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Volume 40, Number 2 (2015)

French Fascism and History in “Speck’s Idea”

May 11, 2016


“Speck’s Idea” is Mavis Gallant’s most widely published short story and arguably her masterpiece. Through its depiction of its central character, the story dramatizes how a segment of France’s population could tolerate and condone fascism for reasons other than an inherent attraction to fascist ideas. These reasons include indifference and self-interest. Gallant’s story thus illustrates how fascism drew not merely on ideological, but also on opportunistic, motivations. The story also depicts pitfalls of understanding particular to the contemporary, post-fascist age. They include explanations of fascism that emphasize the uniquely monstrous character of its adherents, or denunciations of the work of fascist intellectuals that are so prejudicial that they take a step toward fascism in the very moment of opposing it.