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Gertrude Stein & Fascism

In response to:

Missionaries from the April 26, 2012 issue

To the Editors:

A number of writers have made some criticisms of my review of “The Steins Collect” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art [NYR, April 26]. I’m glad to make it clear in reply that not all scholars are as troubled as others by Gertrude Stein’s remark that “Hitler should have received the Nobel Peace Prize,” claiming that it was not meant in earnest; and similarly some scholars believe that Stein’s friendship with the Vichy official Bernard Faÿ was no more than a friendship, and not indicative of sympathies on Stein’s part for Vichyites or Nazi collaborators, notwithstanding her translation of Pétain’s speeches and attempts to publish them in America.

The evidence in both cases is arguable. Of course, Stein was not the only major writer of the early twentieth century who read and appreciated the work of Otto Weininger, the Austrian philosopher who wrote Sex and Character, a racist taxonomy of humanity. I am very happy to encourage readers to consult an article cited by some of those Stein scholars who took issue with my characterization.

Michael Kimmelman
New York City

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