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Kay Boyle and Mary Reynolds: Friendship Intensified by War



Cet article relate l’amitié qui lia Kay Boyle et Mary Reynolds, en particulier au cours de la seconde guerre mondiale. Dans ce contexte tragique, les deux femmes firent le choix de s’engager, l’une à travers l’écriture, l’autre en rejoignant la Résistance, dans la lutte contre le fascisme. Une décision qui devait les amener à s’interroger, en tant qu’Américaines expatriées en France, sur leurs pays d’origine et d’adoption, ainsi que sur les questions d’appartenance et de citoyenneté, cruciales pour tous ceux qui aspirent à l’avènement de la démocratie à travers le monde.

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1On March 2, 1942, from her home in Nyack, a Hudson River town north of New York City, Kay Boyle wrote to Mary Reynolds’s brother, Brookes Hubachek. She was “anxious,” Boyle wrote, “to have some news of Mary. Naturally, all those of us who love Mary are worried about her increasingly now.” War had separated these two friends, Kay Boyle and Mary Reynolds. Reynolds, widow of a World War I soldier, attractive and engaging, was a bookbinder, active in the Surrealist movement, and partner to Marcel Duchamp since the mid-1920s. For the time being, Reynolds remained in Paris, while Boyle had left France for New York, by way of Lisbon, in July 1941. Her fellow travelers included Peggy Guggenheim, Boyle’s soon-to-be ex-husband Laurence Vail, Max Ernst, who would soon marry Guggenheim, and, as Sandra Spanier notes, seven children (148). While perhaps an unusual combination of travelers, even for the avant-garde American artists who had spent a decade or more in France, Boyle’s group joined some 25,000 other American expatriates and business people who fled France between 1938 and 1941. Reynolds, even as she was urged by Duchamp to leave as he did, opted to remain. In staying, she joined some 5,000 other Americans (Glass 2). Their reasons were various: they felt themselves more French than American, they were more French than American, they had ties in France that they could or would not sever, they had a naïve expectation that the war could not be that bad, or any combination of these views.

2For many American women living in France who had grappled with and forged a complex identity as Americans, expatriates, with sexual freedom, and were at the same time French-identified, this upheaval was for the most part profoundly dislocating. Grave and at times deadly dislocations affected many more than this group of women, but their role as innovators and boundary-crossers, and likewise how they refashioned themselves—to the extent they could do so—in these difficult times, deserves attention. Reynolds and Boyle both held this overseas radical Americanness, which I will touch on in this essay. At the same time this exploration permits me to read an expanded and complex meaning of citizenship. I offer this small frame to suggest that both Kay Boyle and Mary Reynolds refashioned citizenship, as participants in an international community, which incorporated their Americanness and Frenchness in a horrific crisis. Moreover, they both continued and refigured their interest in modernist art, which had initially helped inform their devotion to living in France—a participation that in my view helps define their multi-layered civic agencies.

3Both took part in a war-forged civic activism. Reynolds, as a Parisian, participated in the French Resistance, and after she escaped to the U.S. in late 1942, she made every effort to return as soon as possible, but was unable to find the “parachute” that might send her back to work in the Resistance (Reynolds to Henri Hoppenot). Boyle, now in the U.S. for the duration—even as she juggled her relationship with her new husband Joseph Franckenstein and added more children—devoted herself to writing about the war, including the accounts of daring women engaged in resistance activities, a subject new to the American public. Thus for both women, their relationship to art shifted. Reynolds curtailed her work as a surrealist bookbinder, especially as the surrealist movement had largely left Europe. Boyle refashioned her fiction to speak directly to the war, at some expense to her reputation. But war created an overarching demand for action. As Sonya Rose and Kathleen Canning write, “transformations [in citizenship] were most acute when moments of national boundaries or identities were contested internally through revolutions or civil strife, or externally by wars, formation or dissolutions of state, or changes in imperial rule” (433). We might also think of citizenship as “aspirational,” linked to a “politics of desire” that “link[s], rather than divide[s] public and private concerns” (Werber and Davis, qtd. in Rose and Canning 436). This merging of public and private was actually a crucial component of their war work, and shaped their engagement in the years to come.

4Both women returned to Europe as soon as they could, and their friendship continued. Reynolds attempted to resume her bookbinding, but Paris’s shortages, Duchamp’s absence, and ill health plagued her. In 1950, she died from uterine cancer, with Duchamp at her side. Kay Boyle, following her husband to Occupied Germany, sharpened her political focus, now critiquing those who sought and used excessive power, including the U.S., until she and Franckenstein were sent home under the cloud of anti-American accusations.

Citizenship in wartime

  • 1  Gemie et al, in addressing specific groups of “great journeys” of this war, give the figures of a (...)
  • 2  For an extensive discussion of French identity among Jews, see Annette Wieviorka and Françoise Ros (...)

