly lesbian relationship with Alice B Toklas, she managed to survive (and indeed prosper) in occupied France throughout WWII.