Sunday, March 18, 2012

Tolkien vs. the Nazis

So, the story has been making the rounds this past week about how back in 1938 JRRT told off his would-be German publisher over their nation's anti-Semitic laws. This is something Tolkienists have known about for years, since the relevant letter appears in LETTERS OF JRRT [1981]. It's only now getting out into general circulation, thanks to articles like the following (thanks to Shelly for the link, and to Steven S. for making sure I heard the news):

This is one of those times when you can genuinely feel proud of an author you like turning out to be a thoroughly decent human being (and believe me, there are admirers of some authors' works who don't get to feel that v. often -- e.g. the Joyceans). Of course, nobody's perfect, and Tolkien did occasionally make regrettable remarks displaying casual racism typical of his time. And there's also the matter of his sympathy for Franco, whom he saw rather as Defender of the Church than the fascist tyrant he was. But when it really mattered, JRRT's firm stance against the Nazi's veneration of 'Aryan purity' and his specific denunciation of their anti-Semitism was uncompromising -- and all the more welcome in that he was willing to risk something (royalties from the German translation under negotiation) rather than silently acquiesce. Yay, Tolkien.

For a good contrast, compare Tolkien with his contemporaries, novelist Evelyn Waugh (who wrote a book supporting Mussolini's war on Abyssinia) or poet Roy Campbell, a starkly homophobic, misogynist anti-Semitic who enthusiastically praised Hitler and even more enthusiastically backed Franco.

And then of course there's H. P. Lovecraft, who is so notorious a racist that one World Fantasy Award winner posted a piece not that long ago about her qualms in displaying an award shaped in his image (warning: the following link contains some offensive language on HPL's part):

I may be more attuned to this issue right now partly because I'm getting ready to run a C.o.C. adventure based on HPL's most overtly racist story, "The Horror at Red Hook" [circa 1925] (naturally, I'll be taking out the offensive parts, wh. aren't essential). The other contributing factor is that while digging out my copy of THE FUNGI FROM YUGGOTH (his Mythos sonnet cycle, wh. is actually quite good) I've just recently come across the chapbook that reprints pieces from his apa, THE CONSERVATIVE [1915-1923]. I'll probably devote a separate blog post to this work, so for now I'll just say that while the editor insists Lovecraft was no racist, Lovecraft's own words in this very booklet emphatically prove him wrong.

More later.

--John R.
current reading: ORTHODOXY (GKC), THE CONSERVATIVE (HPL), THE BRIDGE OF BIRDS original draft (Hughart)

1 comment:

bogoizbrania said...

General Franco is a true patriot and believer banished communism and fascism in Spain. If he was not defeated in the civil war, Spain would follow Italy and other countries in the fascist axis and Nazism could not never be eradicated from Europe.