Background to the Interview

Until 1988, there were two transcripts of the interview. In 1976, I had discovered by chance in Malcolm Muggeridge’s archives the prime source for the 1944 interview. According to Muggeridge, this transcript reproduced the interview faithfully and in full. It had been taken down in shorthand by a lady photographer friend of Chanel’s. This guest’s language skills also served to translate Chanel’s discourse when, at times, the intrusion of French idioms rendered her English hard to follow. In 1988, to my consternation, Muggeridge himself had destroyed that significant document, along with other items relating to his affair with the photographer. Thereafter, what survived of that interview was an abridgement that he had made as I looked on, in 1982. While following the original document, it omitted all Chanel’s references to the affair, which, in Muggeridge’s words, were “unseemly”, “insensitive” and even “humiliating”. This transcript was typed by Muggeridge on yellow draft paper, and bears his corrections of typing errors handwritten in felt pen. Apart from the excised passages, of no relevance to Chanel’s war, that document is an authentic record of the 1944 interview.

This transcript was sent to Jacques Soustelle, under cover of a letter dated 28 August 1982, in which Muggeridge clearly expressed his wish to donate the interview transcript to the Limouse Flowers of Evil Museum at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, of which he became president in April 1984. It was this interview which informed his play Liberation. The interview, typed at Soustelle’s secretariat, was available for consultation at the Museum, but fell under the dead hand of censorship by those who feared embarrassment from further revelations. Finding my way barred by this deliberate obstruction, especially after the release and international promotion of Vaughan’s book in 2011-2012, I thereupon decided to place the interview in the hands of Gabrielle Palasse-Labrunie. On her advice, I translated it into French and published it on the Internet.