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Publication - Professor Martin Hurcombe

    The Soldier’s Return: The Spectre of Veterans’ Political Activism in Dorgelès’s Le Réveil des morts and Drieu la Rochelle’s ‘La comédie de Charleroi’

    Citation

    Hurcombe, M, 2012, ‘The Soldier’s Return: The Spectre of Veterans’ Political Activism in Dorgelès’s Le Réveil des morts and Drieu la Rochelle’s ‘La comédie de Charleroi’’. Romance Studies, vol 30., pp. 61 - 73

    Abstract

    Throughout the inter-war years, French veterans made repeated journeys back to the Western Front to pay homage to the nation’s dead, but also in order to assert an esprit combattant that many considered set their generation apart from the rest of society. This article examines the literary representation of two such journeys: Roland Dorgelès’s Le Réveil des morts (1923) and Pierre Drieu la Rochelle’s novella ‘La comédie de Charleroi’ (1934). It considers how this sense of difference generates tension between veteran and non-combatant memories of the war, how these are played out in the return to the former front and, more particularly, how this tension takes on a political and collective dimension overlooked in critical analysis of a largely neglected theme in inter-war French literature: the soldier’s return. It will argue that both works illustrate a particular response to the post-war conflict between veterans and non-combatants, a response that reflects the evolving position of veterans more generally in France’s post-war social and political landscape. It will demonstrate that both constitute expressions of certain socio-political desires and thereby contribute to the construction of an imaginary veteran community from which they draw their authority. Central to this process is a carnivalesque inversion of post-war hierarchies generated through the memory of combat and of the dead triggered by the return to the front.

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