The Aesthetics of Hate
Far-Right Intellectuals, Antisemitism and Gender in 1930s France
Stanford University Press 2013
New Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in European StudiesNew Books in French StudiesNew Books in Gender StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network January 5, 2014 ROXANNE PANCHASI
Sandrine Sanos‘s new book, The Aesthetics of Hate: Far-Right Intellectuals, Antisemitism and Gender in 1930s France (Stanford University Press, 2013), examines the central roles that gender, sexuality, and race played in the far-right ideologies of the 1930s. Re-reading the work and ideas of a group of male intellectuals known as the Jeune Droite or “Young New Right,” Sanos argues that aesthetics and politics were deeply intertwined in these authors’ representations of a crisis of French civilization and in the antisemitic, racist, and misogynist responses they articulated. Figures like Maurice Blanchot and Louis-Ferdinand Celine were some of the most famous members of an intellectual movement that elaborated an “aesthetics of hate” in which Jews, women, and homosexuals figured as emblems of decadence and decline. The book also traces in fascinating ways some of the crucial links between French anti-Semitism and imperialism, examining connections between metropolitan and colonial racisms.
While Sanos is careful to point out that hers is not a history of fascism per se, The Aesthetics of Hate makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the far-right in France and beyond. The book illuminates the intersections between gender, sexuality, and race in modern France, as well as the fundamental interdependence of French culture and politics through the twentieth century. An archaeology of some of the more repugnant political ideas of the 1930s, the book also has broader implications for our understanding of contemporary French expressions of cultural anxiety, racism, and hateful politics.