The Tyranny of the .Toadies
Richard Griffiths, Fellow Travellers of the Right. Constable £12.50
T HE murderous explosion outside the synagogue in the Rue Copernic, in Paris, at the beginning of October, provoked a moving display of solidarite on the part of the French in general towards the Jew'ish community. From the President down wards, and from the Prime Minister sideways, political leaders expressed their indignation profonde. M . Mitterrand went to synagogue the ·following morning and M. Christian Bonnet, the Minister of the Interior, declared his reaction to be that of a 'jeune Israelite', which only goes to show what a rejuvenating effect an outrage can have. The French media men were no less honourably appalled, or sententious, than those whom they interviewed. Even the spokesmen of the Extreme Right were said to be scandalised, or to have said that they were. The pursuit of the bombers was promptly undertaken by the police, or at least by those of them who were not actually members of Fascist groupuscules, a fifth of whose strength - according to one of the policiers'
own unions - was drawn from the ranks of the forces de /'ordre.
This disquieting allegation to one side (whither it was pushed, not to say jostled, by official dementis), it was hard for even the most ominous cynic to identify Giscard's France with that of Maurras and Celine, Drumont, Daudet, Drieu la Rochelle and Darquier de Pellepoix, Vichy's second commissaire aux questions juives, who is alive and voluble and living in Spain. So unanimous indeed did the general revulsion appear that one was hard put to i t to imagine how a long series of incidents and attentats all over France, involving slogans, intimidation, bombs and murder, could ever have found authors. Not a single commentator alluded to the bizarre events at Orleans in 1969 when a communal mania, as a result of a fatuous rumour, rallied a crowd of ordinary citizens into an anti-Semitic mob. (By a neat economy of symbolism, it was at Orleans that the French gendarmerie ran one of the concentration camps built on French soil under the occupation.)
Before turning to British fellowtravellers of the Right, Richard
Griffiths wrote studies both of Petain and of the Catholic revival in French literature. He hardly needs to be' reminded of the dignified roots of antiSemitic and anti-Republican (voire, anti-democratic) sentiment in France. When Giscard speaks of Nazism having made martyrs of the Jewish people, he does not mention that it also made eager lackeys of many of his fellow-countrymen and their jonctionnaires. Just as Germany has never heard of Hitler, so is France innocent of Petainism. The ideologies· of the losers are, it seems, no more perennial than petunias . Well, hypocrisy is, on the whole, preferable to shamelessness, but it is an unstable virtue, since i t can be shucked so quickly in favour of impenitent resentment, if the political climate changes.
Could a cold enough wind blow over Great Britain for the Extreme Right to be encouraged to emerge from its blackened sepulchre? Mr Griffiths' patient parade of pre-war grotesques, freaks and fools, gives his book something of the antiquarian allure of a natural history of the dodo. It is very easy to persuade oneself that we can never again see the likes of Mrs
/Little Gloria . • • Happy at Last
E. L. Doctorow
The rich and riveting story of the Vanderbilt tug of love. 'This incredible book has it alii' Vogue
'A thoroughly enjoyable, exhilarating read.' Oavtd Lodge, Ttmes Ltterary Supplement 'lt is Richler enriched, his finest work yet.· Pters Brandon, Evenmg Standard
A dazzling new novel from the author of Ragtime 'Enthralling, the best American book I have read for several years.· Susan Sonntag
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