Multicultural Writers from Antiquity to 1945: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook

By Alba Amoia; Bettina L.Knapp | Go to book overview
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PIERRE DRIEULA ROCHELLE

(1893-1945)

Valeria Pompejano


BIOGRAPHY

Multiculturalism underlay Pierre Drieu La Rochelle's life and writings. It took him out of his native Paris, to which he always remained organically attached, into the rest of France, then outside of France into the countries of Europe, and, from 1932 onwards, outside of the Europe that he thought should one day be joined in federation.

Of French descent (Breton grandparents, Norman mother, and father from Cotentin), of bourgeois extraction (his grandfather was an architect and his father a lawyer), and, as far as family “culture” went, the son of parents who never loved each other and whose furious altercations he continually witnessed, Drieu at age fourteen was captivated by reading Nietzsche's Also sprach Zarathustra, and at age fifteen by the Anglo-Saxon culture. His first vacation in Shrewsbury, England, convinced him that he had found a second homeland. Then, visiting Oxford, he loved the combination of sports and study at the university: he himself canoed and played tennis, after which he plunged into the reading of books in the Bodleian Library. There he came into contact with writers who, together with Nietzsche, would remain his idolized masters: Carlyle, Kipling, and Whitman. In that “paradise of virility” he discovered and cultivated the Oxonian dream of a hero model that perfectly synthesized athlete and aesthete. He assumed the dandy model for himself, in exterior appearance as much as in lifestyle and thought.

At age nineteen he returned to England—to London—where he befriended Roger Frey, Virginia Woolf's future friend. English would remain Drieu's second language, and Anglo-Saxon his literature of choice. Mobilized during World War I, after serving in the eastern campaign—two months in the Dardanelles that inspired the novella Le Voyage des Dardanelles—he served as interpreter for the American forces at Verdun in 1918.

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