5Both the Vichy government and the Nazi occupiers severely attacked liberal forms of citizenship. For French women, citizenship had always been a problem. The French state, whether Third Republic or Vichy, denied women the right to vote, insuring their second-class political status. But such concerns turned far more serious when the German government stripped Jews of citizenship through a string of laws, culminating in the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, and stripped Communists of any legal protections, turning hundreds of thousands into stateless people, and many tens of thousands as a result had fled to France, seeking refuge in a nation which had, historically, opened its doors to those fleeing oppression.1 Vichy officials, post 1940, also stripped naturalized French Jews of their status, and began to strip French status from long-time French who were also Jewish even though they had for generations considered themselves French.2

6While much of our understanding of these matters—the drastic nature of robbing people of their citizenship, coupled with the qualitative impact of anti-immigration policies in France—come from a much later historical analysis, the realities existed, and the hostility spread among people living in France in 1939-1940. Right wing organizations and newspapers attacked the so-called hordes entering France, most significantly refugees who crossed the Pyrenees into France between 1937 and 1939, a crisis equaled only by the deluge of refugees from Germany and Austria fleeing Nazi brutalities, imprisonment and restrictions. Officials vacillated between expelling or interning the Spanish (Gemie et al 42-3). The newspaper L’Oeuvre spoke in a somewhat sympathetic but also anxious perspective about these newcomers: “A real army is entering France: a pitiful army of the lame, the stragglers and the sick” (qtd. in Gemie et al 44), signs of a “heterogeneity” that was “unsettling, even unwelcome,” and “wretched, worrying Spaniards imposing on French order and civilization” (Gemie 45). I note this scene to indicate the intensification of nationalism and restriction of citizenship that vied with a generosity and sense of urgency in aiding the refugees (45). Attacks equally vociferous blasted Jews and Communists coming from the east—all of which culminated, by 1939 and beyond, in terrible internment camps, some eighty of them throughout France, and Vichy’s willing expulsion of many Spanish and anti-Fascists and Jews to the killing camps of the east.

  • 3  Ann Douglas has made me consider a wider ‘shift,’ that depends not solely on World War II but on t (...)

7The ‘aspiration’ to full citizenship points to a cosmopolitan acceptance of multi-layered positions and of heterogeneity. Thus there is a second aspiration, one more conceptually aimed at freedom, enabled by genuinely democratic values. While many postmodern readings, global policies of immigration and critiques of the nation-state inflect new discussions of citizenship, this particular moment requires a reading that shifts again with the post-war impositions of power and Cold War politics.3 Wartime internationalism and hybrid belongings may be more particular to contested borders and occupied nations in a global war than at other times. And attendanton this frame of citizenship, both Boyle and Reynolds found themselves on shifting ground in terms of artistic agency and engagement.

Friendships across boundaries

8Mary Reynolds remained in Paris. Among her friends, Man Ray, Peggy Guggenheim, and Marcel Duchamp had left for the United States. After some difficulty attaining exit papers and visas (a fairly common dilemma for exiters), Duchamp left Marseilles for New York in early 1942, joining a thriving and combative (among themselves) artistic community. Reynolds remained at 14 rue Hallé, a lovely house in the 14th arrondissement with a large yard and enough space for a little garden, a house she had shared with Duchamp, and where she had hosted many dinners and gatherings of Paris’s multinational artistic and intellectual community. While it is not clear at this point to what extent her relationship with Duchamp had waned, Reynolds, Duchamp, and Reynolds’s brother Hubachek kept in touch with each other as much as possible in this period, and when she did arrive in New York, she at times wrote friends in the name of the two of them.

9In the late 1920s and 1930s Reynolds and Boyle were their own women in France—Reynolds a sexually independent woman, an independence which is a crucial component of full citizenship, and Boyle, also pursuing her sexual desires with liberty, and writing her way through the modernist community of Paris. Both held their own with other artists and intellectuals of the French, expatriate, and merged communities.

10They shared this community of Americans overseas—practitioners of modernism, making experimental forays into artistic ideas, challenging the old, focusing on the new. They shared the friendship of Duchamp and Man Ray. It may be, in a masculinized world of famous artists, that Boyle was a friend of Reynolds because she was Duchamp’s partner, but this is an assumption I reject. Boyle was genuinely fond of Reynolds, a friendship that existed far beyond their having both had relationships with Laurence Vail (Dearborn 45). Boyle wrote a poem “A Complaint for Mary and Marcel” in 1937, which, with its experimental shape—two lines of poetry placed next to each other, followed by sections of prose, and its specific allusions—indicates shared experiences and references between the three of them. Reynolds had for many years been a close friend to Peggy Guggenheim; she lent her house to Guggenheim during her brief affair with Samuel Beckett. Both Boyle and Reynolds cooled somewhat on Guggenheim. Boyle had longstanding disagreements with her that revolved around a variety of issues. Sandra Spanier notes that in spite of their common interest in getting out of France, “it must not be forgotten that [Guggenheim] also claims that she and Boyle ‘frankly detested each other’” (148). Guggenheim and Boyle remained friends enough to join together in their exit from France, flying on a Pan Am Clipper to the U.S. from Lisbon in July 1941. Boyle was still married to Vail even as she sought Guggenheim’s help in getting her Austrian, anti-Nazi lover Joseph Von Franckenstein out of Europe. Because of visa problems, Franckenstein could not join their group, but he was eventually able to get to New York. Reynolds noted in a letter to her brother, December 1, 1940, that “Peggy is in zone non occupé [sic] carrying on with art as if there were no war.” Reynolds felt Guggenheim was more interested in collecting art than in dealing with the terrible advent of war. Nevertheless, from the safety of the U.S., Guggenheim remained concerned about Reynolds, corresponding with Reynolds’s brother in the months after her return.

