D'aujourd'hui et de toujours
Year:
1944
Author:
Henry de Montherlant
1896 to 1972
Artist:
Madeleine de Barbedor
1905 to 2001
Publisher:
Éditions de la Toison d'or

D'aujourdhui et de toujours by Henry de Montherlant gives a luxurious impression, especially for a book published at the end of the war: a generous size of 30 cm square and high-quality paper. The illustrations for the book wereprovided by Madeleine Barbedor. Barbedor was a French painter, a student of post-impressionist landscape painter Alfred Bastien, who was well known at the time, and who was the director of the École des Beaux Arts in Brussels. Little is known about Barbedor: her work was exhibited regularly in Paris, Nice and Menton, and she appears to have painted mostly nudes. The illustrations for D'aujourdhui et de toujours are traditional, idealised heads and half-figures, pictured in a 'sfumato'-like drawing technique. Barbedor has illustrated one other book for publisher Éditions de la Toison d'or: Abeille by Anatole France.

Enormous appetite
D'aujourdhui et de toujours was published not in France, but in Brussels by Éditions de la Toison d'or (1944). The French-language book market in Belgium blossomed during the war, even though the German occupying forces attempted to limit the publication of French books in favour of German or North-European authors. There was an enormous appetite for literature, so from that perspective the time was right for the establishment of a publishing business. The Éditions de la Toison d'or was founded on 25 March 1941 by Edouard and Lucienne Didier, a worldly married couple that had been organising informal discussion groups in their home since the 1930s for the Belgian elite. Before the war, the guests were a highly mixed company from highly diverse political backgrounds, raging from the extreme left to the extreme right, and from all over Europe. Henry de Montherlant's name also appears on Mrs Didier's guest lists.

Besides D'aujourdhui et de toujours, Éditions de la Toison d'or also published a book about De Montherlant in 1944: Montherlant ou la guerre permanente by Emile Lecerf. The author discusses De Montherlant's ideas and morals, and especially the development of his infamous 'étique de guerrier'. Between 1941 and September 1944, Éditions de la Toison d'or published around a hundred publications, divided across a number of series: novels and novellas, 'testimonials', Flemish and foreign literature, essays, history books, 'les classiques' (popular paperback reprints), and plays. French-language editions made up three quarters of the total expense budget, 33 books of which were written by French authors, and 41 of which by Francophone Belgians. In spite of this great number of home-grown books, the Didiers met a bad end upon fleeing to Paris after the war: their publishing business and all their possessions were confiscated, and Edouard Didier was condemned to death in his own absence, one of the arguments being that he was alleged to have tried to encourage the Belgian public to read 'Germanic' writings.

Collaborator?
D'aujourdhui et de toujours is a collection of writings in the form of essays, dialogues, letters and aphorisms. In them, De Montherlant explained his stubborn opinions on diverse subjects, such as family, fatherland, crime and punishment, loving and being loved, the meaning of Goethe, and the national lottery. All of this was written in his familiar, extremely precise and polished style. He also brought up memories of Karl Heinz Bremer, who translated work of his and who had supported many French writers and intellectuals while serving as associate director of the 'Institut allemand' during the war. Just before the war, Bermer wrote the following words to Montherlant: 'The war will never be able to change the order of things of true value, for they are the things that do not depend on coincidental events'. De Montherlant quoted him with permission; the quote also shed light on his own stance during World War Two. He has always been condemned for his impartiality during this period. What's more: after the war his name even appeared on a list of collaborating writers.

He was no collaborator, but the reproach was not unjustified. In 1941 he published Le solstice de Juin, an extraordinarily dubious text that had upset French readers. In this text, he made no effort to disguise his admiration of the virile image and decisiveness of the German army. He felt that the demoralised, poorly armed and untrained French army had been justly defeated in 1940 by a more powerful and morally superior enemy. And according to De Montherlant, who was obsessed with everything related to sports, it was nothing more than a matter of fair play to fully accept the Germans' conquest after such a resounding defeat. He was however rehabilitated soon after the war. In 1960 he was even admitted to the Académie Française, but his already controversial reputation had already sustained severe damage by then.

In 1953 Textes sous une occupation 1940-1944 appeared in paperback: reprints of texts written by De Montherlant during the occupation. A number of these articles have also been included in D'aujourdhui et de toujours, but without the illustrations. The author's preface does not reveal why he chose these texts specifically, but it did say that he collected these old essays as a dying man calls his children to his bed to see them one last time: 'with a feeling of friendship- they all carry something in them from the moment he conceived them - in order to then send them away'.

Bibliographical description

Description: D'aujourd'hui et de toujours / Henry de Montherlant ; ill. par Madeleine Barbedor. - Bruxelles : Éditions de la Toison d’or, 1944. - [69] p., ill. ; 30 cm
Printer: H. Wellens & W. Godenne (Brussel) (text)
M. Vandezande (illustrations)
Edition: 2480 copies
This copy: Number 1855 of 2300 on vélin bouffant
Bibliography: In liefde verzameld-220 ; Monod 8357
Shelfnumber: Koopm A 589

References

  • Lucille Becker, Henry de Montherlant: A critical biography. Carbondale, Southern Illinois University Press, 1970
  • M.B. Fincoeur, 'De uitgeverswereld in België tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog: Het voorbeeld van de 'Éditions de la Toison d'Or'', in: Hun kleine oorlog: De invloed van de Tweede Wereldoorlog op het literaire leven in België. Leuven, Peeters/Soma, 1998, p. 49-79
  • Pierre Sipriot, Montherlant sans masque, T. II: Écris avec ton sang, 1932-1972.Paris, Laffont, 1990

Frontispiece by Madeleine Barbedor
Frontispiece by Madeleine Barbedor
Illustration by Madeleine Barbedor (facing p. 22)
Illustration by Madeleine Barbedor (facing p. 22)
Illustration by Madeleine Barbedor (facing p. [40])
Illustration by Madeleine Barbedor (facing p. [40])