Science Bourgeoise et Science Prolétarienne: French Literary Responses to the Lysenko Affair

Louise Lyle


This article analyses the attitudes of three major French authors of the mid twentieth century with respect to the evolutionary theories of the notorious Soviet agronomist, Trofim Denisovich Lysenko. In spite of a lack of any real scientific credibility, Lysenko’s ideas found favour during Stalin’s reign of power and were briefly influential in French communist circles following the Lysenko affair of 1948 in the USSR. In this piece, the attitudes towards Lysenkoism expressed in selected works of Louis Aragon, Albert Camus and Vercors are evaluated as an indicator of the authors’ respective attitudes towards Stalinism and French communism, while the extent to which the views expressed are characteristic of French modes of evolutionary thought is also considered. This article therefore aims to show that the authors’ engagement with Lysenkoism is revealing not only in respect of the moral and intellectual struggles facing the French left during the early Cold War period, but also has much to tell us about the characteristically French preconceptions concerning evolutionism that made such conflicts possible.

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New Readings — ISSN: 13597485


Published by: Cardiff School of Modern Languages