May 25, 1898|
Le Vésinet, Yvelines, France
|Died||April 19, 1975
The son of an established stockbroker, Robert Aron was from an upper-class Jewish family with origins in Eastern France. After attending the Lycée Condorcet, he joined the military and was injured on the front as an officer in 1918 at the end of World War I.
Receiving a degree in literature after the war, he did not teach and instead joined the publishing house Éditions Gallimard, where he was for some time the secretary of Gaston Gallimard. He also worked as a film critic for the magazine La Revue du Cinéma, and wrote about politics in the foreign service for La Revue des Deux Mondes. His interest in post-war avant-garde literature and art and its most modern and provocative expressions was the impetus behind the creation, together with Antonin Artaud and Roger Vitrac, of the Théâtre Alfred Jarry.
Although he was somewhat disappointed by his early experiences, his life took a new turn as he became reacquainted with a fellow, former student of the Lycée Condorcet, Arnaud Dandieu, in 1927. Their work together in political and philosophical research in support of communism spawned three works in the early 1930s : Décadence de la Nation Française (1931, "Decline of the French Nation"), Le Cancer Américain (1931, "The American Cancer") and La Révolution Nécessaire (1933, "The Necessary Revolution"). These works constituted the principal theoretical base on which he created the group l'Ordre Nouveau (The New Order) in 1930, which with Esprit represented one of the most original expressions of the Nonconformist Movement during the 1930s. Closely collaborating with Dandieu until his death in 1933, Aron took a very active part in all of the activities of l'Ordre Nouveau until its end in 1938. Thereafter, Aron's activities and viewpoints would be influenced by these experiences.
In 1940, the advent of World War II interrupted his editorial work at the Nouvelle Revue Française ("New French Review"), a literary magazine. In 1941 he was arrested in one of the Nazis' first anti-semitic operations and held in the Mérignac camp near Bordeaux. After being released, he was not allowed to travel to Paris and instead moved to Lyon, where he became involved, through his friend Jean Rigaut, in preparations for the American embarkments in North Africa.
Soon after he was able to escape to Algiers, thanks to Jean Jardin, a former contributor to l'Ordre Nouveau, and at the time director of Pierre Laval's cabinet. In Algiers, Robert Aron became a part of one of the first administrative teams of General Giraud and then General Charles de Gaulle. With Lucie Faure and Jean Amrouche he founded a new literary review, La Nef ("The Steeple"), for which he would continue writing until 1952. In 1944-1945, he contributed to the creation of the "Federation" Movement and would remain an active supporter of the French Federalist Movement until his death by regularly collaborating in the monthly publication Le XXe siècle Fédéraliste ("The Federalist 20th Century"), and participating in initiatives to create a Federation of European States.
Aron took up editorial duties again after the Liberation of France, most notably at the publishing houses Librairie Académique Perrin and later, Éditions Fayard. In 1950, he undertook an important work of historical research on contemporary French history, writing the following works: Histoire de Vichy (1956, "History of Vichy"),which, translated into English, was termed a "neglected but pivotal book" by Nicholas Birns, Histoire de la Libération (1959, "History of the Liberation"), tranbslated into English as 'De Gaulle Before Paris' ( trans. Humphrey Hare, Putnam 1962) and Histoire de l'Epuration (1967-1975, "History of the Purification").
An agnostic during the 1930s, Aron returned to his Jewish faith after 1945 and participated in formal Jewish/Christian dialogue. His book "The God of the Beginnings" (New York: Morrow, 1966) explores the origins of religion and its development in the traditions of the Old Testament (e.g., Abraham, Moses, the Sinai Covenant). He also wrote books about Jesus's identity as a Jew, including Jesus of Nazareth: The Hidden Years (New York: Morrow, 1962), and The Jewish Jesus (New York Maryknoll, 1971) In 1974, he was elected a member of the Académie française, but he died suddenly the night before his acceptance ceremony on 19 April 1975.
- Histoire de l'épuration, tome 2 : Des prisons clandestines aux tribunaux d'exception (septembre 1944 - juin 1949); Paris, Fayard, 1969.
- Nicholas Birns, "History and Testimony: Robert Aron and the Vichy Experience", Midstream, April 2002, http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-86743024.html