Friday, July 14, 2023

A Man of Influence

Portrait photo of Rolland
Romain Rolland (1866-1944) was a renowned novelist, pacifist, vegetarian, and mystic whom you've likely never heard of unless you are an aficionado of early 20th-century Nobel Prize winners. Nevertheless, despite Rolland's marked absence from today's zeitgeist, he brushed elbows and had close friendships with an impressive list of notables from all walks of life. For example, he was a pen pal with conductor Richard Strauss and psychologist Sigmund Freud, was named as the dedicatee of Herman Hesse's Siddhartha, wrote a book on Mahatma Gandhi and then met the Indian leader, and attempted to intervene with Josef Stalin on behalf of his activist friends who opposed the dictator.

Photograph of Rolland and GandhiUltimately, perhaps Rolland's star has waned in our time because of that last association: despite Rolland being characterized as a moral compass for Western culture both during and between World War I and World War II, his staunch adulation of Stalin well through the Second World War earned him rebuke and criticism from his peers.

Here at Rauner, we have a small but interesting collection of photographs taken of Rolland and various individuals, including Maxim Gorky and Mahatma Gandhi. To look through them, come to Special Collections and ask for Iconography 1505.