|Born||1 April 1921|
|Died||3 September 2004 (aged 83)|
|Literary movement||Socialist realism|
André Stil (1 April 1921 - 3 September 2004) was a French novelist, short story writer, occasional poet, and political activist. A lifelong militant, he became a member of the French Communist Party in 1940, and remained loyal to the party.
Born in Hergnies, Nord, a small town in the coal-mining region of northern France, Stil was educated at the University of Lille, earning a degree in philosophy. He taught at the University from 1941 to 1944. Having joined the Communist Party in 1940, he then held a series of increasingly senior editorial positions with communist newspapers. He was secretary-general of Liberté until 1949, then editor-in-chief of Ce Soir. He served as editor of the party's main newspaper, L'Humanité, until 1956, continuing to contribute thereafter, and from 1950 to 1970 he was a member of the French Communist Party's central committee.
Beginning in 1949, he published some fifty volumes, comprising mainly socialist realist novels, but also short stories and a volume of verse. Supported by Louis Aragon, he won the Stalin Prize for his trilogy The First Clash (1951-1953). He won the Grand Prix du Roman Populaire, was awarded the Legion d'Honneur, and in 1977 was elected one of the ten members of the Academie Goncourt.
In 1956 he published a report from the Hungarian Revolution, describing an apparent mass murder of Hungarian communists. However Peter Fryer, a British journalist and Marxist who, unlike Stil was present during the Revolution and Soviet crack-down, questioned Stil's account arguing that 'Stil [was] obviously performing the disagreeable task of a propagandist making the most of a small number of atrocities.' Indeed, Fryer refuted Stil's account pointing out that those killed were in fact members of the hated AVH secret police.
His first novel, The Word `Coalminer', Comrade (1949) launched his enduring themes of working class life and militant communist politics. This was followed by a short story collection, The Seine has Taken to the Sea (1950) and his prize-winning trilogy The First Clash (1951-1953). This tells the story of the resistance of dock workers to the arrival of an American arms ship and contains detailed accounts of domestic working-class life. Anti-Americanism and the French-Algerian problem were important themes in his work through the 1950s. He returned to his coal-mining background repeatedly in his fiction; one of his last novels was Coal Dust on the Snow (1996). In addition to his prolific fiction, he wrote a critical work, Towards Socialist Realism, and an autobiography, A Life Spent Writing. He also wrote scripts for television.