Six French Resistants in the United States, 1945-1947
France, a civilization of individuals, is the very opposite of contemporary America which is a conformist society oriented toward production.
-- André Siegfried, 1927
In America, the individual is nothing.
-- Simone de Beauvoir, 1947
The development of the French image of America in the early postwar years was strongly affected by the views of six important figures in the French Resistance. Their travel accounts describing American life are of special interest because, in the interwar period, French visitors to the United States with few exceptions aligned themselves with conservative republican parties. Only a scattering of Socialists wrote book-length studies about the United States in that period.1 The observations of the Resistants in the early postwar years provide the first occasion in the twentieth century for assessing systematically the impact of leftist views on the representation of American life.
The brief flurry of interest in the United States among French Resistants must be seen as a product of the political situation at the end of World War II. In 1945, the cold war was still in the future, and even in left-wing circles, America was given credit for participating in a war to defeat fascism. The overwhelming political and military strength of the United States made it clear to all Frenchmen that American culture would play a major role in French life in the postwar period. An assessment of that culture was clearly an important motivation for visiting America.