Andrée Viollis, from the “bear pit” to major reports

Andrée Viollis (1870-1950) was as famous as Albert Londres in the interwar years. A great reporter, she traveled the world, from the USSR to Afghanistan in the 1920s, from India to Japan via Indochina and China in the 1930s, from the United States to South Africa. South after 1945. It covered several armed conflicts, notably the Spanish Civil War.

His career as a journalist began at the turn of the century in Marguerite Durand’s journal, the sling. She published more than 500 articles there, defending Captain Dreyfus, republican ideals and women’s rights. “Nothing beats this independence, this pride to exist by oneself, to want and to make a life, she wrote in 1901. […] All we want is that we respect the dignity of the human being, regardless of gender. […] If men treated us like others themselves we would not have to claim equal pay for equal work. “

Arbitrariness and defense of women’s rights

His first novel, Cricket, is a feminist work of a spirited style that will surprise today’s readers by the acuteness with which gender relations are deciphered. The heroine, Camille Dayrolles, a 14-year-old bourgeois teenager, rejects one by one all the elements that socially define a young girl or woman: her clothing, her countenance, her education and her occupations. She perceives the arbitrariness. She observes her brothers whom the future does not care about because all the doors are open to them. “The boys know they can become sailors, officers […], doctors […]engineers […], they choose their career… Girls, we don’t ask them what their vocation is: all the same life as a bear in the Jardin des Plantes which turns in its pit… ”

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To her father, she explains: “Dad, I thought, it’s understood, decided: I cannot be a young girl!” “I have often heard you say, dad, that if you thwart people’s vocation, they are not doing anything good in life … Well, me, I have not the slightest disposition to be a woman. . “ She then offers him to disguise himself as a boy and enter high school to be able to do naval school, then reserved for men, because his dream is to go long-distance. But, with puberty, the physical suffering that her period gives her, the ignorance in which she is maintained on sexuality, Camille enters through compassion into this female community that she previously despised and decides to work in the defense of women. womens rights.

Find the previous episodes of the column “Fières de lettres”

Early work begun in the 1890s, reviewed for serialized publication in Gil Blas in 1912 then at Calmann-Lévy in 1913, Cricket arrives at the end of a period of approximately ten years during which Andrée Viollis had devoted herself to literary journalism essentially “sitting” and had enlarged her family: already the mother of two daughters, Claude and Simone, she divorced, remarried and gave birth to two other daughters named Charlotte and Rose. At over 40, she could have settled into this career as a woman of letters but it was a bit quickly to forget the Camille Dayrolles who was sleeping in her.

International reports and engagement

World War I enabled him to fulfill his dreams of freedom, adventure and social utility. While she was hired as a nurse near the front, the Little Parisian published his reports on the wounded and then sent him to London in 1917 to interview the English Prime Minister. Then began a decade of reporting of all kinds, political, sports, judicial, greeted by his colleagues. Albert Londres told in 1927 in Literary News : “Where Andrée Viollis made our blood boil, it was on the international telegraphs. We could write at a hundred miles an hour, not have lunch, then jump, without having dried our ink, in the most powerful cars, promising the driver to pay generously the fines that a speeding ticket would earn him, when, out of breath , sweating and hungry, we arrived at the counter, she was there! ”

Interview with Gandhi, on one of “Petit Parisien”, April 15, 1930. Image Gallica. National Library of France

The 1930s were for Andrée Viollis those of major investigations abroad on the front page of Little Parisian then Tonight ; they were also those of the commitments against fascism and Nazism, from 1933, through articles and in numerous committees of aid to refugees or political prisoners, at the head of the weekly Friday or even, during the war, via a clandestine brochure denouncing “Hitler racism”. From the 1930s too, and until his death in 1950, through investigations and publications (dont Indochina SOS, prefaced by André Malraux in 1935), with petitions and commissions of inquiry, she fought against colonialism.

Spanish Civil War https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k7635322v “Andrée Viollis in Spain”, Ce Soir, November 5, 1938.The war in Spain in one of Tonight, November 5, 1938. Image Gallica. National Library of France

Andrée Viollis considered her profession to be an art, but above all as a mission. She escaped the bear pit and opened the way for French journalists to report.

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Anne Renoult for the National Library of France

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