“By the summer of 1934,” Hermione Lee writes, Hitler's “ambitions and his methods were fully apparent.” In the mid-1930s, Nazis issue regulations to eliminate women doctors and lawyers in Germany. German universities reduce the female quota of students to just ten percent. On October 28, 1934, Oswald Mosley stages a vicious attack on Jews during a British Union of Fascists rally at the Royal Albert Hall. Beyond these alarming national and international threats, Woolf faces inner personal (and artistic) loss and outer public attack, as she writes in her diary. She starts to speak of “warnings” in this journal. However, André Gide’s Pages de Journal, 1929–32 give her new direction in August 1934. In September, Guy de Maupassant's travel diary Sur l’eau (Afloat) particularly helps her to navigate through Roger Fry's unexpected death. She both enters its words in her diary and uses Afloat for a key moment in her novel The Years. In October, Alice James's Journal helps Woolf calibrate British women's social and sexual lives in the first decades of The Years and shows her—as do Gide's and Maupassant's diaries—a fierce fight, both without and within, between constraint and freedom.
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