The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

December 30, 2015

December 30, 1944

After the end of World War I Romain Rolland (January 29, 1866 to December 30, 1944) published Pierre et Luce (1920) an attempt at psychological analysis in the guise of a love story. Before the war ended, Rolland, a famous pacifist, won the Nobel Prize for literature (1915) because of his ".... lofty idealism [and].... the sympathy and love of truth with which he has described different types of human beings"

In Pierre et Luce, five friends are distinguished by their psychological types, though the friends had this in common:

Each one, for that matter, liberal in mind, and, if not all of them republicans", all foes of intellectual or social reaction, or any backward return. 

Rolland distinguishes them according to their solutions to modern issues. 

Jacques See was the most blazingly in favor of the war. This generous young Jew had espoused all the passions the spirit of France contained. All through Europe his cousins in Israel espoused like him the causes and the ideas of their adopted countries. Moreover, according to their method, they even had a tendency toward an exaggeration of whatever they adopted. 
This fine fellow, with ardent but rather heavy voice and look, with his regular features as if marked with a stamp imposed, was more pronounced in his convictions than was needful, and violent in contradiction. According to him, all that was necessary was a crusade made by the democracies to deliver the nations and extinguish war. Four years of the philanthropic slaughterhouse had not convinced him. He was one of those who will never accept the flat contradiction of facts. He had a twofold pride, the secret pride of his race, which race he wished to rehabilitate, and his pride personal that wanted to prove itself right. He wished this all the more because he was not entirely sure of it. His sincere idealism served as a screen against exacting instincts too long suppressed and to a need for action and adventure, which was no less sincere.

The fourth friend is Rolland himself:

The fourth in the group, Claude Puget, sat by at these jousts of words with a cold and somewhat disdainful attention. Coming from the very undermost bourgeoisie, poor, uprooted from his province by a passing inspector of schools who remarked his intelligence, prematurely deprived of the intimate influence of his family, this winner of a Lycee scholarship, accustomed to depend upon himself alone, to live only with himself, merely lived by himself and for himself. An egotistic philosopher given to analysis of the soul, voluptuously immersed in his introspection like a big cat curled up in a ball, he was not moved at all by the agitation of the others. These three friends of his who never could agree among themselves he put in the same bag—with the "populars." Did not all three forfeit their social rank by wishing to partake in the aspirations of the mob? Truth to say, the mob was a different crowd for each of them. But for Puget the crowd, whatever it might be, was always wrong. The crowd was the enemy. The intellect should remain alone and follow its particular laws and found, apart from the vulgar crowd and the State, the small and closed kingdom of thought.

After the war a very famous Rolland met with Gandhi, met with Stalin, and corresponded with Freud. Rolland is said to have suggested to Freud, the "oceanic feeling" mystics mention as something to study.  Oriental philosophy in the form of Swami Vivekananda  was influential on Rolland.  Wikipedia notes that Hermann Hesse dedicated Siddhartha to Rolland.

Jean Christophe was the title of a series of novels Rolland published, the last volume in 1912. Here is an excerpt from that work:

To one whose mind is free, there is something even more intolerable in the suffering of animals than in the sufferings of humans. For with the latter, it is at least admitted that suffering is evil and that the person who causes it is a criminal. But thousands of animals are uselessly butchered every day without a shadow of remorse....

We may, in the sentiments above, see the limits at that historical epoch, of a goodness which cannot imagine the dimensions of ignorance and incalcubility of the larger world of which man is a part. Of course Spinoza might have helped him keep a kind of proportion.....

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