11“M. can’t be moved,” Duchamp wrote her brother in April 1941 from Marseille. “She gives all sorts of good reasons… ‘Don’t worry, no torture, no boats for six months, conditions acceptable here and no excitement.’” Duchamp continued: he had urged her at least to move to the unoccupied zone where “she would risk no concentration camp… Moreover, she dreads the boat trip…” and there was also a cat (Duchamp to Hubachek, 22 April 1941). These may just be excuses that covered up her real interest, remaining ‘French.’

Becoming American

12In a letter to her brother, Mary Reynolds wrote on December 1, 1940:

When I got your letter I walked home stopping in various bistros to read and reread it. Fortunately the olcohols [sic] are at 15 % and the coffee at 0 so I got home without a headache…. I still go resolutely to the fleas who are lovely to me and make me presents since I am a poor american [sic]. It is worth a lot of trouble to have finally acquired that status just when I am finally a rich one. Perhaps I shall become an American citizen at the age of fifty—but I don’t feel like it yet.

13The extract noted above in Reynolds’s witty letter to her brother points to the difficult-to-name qualities of her citizenship. She spoke French inflected with an American accent (at least according to Flanner’s description of Mrs. Jeffries) so she was identifiably not French. Her status as an american, lower-case “a” as the French write français, suggests a re-naming, or a new grammar of citizenship, playful in this case, but also accurate as her status in France is, at least in December 1940, somewhat protected by this citizenship, at the same time that she shares most of the same privations Parisians face. In a terrible winter, according to Duchamp’s biographer Calvin Tomkins, Reynolds and Duchamp were running out of coal, although they still had access to “chicken, veal, eggs, butter and cheese,” a veritable feast, due to Duchamp’s old friend, the cheese merchant (523). Duchamp had managed to get permits to cross the demarcation line, posing himself as a cheese merchant—which enabled him to smuggle out pieces in his cheese-sample suitcases, so that he had “material for some fifty of his Boxes [the Boîte-en-valise pieces].” After three trips to Marseille in 1940, he had the material shipped to Peggy Guggenheim’s art and sculpture agent, who would then ship his pieces to the United States in preparation for his own exit (324). But he also had access to more food than most French, on his returns to Paris.

14With the exigencies of war, Boyle and Reynolds came to share the community of hybrid, engaged citizenship. They had to address in some form being American. But they were also sort of French. As Gershon Shafir writes in the introduction to The Citizenship Debates, “citizens are who they are by virtue of participating in the life of their political community” (11)—at least that is one view, and it is a view that I lean toward in this paper. Joined with the political is the social community, close but not the same. And Boyle’s and Reynolds’s citizenship moved far beyond—or perhaps outside of—the liberal position, as “simply a status of membership” (11) since membership for both was not solely in an American political community, and demanded, in their view, action.

  • 4  Drue Tartière, an actress married to a French man, worked in the Resistance near and in Paris to h (...)

15I am not so reductive here as to suggest that these labels could be applied to any expatriate in France in the 1930s. Guggenheim, for example, was at this moment devoted to her art collection, and sought to leave France with it, by any means available. But certainly, other American women in France shared the shadings I explore here. One might include Sylvia Beach of Shakespeare and Company, which she closed when the Germans came seeking books, Drue Tartière, an American actress married to a French man, and others whose stories are still obscure, such as Nadine Oxnard, an American heiress artist and Devereaux Rochester. The last three women were active in the French Resistance—although Beach herself was certainly engaged and resistant in her own ways.4

Domestically French/ modernist domesticity

16To further complicate this, I want to bring in the idea of the domestic, which, I argue, wartime reshapes dramatically. Suzanne Clarke has written of “the irony in modernist literature [related to the] repression of the domestic.” Attitudes, in male modernism at least, had “hardened into a critical party line which excluded not only women but attitudes that seemed feminine, or sentimental” (138-9). While Boyle, she argues, had been able to “put the sentimental narrative back into play” in her earlier modernist fiction, I suggest that the domestic itself is now blatantly undone—the upheaval undoes the domestic’s isolated and protected nature—if that indeed was ever the case. Women, in this sense, are made visible in the public sphere—even as their meaning is highly contested, as we see in the “family” ideology of Vichy France. Rationing, the absence of so many men in POW camps, and virtual uprooting turns lives upside down (we can note, for example, the woman from Brittany whom the Germans relocated south in Boyle’s short story “Men”). For the Resistance, the domestic becomes a crucial arm—functioning as a realm of public, political action. We can take any number of women résistantes who carry their messages in food baskets, use their homes as message drops, etc. Paula Schwartz and Margaret Collins Weitz are among those who have addressed the patriarchal attitude toward women in the various resistance groups.

