- Jutta Ernst (Editor) and Klaus Martens (Editor)
"Je vous écris, en hâte et fiévreusement." Felix Paul Greve-André Gide: Korrespondenz und Dokumentation. Rehrig Universitaetsverlag (purchase at Amazon.ca)
- Klaus Martens (Editor)
Pioneering North America: Mediators of European Literature and Culture. Königshausen & Neumann (purchase at Amazon.ca)
Reviewed by Rosmarin Heidenreich
The publication of the correspondence between André Gide and Felix Paul Grève, better known to Canadian readers as Frederick Philip Grove, is a milestone in the research of Greve/Grove’s European years. It sheds an entirely new light on the relationship between the two men, eloquently subsumed in the phrase quoted in the title, variations of which characterized the closing of many of the letters on both sides of the correspondence. Meticulously documented, carefully but not pedantically annotated, the correspondence itself is preceded by an illuminating introduction and a penetrating essay, both by Martens, the latter piece indicating the degree to which Greve’s fortunes, after he had served his prison term, were affected by the machinations of his rival Franz Blei.
This volume conclusively lays to rest the hitherto prevailing notion that Grève was a kind of Gide groupie. In his introduction Martens observes that the correspondence reveals that Grève was at least as important to Gide as Gide was to Grève. Martens’ interpretation of the relationship would also explain the intensity of the two men’s first encounter, in which a central issue is the opposition between life and art: Gide argues for the supremacy of the artist, who prefers to faire agir rather than act himself, a position he will reiterate in his letters, while Grève avows his preference for action: "L’œuvre d’art n’est pour moi qu’un pis-aller. Je préfère la vie."
Gide’s attraction to Grève was essentially narcissistic: Grève the man-of-action fed Gide’s artistic inspiration, which involved observation from a distance. Gide, awaiting Grève in Paris, knew that the latter had just been released from prison, while Grève was initially unaware that Gide had been informed of this. It is Greve’s life, and, one senses, his dramatic appearance on arriving in Paris that left such a lasting impression on Gide. In his diary Gide writes: "Je vis aussitôt cette figure glabre, comme passée au chlore, ce corps trop grand pour qui tous les sièges sont bas ... Je souhaitai ardemment que ce fût lui. C’était lui."
Indeed, the letters support Martens’ contention that for Gide, Grève was a sort of alter ego in whom Gide saw a reflection of a possible version of his own life. This explains why, after the first meeting, he preferred correspondence to personal encounters. In one of his early letters, Gide writes to Grève: "De toutes les figures que j’ai rencontrées, vous êtes une de celles qui m’a le plus intéressé [. ..] Vous m’intéressez autant que le premier jour, et c’est là, si je puisse ainsi dire, un intérêt de cœur autant que de la tête, mais à moins que ce ne soit pour pénétrer un peu plus avant dans votre vie, je n’éprouve pas le besoin de vous revoir."
Martens, who has also published a new study of Greve’s European years that greatly expands and in some cases contradicts the earlier findings of Douglas O. Spettigue (Felix Paul Grèves Karriere: Frederick Philip Grove in Deutschland), offers an intriguing analysis of Grove’s motivation in writing his "autobiography": in In Search of Myself, Grove cites the biography of the "young Frenchman" that has been brought to him as an incentive to write his own life story. Martens suggests that this act has a subtext: while Gide’s life is written about by someone else, Grove must write (act) himself. What may have been crucial, according to Martens, in motivating Grove’s oblique allusions to Gide in his "autobiography," was his frustration at the absence of any references to Grove (as Grève) in Gide’s biography or, indeed, his autobiography (Si le grain ne meurt).
The correspondence consists mainly of Greve’s letters to Gide, the other side of the correspondence presumably having been destroyed or lost after Greve’s "death" in 1909. However, thanks to the cooperation of Madame Gide, the book does include drafts of a number of Gide’s letters to Grève. Taken together, these letters reveal much about the relationship between the two writers, and document Greve’s astonishing productivity as a translator and writer. They also chronicle Greve’s desperation for ever more translation work, in order to pay his crushing debt to Kilian, and his exhaustion and increasing hopelessness at the circumstances in which he finds himself. In a poignant letter dated August 28,1906, he writes to Gide: "Je ne crois plus au succès. Je ne suis plus qu’une machine à écrire, et je deviens stupide, inintéressant. Je convoite une cahute pour m’étendre sur une paillasse. C’est triste mais c’est vrai. À force d’être surexcité et fatigué on devient comme ça."
