Unfinished Business: André Gide’s Geneviève and the Constraints of Socialist Realism

  • Peter F. DeDomenico


One of the most pronounced effects of the various ideological disputes that gripped the Parisian literary community in the early 1930s was the way in which polemics ultimately infiltrated that group’s aesthetic production. Especially within highly influential Communist literary circles, contention focused not simply upon social and philosophical issues, but upon which literary genres and techniques were best suited for ideological communication. The growing rapprochement between the French intellectual establishment and the U.S.S.R. certainly had a strong effect on the outcome of these debates surrounding literary rhetoric. But even before the First Soviet Writers’ Congress in Moscow in 1934, at which the doctrine of Socialist Realism was made official by the Party, many French writers had adopted defining features of that narrative genre.1 Despite its adherents’ declared commitment to the Soviet call, Surrealism was rejected by most Communists as a viable approach to literary engagement—due, in part, to its professed aim of confounding conscious meaning and its seeming preference for avant-garde forms over clearly articulated political content. Instead, a new trend in revolutionary fiction was emerging whose style, plot structure, and restricted range of possible interpretations harked back to the aesthetics of the nineteenth-century realist and naturalist traditions. Writers like André Malraux, Paul Nizan, and ex-Surrealist Louis Aragon all strove to attract the reader’s sympathy to Communist values with realist narrative resembling a roman à thèse.2


Socialist Realism Scarlet Fever Rhetorical Strategy Early Thirty Fellow Traveler 
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© Tom Conner 2000

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  • Peter F. DeDomenico

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