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International Visitor Spotlight: Anne Simonin

By Marie-Pierre Ulloa

French legal historian Anne Simonin has been called a “champion of finesse” – she has an unconventional way of looking at embarrassing moments in French and European history. When she arrived at the Stanford Humanities Center in Winter 2010, Simonin had just completed a major project about the origins and the propagation of “unworthiness.” She traced the concept through the French Republican tradition from Revolution to the aftermath of the Second World War.

During her stay at the Center, Simonin spent much of her time researching in the archives at Green Library and the Hoover Institute. There, she uncovered the story surrounding a novel published in Algiers in 1943, The Army of Shadows. The existence and content of this book had been overshadowed by its 1969 movie adaptation (which starred Simone Signoret and was directed by legendary filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville). Until Simonin’s research at Stanford unraveled it, the content of the novel had been lost to history.

“I had not envisaged spending so much time in the Hoover Archives,” Simonin said. “In the fifties and sixties, the Hoover Institute was famous for having gathered unpublished materials from Collaborators. Its Resistance papers are less known; they nevertheless constituted the basic foundation of my current project, dealing with the narrative of the Resistance and the relationships between fiction, history and law through The Army of Shadows”.

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