17Was it American citizenship that Boyle and Reynolds grappled with? Not exactly. Like Sylvia Beach’s links to Adrienne Monnier, Reynolds’s life was tied to a French partner. With America’s entry into the war, the Germans targeted Americans—at first requiring them to register with the police each week, and soon interned, first the men, and then in October 1942, some 300 women as well. The makeup of these “American” women was complex. Many were solely American citizens on paper, born of American fathers from World War I, raised by their French mothers. Yet many others, like Reynolds, were deeply internationalist, and challenged instances of anti-Semitism when possible. Sylvia Beach explains a moment in the Vittel internment camp where the Germans interned some 500 Americans in the fall of 1942, through the end of the war. They joined 2,000 British women already interned. Mrs. Southwick was president of the American group. Mrs. Southwick was, Beach writes, “not afraid to stand up for anything. But hearing she had expressed anti-Semitic views, [sic] some of us went in a delegation to protest vehemently against this attitude ill-befitting citizens of our nation thrown with the Nazis” (944). Beach had frequently observed the severe treatment of Jews in Paris, including the ultimate tragedies of being sent to Drancy, and from there to Auschwitz—the experience of her dear young friend Françoise Bernheim, whose progress she followed and whose aid she came to when she could (Engagement Calendars). It is interesting that at this moment, in Vittel, Beach reaches to employ the concept of citizenship in upholding the democratic and consciously anti-prejudicial behavior, even in the face of 1940-1942 anti-Semitism throughout the French press that might have lured some less ethical Americans in France. Upon her release from Vittel, Beach upheld this stance. She became “indignant” when told by a German officer whom she had met, Mr. Konrad, that she was “unfavorably considered by the Authorities of the Occupation because [she] employed a Jewish assistant in [her] library.” She noted in a typescript draft of her memoir of the war years, “I told him that Francoise [sic] Bernheim was an old friend of mine and as an American I couldn’t be expected to enter into German prejudices against her race. Well, he said, you’ve got a black mark against you name, and he gave me a black look.” When Bernheim was interned at Drancy, she asked Mr. Konrad to intervene; instead, she felt the “full force” of this German subservience to nationalist obedience and racism (Sylvia Beach Papers CO108). From Drancy, Bernheim was deported, and died in Auschwitz.

18For many Americans, the financial support they had previously relied on from U.S. banks—from pensions to trust funds, was in most instances cut off. The range was extensive, often depending on a lot of making do and ingenuity. Reynolds managed on borrowed funds that she was to repay. There were some wealthy women such as Natalie Clifford Barney, who had come into an inheritance at the age of 26, maintained access to her funds in the Credit Lyonnais bank while she lived out the war in a villa near Florence with her companion Romaine Brooks, leaving France June 1940. She relied on her housekeeper who remained in Paris to send food to her friends in Paris, keep up her house, and “polish the silverware, and care for her library” (Benstock 342, 343). Benstock notes that Barney, while a pacifist, feared Communism more than she did the Nazis, and, with her move to Italy, “threw in her lot with the side she thought would be victorious” (346). Tartière, left on her own, with assistance from a daring maid, when her husband went to serve De Gaulle’s army, managed to survive to a great extent by selling possessions, books and furniture, bargaining and trading items.

19While ‘legally’ and objectively American, Reynolds, like Sylvia Beach and many others, was at the same time, in civic, day to day urban terms—and subjectively—French. They had become, by war’s outbreak, French patriots, with or without French partners.

France through Boyle’s eyes

20Boyle worked consistently to present France’s war, the occupation and resistance to her American audience, even though by the time of these writings she had returned to the United States. In “Major Engagement in Paris,” Boyle’s first story in the French Group 1939-1942 of Thirty Stories, which takes place during the time of the Phony War, Mrs. Hodges speaks with a “ringing accent which thirty years of Paris had not yet worn into French” (201). She has brought American dental picks for her friend Mrs. Peterson, her bridesmaid of some years back. Mrs. Peterson claims to be unaware of what “Americans” do (203) but also distinguishes herself from “French people, foreigners…” and she is most reluctant to use this tooth pick in a public place—so we have both the confusion of belonging, and of public and private activities. This narrative advances in the context of their memories of the earlier war, and a naïve confusion about this current one. Yet both women seem committed to remaining in Paris, although it is not clear for which “France” their sympathies will lie, that of the Petainist world, or of the anti-Fascist one. Or at some point, perhaps after the terrible exodus from Paris in June 1940, both women were racing to get out of France.

21Boyle’s early stories about wartime France—published upon her return to the United States —offer a range of citizens, many uprooted and facing terrifying instability, some without homes to return to. In a prescient story about Senegalese troops in “They Weren’t Going to Die,” she writes of forced citizens of the French metropolitan state. Susan Farrow, in “Hilaire and the Maréchal Pétard,” seems the most “American” of Boyle’s characters in this group—or perhaps the most like Kay Boyle herself. While men at the café talk with Count Alain, who urges them not to question “the service of his country,” the narrator makes it clear that there are two kinds of service, “in the name of the people or in Vichy’s name” (309-10). Farrow’s French husband is (perhaps) in Syria and is trying to get to England to join de Gaulle. She unquestionably serves “the people,” and thus the ‘most American’ is also fully devoted to the “belief” of an ideal France.

