When France fell to the Germans in 1940, a number of French writers, intellectuals, and artists fled France and found refuge in the U.S., mostly in New York and on the East Coast. Some worked for the U.S. government, some militated for Free France, most continued their creative work. Many of the French were happy during the American exile; others were deeply disturbed. All longed for France to be free again. Among those who spent the war years here were St. John Perse, André Masson, Simone Weil, André Breton, André Maurois, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
New York University’s Center for French Civilization and Culture will host a three-day conference, “Land of Refuge, Land of Exile: French Writers and Artists in the U.S. During the Occupation Years / Terre d’accueil, terre d’exil: Ecrivains et artistes Français aux États-Unis pendant l’Occupation,” on Thursday, April 16 through Saturday, April 18. Most events take place at NYU’s Maison Française, 16 Washington Mews (at University Place) and are free and open to the public; sessions are in both French and English. For more information on the conference, call 212.998.8750 or visit http://french.as.nyu.edu/object/landofrefuge.html.
The conference opens at 7 p.m. on April 16 with welcoming remarks by Tom Bishop, director of NYU’s Center for French Civilization and Culture, and Olivier Corpet, director, Institut Mémoires de l’Edition Contemporaine. A keynote speech, “Planète sans visa. Histoire d’un exil de guerre,” by Emmanuelle Loyer from Sciences-Po follows.
Highlights include a performance, in French, on Friday, April 17, at 8 p.m. by Olivier Py, director of Paris’s Théàtre National de l’Odéon, who will present a dramatic reading of a text on Simone Weil, written by Laure Adler. This will take place at 19 University Place, 1st floor auditorium.
Also featured will be discussions on “Claude-Lévi-Strauss in New York” by Columbia University’s Vincent Debaene; Jean-Jacques Lebel on “An Exiled Kid in NYC During the Second World War”; “The Soluble Fish Out of Water: Breton’s American Journey” with Mark Polizzotti, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and Princeton University’s Carol Rigolot on “Dateline New York: French Exiles and the Press.”
This special conference is made possible by the support of the Florence Gould Foundation, with additional support from the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and the Fribourg Family Foundation.