Where French intellectuals led

Carmen Callil's presentation of Charles Maurras was enlightening even for one who grew up in a conservative family - some members of which continued to admire Marechal Petain to their dying day (The Back Half, 9 April). But Callil's constant emphasis on the associations be-tween Catholicism and Action Francaise - never counterbalanced by, say, a passing acknowledgement that De Gaulle himself was a Catholic - does a great injustice to the many Catholics in France who joined the Resistance or gave shelter to the Jews.

There is, however, one point on which Callil is 100 per cent right: the sway held by intellectuals in France is such that Sartre managed to keep a whole generation blind to communist exaction the scale of which was on a par with the Nazis. Vercors basically accused Aleksander Wat, a survivor of the Polish-Jewish exodus to Uzbekistan, of lying when he told him what was happening in the deep east of the Soviet Union. Thanks to the universally admired Sartre, I, along with the 1968 generation, dutifully read my Lenin and Stalin, the Little Red Book and much more; I looked to Pol Pot for the liberation and reconstruction of Cambodia. But perhaps we should put all that down to the fact that I am a Catholic?

Francoise Jones
via e-mail

This article first appeared in the 23 April 2001 issue of the New Statesman, Blessed are the pure in heart