22Many critics argued a new Boyle had emerged, as she waxed polemical about war and America’s commitment to a democratic vision of France. But “Hilaire and the Maréchal Pétard” offers dazzling play on words, in the spirit of Boyle’s modernist interests. Multiple layers of meanings tell of an imagination not confined to rigid politics. Farrow’s son, in producing a newspaper “about the war,” (321) creates a mischievous language. This newspaper is partly personal defiance of a man who has set himself up as an alternative father-authority, or the Word, and partly political resistance that has been inculcated not only by his American mother but also by the French schoolroom. Both blend the domestic and public concerns that I have indicated above. And there is invention in this new configuration: “We don’t spell the names of real people the way other papers do” (322). In the paper, “La Canne à Pêche” [fishing rod], the boy writes about La Légion d’Horreur, a play on Légion d’Honneur—also indicated by the red thread that the Count wears—“it will save you a lot of trouble if you just write to Fishy for it.” Thus honor can be bought and sold, and it is tied closely to horror. His mother realizes that Fishy means Vichy, but the Count is aware of a second resistant meaning: “Look it up in the Larousse. You’ll find it under the world ‘Gaule’” (323). This reading brings the secret police to question the three boy editors and their parents. Earlier the Count has upheld the sanctity of the Vichy phrase “Travail, Famille, Patrie,” what to Farrow speaks collaboration (318), but he does not want to see mother and son taken by the Nazis. The Count quickly warns her to flee to Lyon and then leave the country, perhaps a deed of “conscience” which he cannot openly give language to.

23Boyle’s action at this moment was decidedly one of writing her conscience—a dappled patriotism, tied to resistance, and tied to the complexities of people’s identities and commitments, woven into her stories.

Reynolds as résistante

  • 5  One of the fullest accounts of the Gloria network is James Knowlson’s Damned to Fame: The Life of (...)

24Mary Reynolds also understood the complexities of citizenship and the need to be active in resisting the German occupation. She became a member of the Gloria SMH network, an arm of the British SOE (Special Operations Executive), around 1941—aiding British fliers to escape France, hiding those in need of shelter, and perhaps sequestering material about troop movement in her home on rue Hallé. Samuel Beckett, whom I have noted earlier was a friend of Reynolds’s, and his partner Suzanne Deschevaux-Dumesnil, were also part of this network.5 One tale comes from her artist friend Jean Hélion: “She hid me in her house in Paris for ten days after I had escaped from a German prisoners’ camp in 1942; when she herself was under police supervision, and she was then running a serious risk. So charming, lovely, and alive, and brave discretely.” Reynolds’s brother wrote in 1963 of a more dramatic scenario: Reynolds’s home “became the gathering point and the dispatching point for the spy poste. It was also a Paris station for the escape route. There was a continuous procession of individuals, microfilm, used parachutes, and so on. She left her home dressed in ordinary streetwear and went across the street to a French residence where, an hour later, she saw two carloads of armed German Gestapo surround her house” (qtd. in Godlewski 16-17). Gabrielle Picabia’s recollection, included in a biography of Peggy Guggenheim, was that Mary, code name “Gentle Mary,” “was the only one to keep papers and documents at home.”(Dortch qtd. in Godlewski 16).

25In her three-part series “The Escape of Mrs. Jeffries” published in the New Yorker in 1943, Janet Flanner writes a veiled account of Mary Reynolds’s dramatic escape from Paris to New York, which involved a nearly three month stay in Lyon, and then a grueling hike over the Pyrenees from the border city of Pau. Flanner makes no mention of Reynolds’s resistance work, undoubtedly to protect all those involved, and she presents an escape from Paris which has a different context—the expected round-up of those Americans living in the Occupied Zone, which did occur shortly after Reynolds quit Paris. Flanner also notes the round up on non-French Jews which had occurred a few months earlier: “Then, in May, there was a terrible little publicized rafle, or raid, on the remaining foreign Jews in Paris, which dreadfully worsened the chances of any crossing the border.” Lest the reader think that this is merely noted to show how difficult it is for non-Jews to cross the demarcation line as the first step out of the country, Flanner instructs them in the terrible anti-Semitism at work in France: “The Nazis ordered that non-French Jewish men women, and children be separated from one another and sent off, in a new, triple form of segregation, to different camps” (I. 23). Flanner goes on to note that terrified parents threw their children out of windows, and committed suicide themselves, in fear of what was to come.

26Reynolds’s presence in the Gloria network is represented unevenly—not an unusual problem for accounts of résistants, drawn often from various sources, particularly difficult when dealing with material and stories that were, at the time, meant to be suppressed. His biographer Knowlson reports the fullest account of Samuel Beckett’s activities, but this account too leaves Reynolds’s engagement out almost entirely. Knowlson writes that Reynolds “allowed the fugitives,” that is Beckett and Deschevaux-Dumesnil, “to spend the first night in her house.” Then, according to Beckett, “they contacted some Communist friends” (288). Beckett refers to Reynolds in a 1945 SOE briefing as someone not actually involved in the network; “Beckett’s own escape was aided by a certain Mary Reynolds, an American, who put him in touch with a man named Roux.” Most puzzling, in my view, is Reynolds’s absence in the list of members of the Gloria network accounted for in the SOE debriefing of Jeanine Picabia in London, 1943, shortly after Picabia had escaped from France, when the Germans had arrested so many in this network. Yet, among Reynolds’s papers in the Chicago Institute of Art’s Library is a membership card in the Fédération des Amicales de Réseaux de la France Combattante, stamped 28 November 1945, of the network Gloria SMH.

27Mary Reynolds left Paris at the same time that Beckett and his partner left—whether she went through a door across the street and never returned to her own house, or whether she had time to gather up her things, pack a trunk, get her ski clothes, and secure Man Ray’s rolled up canvasses.

