Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Enigmatic Bernard Faÿ

The strange case of Bernard Faÿ is another example of how the labels of "liberal' and "conservative" are not adequate when dealing with certain complex persons and situations. Faÿ was a French scholar and an expert on the history of Franco-American relations. In the 1930's he authored several works which were hailed by conservatives as proving that the Freemasons were responsible for causing the French Revolution.

Many of Faÿ's assertions have since been challenged. The only work of his that I ever read was Louis XVI ou la fin d'un Monde, which I found helpful for gleaning some details of Louis' life, although I would not recommend it as a history of the Revolution itself. Faÿ also obviously detested Marie-Antoinette and had nothing good to say about her. He worked for many years at the Bibliothèque Nationale and so had access to many documents; his scholarship should not perhaps be entirely dismissed, but read with discernment and in light of his political extremism.

Faÿ was one of many people who in the 1930's and 40's turned to utopian political movements to solve the problems of the world. Death and violence were seen as regrettable but necessary means of obtaining peace on earth. Faÿ collaborated with the Vichy government and the Nazis, handing over thousands of people; he became as bad as the revolutionaries whom he had condemned in his writings.

Another odd twist is that Faÿ was a friend of Gertrude Stein and her close friend Alice; his influence with the Nazis probably prevented the two Jewish Americans from being arrested, as a recent book claims. Faÿ, it turns out, had a boyfriend in the gestapo. How strange that people who were at opposite ends of the political spectrum were nevertheless united by similar proclivities and lifestyle choices. Share


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a man of contradictions....but obvioulsy an opportunist. Seems to have made up his own standard of ethics as he went along.

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, julygirl, it does seem that way.