'This Anguish, like a Kind of Intimate Song': Resistance in Women's Literature of World War II

'This Anguish, like a Kind of Intimate Song': Resistance in Women's Literature of World War II

'This Anguish, like a Kind of Intimate Song': Resistance in Women's Literature of World War II

'This Anguish, like a Kind of Intimate Song': Resistance in Women's Literature of World War II


"The romanticized image of the heroic male resistance fighter in World War II belies a truth that is both darker and more personal. This literary history explores, for the first time, the reality of European women's roles in fighting Nazism. By comparing the resistance literature of French and German authors - both famous and more obscure - this innovative book links the traditional gender expectations for women and the conventions of their everyday lives with their unique forms of resistance. Theirs was an opposition grounded in the ordinary, beyond the sphere of political violence. Women were long regarded as outsiders to combat and politics, with no stake in upholding resistance myths. Women authors therefore freely rendered the personal and moral landscape of the resister's world in a new vocabulary. They revised standard rhetoric and replaced heroism and bullets with the values of home, human relationships, and candid acknowledgement of the sorrow, fear, and uncertainty of war. A groundbreaking study for students of European history, women's studies, peace studies, or comparative literature, this volume is also accessible to a general audience interested in the role of women in World War II."


Even when this book was just a vague idea for a PhD dissertation, I was drawn to the ques- tion of what it was inside an individual that motivated her to take daunting risks to resist Nazism. a year I had spent in Berlin, in 1973, had set the stage for this project without my actually being aware of it at the time. Later, during my graduate studies in Comparative Literature at Indiana University, I kept returning to the subject of the European writers and intellectuals of the 1920s and ‘30s who for a time gave themselves and their art over to Communism and other political movements that held the promise of sweeping social change. My dissertation on French and German women’s resistance literature evolved out of this academic interest and also out of the mystique of Berlin.

Writing this book presented me with the opportunity to re-examine my original ques- tion. As compelling as the intertwined issues of gender and war are and as much as I wanted to give these authors a voice and an identity as resistance writers and to validate the forms of women’s anti-Nazi opposition, I also wanted to unearth what was within the core of a resister’s being that enabled her to take some kind of action when so many other people did not. I hope this book, if only between the lines, begins to answer that question. These writers and resisters still speak to us and to the times in which we live today.

I am indebted, above all, to Bernie Morris, of the Department of Political Science at Indiana University, who saw a book in me even when I could not see it and who continued to believe in this project over a number of years.

I also wish to thank Wolfgang Wippermann, of the Friedrich Meinecke Institut at the Freie Universität Berlin. He generously read and commented on drafts of the dissertation as well as a final draft of this book, and he reminded me more than once that a comparative study like this was needed. I express my gratitude to others as well who read and com- mented on drafts, especially the late Mike Downs.

Advice and encouragement came to me from many others to whom I am grateful. Among those whom I wish to thank are Ines Kraft, Téa Malloizel, Beate Gilliar, Janine Moore, and Melissa Lowe. There are others, too, whose words and work inspired me, though they may not realize it.

To my editors, Marieke Schilling and Norbert Bachleitner, at Editions Rodopi, I extend a special thanks for the help they provided in pulling this project together.

Finally, I owe a great deal to my family for their love and support—and for that trip to Berlin.

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