28From Janet Flanner ‘s three consecutive New Yorker accounts we can also read the weight of citizenship. As she develops the first account, she turns to a discussion of occupied France: after February 1943 when the Germans erased the line between occupied and Vichy France—yet to cross, one still needed to show “identification papers or passports, which are precisely what some people either do not possess or most want to hide” (May 22, 3). Citizenship had become for some not approved identity but unstable signifier. The passport could be a death sentence. Identifying someone as German or Austrian (and/or Jewish) portended the loss of all rights, and most likely deportation to a ‘stateless’ setting. There are of course other nuances to this reading, but Flanner implies a sinister outcome for such travelers—and furthermore indicates that possession of citizenship itself is not enough. It depends greatly upon which state one belongs to—whether a state permits rights and demands duties, or the state restricts, and has the power to dispatch ‘undesirables’ to oblivion.

New York

29Reynolds lived a nomadic life in New York, moving from an apartment in the West Village on 11th Street to one on Perry Street where she could leave for France on a moment’s notice, and then back to 11th Street. At times she seemed to have reunited with Duchamp, who had a studio on 14th Street; at other times they stayed apart—as he had essentially moved away from this relationship. Reynolds eagerly offered her services to the O.S.S. (Office of Strategic Services), reminding them that she spoke French and was familiar with the French Resistance. Creative in many ways in its recruitment, drawing upon people from many walks of life who knew the communities and cultures of occupied Europe and the east, the O.S.S. here seems to have had a failure of imagination. Reporting on July 25, 1944, the interviewer observed: “has good appearance, is alert and a little bit of the aggressive type. Is eager to go overseas and is available.” The OSS reviewer gave her a satisfactory rating, but did not suggest sending her overseas, only to offer her “some job other than writing” (Interviewer’s Report). Whether this was due to her “aggressive” demeanor or not is not clear. Sandra Spanier has a different tale, based on a June 1981 discussion with Boyle: Reynolds worked for the War Department, “assisting Resistance fighters in France” (237 n. 36). If this is true, it indicates that the government was willing to overlook Reynolds’s aggressive nature, or perhaps even liked it, and found a way to use a well-informed and engaged woman in U.S. war work.

30Kay Boyle and Reynolds likely had contact in New York. Boyle wrote to Solita Solano (the former partner of Janet Flanner) that she wanted to see Solano, and so did Mary Reynolds. Meanwhile, Boyle was busy writing and at the same time giving birth and caring for the children, while her new husband Franckenstein joined the U.S. Army and was in training in Colorado.

Boyle’s writing, continued

31This was the period in which Boyle’s stellar short stories “They Didn’t Want to Die,” first published in the New Yorker, October 12, 1940, and “Defeat” first published in the New Yorker, May 17, 1941, appeared. In addition to the New Yorker, she published stories in Harper’s Bazaar, The Saturday Evening Post, Harper’s, and The Woman’s Home Companion. She also worked on novels to explain France’s predicament. A Primer for Combat appeared in 1942—and we can well read it as a transmission of sorts from her time in France 1940-41. The novel is derived from the journal entries of Phyl, a French-American woman who is in a limbo state—in France, trying to return to the United States—as she sharpens her understanding of the importance of resisting Vichy and Nazi control of France, at the same time that she cuts herself from her Vichy-soft Austrian-exiled lover.

32Avalanche (1944), the novel I want to address in a little more detail here,faced a wall of hostile reviews. Many critics deemed it merely a romance and a potboiler to boot. But Boyle seemed most interested in getting this story out (and did not suffer from its being a best seller). Herethe very humanbeing-ness seems to be taken from the French, the occupied. A “They” has become subject: “it has come to be the exact reference made to only one nation of men”—the ‘we’ that Boyle’s resistant characters are a part of have become the Other, with their varied national roots and belongings (Boyle’s emphasis 6). The war and coming of age have permitted disobedience—this is the ontological citizenship that not only Fenton has chosen—“the girl,” “the advance guard of the second front,” a woman of mixed nationality, but it is also Reynolds’s choice. This disobedience is crucial to modern citizenship.

  • 6  For a far more extensive discussion of Avalanche, see Sandra Spanier’s chapter on “The War Years” (...)

33Oddly, perhaps, Boyle dedicates her novel (the first about the French Resistance, it is said) to Monsieur and Madame Rrose Sélavy—an icon of modernism prefacing a somewhat didactic tale. The couple is Americanized with the “and” instead of “et.” It is also a play on the (Madame) Rrose Sélavy, Duchamp’s nom-de-femme so to speak. If Duchamp is Madame, Reynolds is now Monsieur Sélavy, with all the phrase’s erotic charges intact. She is given male gender, but is now politically informed as well. She is both man and woman, French-over-American in this small entryway into a dramatic story of the Resistance, said to be based in part on the experiences of Duchamp and Reynolds, although I have not encountered any further explanation of this idea. American critics were not interested in the modernist dedication, even if the novel was in the service of the war, and became a kind of primer for American soldiers heading into France.6

Return to France

34By mid-December 1944, with France in Allied control, Janet Flanner had returned to Paris, and renewed her “Letter from Paris” column: “Existence in Paris is still abnormal with relief, with belief. The two together make for confusion… Paris is still, physically, living largely on vegetables and mostly without heat” (3-4). This was true as well when Mary Reynolds returned to her home on rue Hallé in fall, 1945, facing difficulties in finding food and fuel. In 1946, Kay Boyle returned to Europe, staying in France in 1946-1948, with newspaper credentials, before joining her husband, Joseph Franckenstein, in Germany, where he was working in the U.S. military government (Spanier 173-5). She briefly stayed with Mary Reynolds, who wrote a bemused letter to her friend Hélène Hoppenot about the visit. From Paris, November 26, 1946:

35Kay Boyle has arrived with 3 small children. A circus. They were here Friday evening & when they left we were too stunned to go to bed. Saturday Breton’s wife and child. What a relief a French child. And Breton, for the first time, so Marcel says, was full of gay humor.