The text is interspersed with copies of manuscripts and letters as well as beautifully reproduced, full-page copies of title pages of the works of Grove-Greve and Gide. The correspondence is followed by a number of excerpts from Grove/Greve’s writings, and concludes with the transcription of Gide’s journal notes describing his first encounter with Felix Paul Grève.
The second volume under review reveals the richness and breadth of the concept of cultural mediation when it is imaginatively and systematically applied. The book contains twenty highly specialized and divergent essays thoughtfully grouped into four sections, and a brief but graceful explanatory preface by editor Klaus Martens, who directs the Saarbriicken project on the mediation of world literature under whose aegis this collection was undertaken.
The opening section consists of three essays devoted to cultural mediator par excellence Felix Paul Greve/Frederick Philip Grove and one by Irene Gammel on the extraordinary role of his onetime common-law wife, "Baroness Else," in the modernist project to "renew American culture" led by The Little Review and other "little" magazines. In the second section, titled "Mediators of Literature," an intriguing essay by Katharina Bunzman documenting the mutual influence of Djuna Barnes and European surrealism functions as a sort of transition to the first, given the close connections between Barnes and Else von Freytag-Loringhofen. Three of the contributions in this section examine various aspects of translation. Wolfgang Gôrtshacher’s essay discussses Michael Hamburger and Christopher Middleton’s translations which facilitated the reception of many German writers in the United States, despite the ignorance of and prejudice against all things German in 1940s Britain. Three highly original contributions conclude this eclectic section. In a piece by Stephen Shapiro titled "The Moment of the Condom" the introduction of condoms into the U.S. through a Philadelphia bookstore run by French colonial exile Moreau de Saint-Méry becomes an act of cultural mediation read in terms of Foucauldian concepts of sexuality. Another essay by Martin Meyer describes how the U.S. Armed Services Editions, which provided free reading material for millions during and shortly after the Second World War, functioned as an instrument of transatlantic cultural mediation. The essay also discusses the economic and political dimensions of the ASE. The final contribution in this section by Dirk de Gees, looking at inter-cultural phenomena in terms of functionalist analysis, examines the relations between Flemish and foreign cultures with a closer look at the role of American literature in Belgium during the Second World War.
The third section of the book focuses on issues of theory and genre and includes a fascinating piece by Werner Reinhart on the occurrence of the Hansel and Gretel theme in American poems by women, while contributions in the fourth and last section, titled "Literature and the Other Arts," range from Delsarte’s influence on American theatre in a piece by Wendel Stone to photography. Christoph Ribbat’s superb essay "The European Eye: Refugee Photographers from Nazi Germany" is an eloquent conclusion to this remarkable volume.
- Challenging Slums by Daniel Harvey
Books reviewed: Arrival City: The Final Migration and Our Next World by Doug Saunders
- Boas and Darth Vader by David Brundage
Books reviewed: Transmission Difficulties: Franz Boas and Tsimshan Mythology by Ralph Maud
- Varied Stories by Rita Wong
Books reviewed: A Larger Memory: A History of Our Diversity, With Voices by Ronald Takaki and Choose Me by Evelyn Lau
- Tragique émorationnalité by Stéphane Girard
Books reviewed: Suites sociologiques by Simon Laflamme and Jean Marc Dalpé: Ouvrir d'un dire by Stéphanie Nutting and François Paré
- Gay Men and Femininity by Stephen Guy-Bray
Books reviewed: Something for the Boys: Musical Theater and Gay Culture by John M. Clum and Fags, Hags and Queer Sisters: Gender Dissent and Heterosexual Bonds in Gay Culture by Stephen Maddison
MLA: Heidenreich, Rosmarin. Cultural Mediators. canlit.ca. Canadian Literature, 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 5 Dec. 2013.
This review originally appeared in Canadian Literature #177 (Summer 2003), (Duncan, Wiebe, Jameson, Thérault, Martel). (pg. 143 - 145)
***Please note that the articles and reviews from the Canadian Literature website (www.canlit.ca) may not be the final versions as they are printed in the journal, as additional editing sometimes takes place between the two versions. If you are quoting from the website, please indicate the date accessed when citing the web version of reviews and articles.