36Boyle must have become friends with Hélène Hoppenot as well by then, since there are other references to Boyle in ensuing letters, some of which may have involved sharing information with Hélène’s daughter about childhood illnesses.

37To some extent, Reynolds was resuming her pre-war life, always in the shadow of post-war difficulties and shortages, but she was connected again to the Surrealist movement, and working to organize shows. She wrote the Hoppenots: “Surrealist expo. now July 1st… Kiesler, Pierre Matisse here and Man Ray coming…” (June 17, 1947). She worked with the Surrealist magazine VIEW. As other letters to the Hoppenots reveal, she was learning to drive, and thinking of moving to Italy.

38And she attempted to return to her bookbinding. “It is delicious to work again with cisaille, knives, paste… every once in a while a gesture comes back all by itself and is most satisfying. Am spoiling some rather rare books with the greatest of pleasure,” Reynolds wrote to Hélène Hoppenot in November, 1947.

39But Duchamp did not return to live with Reynolds on rue Hallé. When he left after a brief visit in 1947, Reynolds was “widowed again” (Godlewski 20). She would later ask Boyle, in the throes of her advancing illness and growing weakness, if “thirty-five years of friendship comes to nothing in the end?” Boyle continued the report of this phone call: “If only he told me it was going to end like this I could have done something else with my life” (Letter to Solano, Sept 15, 1950).

40Kay Boyle, her son Ian Franckenstein reported in 2010, was furious with Duchamp for his disregard, and hardly forgave him, later selling one of his Boxes in her possession out of anger. By September 1950, Duchamp had come to stay with Reynolds, when it was clear that she was gravely ill, and he was with her when she died at the end of that month. He organized a small funeral at the American Church of Paris, and then proceeded to sort through her papers and things, giving away some to Parisian friends, and sending the bulk of her art work to Reynolds’s brother in Minnesota.

41Boyle, of course, never stopped writing, shaping her fiction, non-fiction and poetry beyond the modernist experimentation that she had been known for in the twenties and thirties. She continued, as she noted in her Introduction to The Smoking Mountain, to be “a human being and a recorder, to clear a way through the complex and ignoble history of what took place.” The authorization to do so, she wrote, lies in “one’s belief that man is given a choice, and that choice is not to be evaded, but made” (2).

Engagement, creating art and disobedience

42In closing, I want to dwell on the symbols of engagement that arise out of this study, and I take this liberty in part because Boyle has already explicitly done so. She told Sandra Spanier in 1981 that Franckenstein, even before she fell in love with him, had been “a metaphor to me for all the European persecuted millions” (147). Indeed, Boyle continued to pursue the values of such a metaphor, as she compared the rain falling “on the ruins and the rubble of the city,” in “Home.” The narrator notes that in this unnamed German city “a sadness seemed to fall” (note Boyle’s characteristic use of “seem,” or “as if”) “… as if, at this hour, the entire city had come quietly to recognize the reason for its physical destruction, and the burden of its nearly unatonable sin” (153). As the story develops, she suggests that the city’s “grief and longing” might be “assuaged” by the bright lights and many goods of the U.S. Army’s Post Exchange, whose Clothing Store “might be taken for a little while as home’s facsimile” (152-4). Here Boyle embarks on her truly sad commentary that this imposition of the American home—whether the domestic or the national concept—will not assuage, but in fact will begin its own course of ignobility.

43Boyle surely saw herself different from Reynolds—mother, lover in a different way than Reynolds, possessed of significant literary reputation. She juggled six children of various ages and needs, while securing time to write and engaging with her agent and potential publishers—and then, of course, she fell into the rabbit hole madness of American anti-Communism when the U.S. State Department challenged Franckenstein’s loyalty, and she and her husband then faced serious Communist-baiting which had the collateral effect of closing some of Boyle’s most important venues for publication. But through it all, Boyle remained an activist writer—more so perhaps during her later years in San Francisco. The passage from the Introduction noted above indicates she is a “recorder” of events, attempting to translate the “undecipherable messages” of the damaged (“Home” 155), remaining an important American writer and a critic of the first degree.

44Reynolds’s symbolic gestures differ greatly, but I like to think they run parallel to Boyle’s, like their friendship itself. Reynolds carried Man Ray’s modernist canvasses across the Pyrenees, as she sought not only to be true to her long-standing friendship with him, but to transmit important art created in the exciting milieu of transnational experimentation. Truly, those escaping had no idea what would remain of what they had left behind, so this gesture is vital. Likewise, when Reynolds returned to Paris, and took to “spoiling some rare books,” I like to think this furious return to bookbinding, without regret for “spoiling” such books, heralds another symbolic gesture—nothing to do with the horrific destruction the Nazis and Vichy France had wrought on possessions, property and people, but now the reaffirmation that new art arises to some extent out of the destruction of the old. Both women were risk-takers, and articulate voices for what it meant to “become American” in this war-torn time.

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BEACH, Sylvia. Box 26, Family Correspondence and Personal Documents. Engagement Calendars and Memoranda Books 1940-1948. Sylvia Beach Papers. Dept. of Rare Books and Special Collections. Princeton University Library, Princeton, New Jersey.

BEACH, Sylvia. “Inturned.” c. 1959-1962, reprint. Intro. Keri Walsh, PMLA 2009.

BEACH, Sylvia. Memoir Drafts and Notes Regarding Occupation. Sylvia Beach Papers. CO 108.

BECKETT, Samuel. Interview, 16 April 1945, SOE. National Archives, in Jeannine Picabia file KV 2/1312.

BOYLE, Kay. “A Complaint for Mary and Marcel.” 1937. Reprinted in Collected Poems of Kay Boyle. Port Townsend: Copper Canyon Press, 1991. 61-65.

BOYLE, Kay. “Home.” The Smoking Mountain, Stories of Postwar Germany. New York: McGraw Hill, 1950.

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BOYLE, Kay. Letter to Solita Solano, from Frankfurt, Germany. Sept. 15, 1950. Janet Flanner and Solita Solano Papers.

CANNING, Cathleen and Sonya O. ROSE, Introduction. “Gender, Citizenship and Subjectivity: Some Historical and Theoretical Considerations.” Gender and History, 13:3 (2001) 427-443.

CLARK, Suzanne. Sentimental Modernism: Women Writers and the Revolution of the Word. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991.

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1  Gemie et al, in addressing specific groups of “great journeys” of this war, give the figures of a half a million refugees fleeing Spain in January and February 1939 (23). The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum estimates that about 100,000 Jews left Germany and Austria in 1938-1939.

2  For an extensive discussion of French identity among Jews, see Annette Wieviorka and Françoise Rosset, “Jewish Identity in the First Accounts by Extermination Camp Survivors From France.” Yale French Studies, No. 85, Discourses of Jewish Identity in Twentieth-Century France, 1994. 135-151. My use of the term “Parisian” as an identity that is something different from French comes in part from Jacqueline Mesnil-Amar’s memoir Ceux qui ne dormaient pas: Journal, 1944-1946. Paris, Editions France Loisirs, 2009. Reprint 1957.

3  Ann Douglas has made me consider a wider ‘shift,’ that depends not solely on World War II but on the Cold War power relationships in reshaping modernism, or what she deems “late modernism.” “Periodizing the American Century: Modernism, Postmodernism, and Postcolonialism in the Cold War Context.” Modernism/Modernity 5.3 (1998) 71-89. fn 4.

4  Drue Tartière, an actress married to a French man, worked in the Resistance near and in Paris to help British and American fliers escape. See House Near Paris, 1946. Beach, while not part of any organized resistance network, was supportive and resistant before and after the Germans released her from the Vittel internment camp. See Devereaux Rochester, Full Moon to France, NY: Harper and Row, 1977. Nadine Oxnard I have only found through an Internet search; Liste Des Membres Féminins des Françaises Libres dans la Résistance Intérieure.

5  One of the fullest accounts of the Gloria network is James Knowlson’s Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett. See p. 281-290. But here, Reynolds is not included as a member, only someone who hides Beckett and his wife as they escape. In the British National Archives SOE report on Gabrielle Picabia, Reynolds is not among the participants of the Gloria Network. Beckett refers to her in an SOE briefing as someone who helped in his escape. (16.4.45 interview by Harriott) NA, PF 601.715 Beckett.

6  For a far more extensive discussion of Avalanche, see Sandra Spanier’s chapter on “The War Years” in Kay Boyle, Artist and Activist. New York: Paragon House, 1986. Also on Boyle’s war writing, see essays in Kay Boyle for the Twenty-First Century, New Essays, ed. Thomas Austenfeld, Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag, 2008: Page Delano, “Loving Occupiers: Kay Boyle’s Critique of Power in Occupied Germany in The Smoking Mountain,” and Deborah Denenholz Morse “Redemptive Acts; ‘Winter Night’ and Kay Boyle’s Gendered Ethics of Involvement,” (with its acknowledgements to Thomas Austenfeld’s volume American Women Writers and the Nazis: Ethics and Politics in Boyle, Porter, Stafford and Hellman, University Press of Virginia 2001.) See also Edward Uehling, “Tails You Win: The World of Kay Boyle’s War Stories.” Critical Essays on Kay Boyle, ed. Marilyn Elkins, New York, G.K. Hall, 1997.

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Page DOUGHERTY DELANO, « Kay Boyle and Mary Reynolds: Friendship Intensified by War », E-rea [En ligne], 10.2 | 2013, mis en ligne le 18 juin 2013, consulté le 26 novembre 2020. URL : ; DOI :

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Associate Professor, Department of English, Borough of Manhattan Community College/CUNY, New York
Page Dougherty Delano’s academic research focuses on women and war, with an emphasis on American women during World War II—including the Spanish Civil War and the French Resistance—and issues of citizenship.

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