French

Jacques Delille (June 22, 1738 - May 01, 1813)
Jacques Delille (June 22, 1738 - May 01, 1813)
Jacques Delille, byname Abbe Delille, (born June 22, 1738, Aigueperse, France--died May 1, 1813, Paris), poet and classicist who enjoyed an impressive reputation in his day as the "French Virgil."Aided by scholarships, Delille was a brilliant student and taught Latin poetry at the College de France. His reputation was established with a verse translation of Virgil's Georgics (1770). Delille entered the French Academy at 36, translating the Aeneid in 1804 and Milton's Paradise Lost in 1805.His own rather artificial poetry (Les Jardins, 1782; Les Trois Regnes de la nature, 1809) is dedicated..
Julien Benda (December 26, 1867 - June 07, 1956)
Julien Benda (December 26, 1867 - June 07, 1956)
Julien Benda, (born Dec. 26, 1867, Paris, France--died June 7, 1956, Fontenay-aux-Roses, near Paris), novelist and philosopher, leader of the anti-Romantic movement in French criticism, persistent defender of reason and intellect against the philosophical intuitionism of Henri Bergson.Benda graduated from the University of Paris in 1894. Among his first writings were articles (1898) on the Dreyfus affair. His lifelong assault on the philosophy of Bergson began with Le Bergsonisme in 1912. Literary fame came the same year with the publication of his first novel, L'Ordination (1911;..
Andre Maurois (July 26, 1885 - October 09, 1967)
Andre Maurois (July 26, 1885 - October 09, 1967)
Andre Maurois, pseudonym of Emile Herzog, (born July 26, 1885, Elbeuf, France--died Oct. 9, 1967, Paris), French biographer, novelist, and essayist, best known for biographies that maintain the narrative interest of novels.Born into a prosperous family of textile manufacturers, Maurois came under the influence of the French philosopher and teacher Alain (Emile-Auguste Chartier). He was a liaison officer in the British army during World War I, and his first literary success was a humorous commentary on warfare and the British character in Les Silences du Colonel Bramble (1918; The Silence..
Paul Signac (November 11, 1863 - August 15, 1935)
Paul Signac (November 11, 1863 - August 15, 1935)
Paul Signac, (born Nov. 11, 1863, Paris, France--died Aug. 15, 1935, Paris), French painter who, with Georges Seurat, developed the technique called pointillism.When he was 18, Signac gave up the study of architecture for painting and, through Armand Guillaumin, became a convert to the colouristic principles of Impressionism. In 1884 Signac helped found the Salon des Independants. There he met Seurat, whom he initiated into the broken-colour technique of Impressionism. The two went on to develop the method they called pointillism, which became the basis of Neo-Impressionism. They continued..
Henri Barbusse (May 17, 1873 - August 30, 1935)
Henri Barbusse (May 17, 1873 - August 30, 1935)
Henri Barbusse, (born May 17, 1873, Asnieres, Fr.--died Aug. 30, 1935, Moscow), novelist, author of Le Feu (1916; Under Fire, 1917), a firsthand witness of the life of French soldiers in World War I. Barbusse belongs to an important lineage of French war writers who span the period 1910 to 1939, mingling war memories with moral and political meditations.Barbusse started as a neo-Symbolist poet, with Pleureuses (1895; "Mourners"), and continued as a neo-Naturalist novelist, with L'Enfer (1908; The Inferno, 1918). In 1914 he volunteered for the infantry, was twice cited for gallantry, and..
Jules Renard (February 22, 1864 - May 22, 1910)
Jules Renard (February 22, 1864 - May 22, 1910)
Jules Renard, (born Feb. 22, 1864, Chalons-sur-Mayenne, Fr.--died May 22, 1910, Paris), French writer best known for Poil de carotte (1894; Carrots, 1946), a bitterly ironical account of his own childhood, in which a grim humour conceals acute sensibility. All his life, although happily married and the father of two children, Renard was haunted by and tried to hide the misery he had suffered as a child from lack of affection. His prose, stripped of superfluous words, influenced later French writers who found in it a corrective to the indiscriminate accretion of detail that was a tendency of the..
Edmond Rostand (April 01, 1868 - December 02, 1918)
Edmond Rostand (April 01, 1868 - December 02, 1918)
Edmond Rostand, (born April 1, 1868, Marseille, France--died Dec. 2, 1918, Paris), French dramatist of the period just before World War I whose plays provide a final, very belated example of Romantic drama in France.Rostand's name is indissolubly linked with that of his most popular and enduring play, Cyrano de Bergerac. First performed in Paris in 1897, with the famous actor Constant Coquelin playing the lead, Cyrano made a great impression in France and all over Europe and the United States. The plot revolves around the emotional problems of Cyrano, who, despite his many gifts, feels that..
Paul Eluard (December 14, 1895 - November 18, 1952)
Paul Eluard (December 14, 1895 - November 18, 1952)
Paul Eluard, pseudonym of Eugene Grindel, (born Dec. 14, 1895, Saint-Denis, Paris, Fr.--died Nov. 18, 1952, Charenton-le-Pont), French poet, one of the founders of the Surrealist movement and one of the important lyrical poets of the 20th century.In 1919 Eluard made the acquaintance of the Surrealist poets Andre Breton, Philippe Soupault, and Louis Aragon, with whom he remained in close association until 1938. Experiments with new verbal techniques, theories on the relation between dream and reality, and the free expression of thought processes produced Capitale de la douleur (1926;..
Georges Duhamel (June 30, 1884 - April 13, 1966)
Georges Duhamel (June 30, 1884 - April 13, 1966)
Georges Duhamel, (born June 30, 1884, Paris, France--died April 13, 1966, Valmondois, near Paris), French author most noted for two novel cycles: Vie et aventures de Salavin, 5 vol. (1920-32), and Chronique des Pasquier, 10 vol. (1933-44).Duhamel took a science degree in 1908 and qualified as a doctor of medicine in 1909. He began by writing poetry, plays, and literary criticism, and in 1906 he joined with several other writers and artists in founding a short-lived community known as the Abbaye de Creteil. Duhamel served as a frontline surgeon during World War I. Deeply moved by the sufferings..
Georges Courteline (June 25, 1858 - June 25, 1929)
Georges Courteline (June 25, 1858 - June 25, 1929)
Georges Courteline, pseudonym of Georges-Victor-Marcel Moineau, (born June 25, 1858, Tours, France--died June 25, 1929, Paris), French writer and dramatist whose humorous work is a brilliant social anatomy of the late 19th-century middle and lower-middle classes.Courteline's father, the humorist Jules Moinaux, tried to dissuade his son from following a literary career. Courteline was obliged to serve in a cavalry regiment and then work in the offices of the Ministry of the Interior (though he seldom attended). He began to publish sketches and short stories. From 1891 he offered farces..
Aime Cesaire (June 26, 1913 - April 17, 2008)
Aime Cesaire (June 26, 1913 - April 17, 2008)
Aime Cesaire, in full Aime-Fernand-David Cesaire, (born June 26, 1913, Basse-Pointe, Mart.--died April 17, 2008, Fort-de-France), Martinican poet, playwright, and politician, who was cofounder with Leopold Sedar Senghor of Negritude, an influential movement to restore the cultural identity of black Africans.Together with Senghor and others involved in the Negritude movement, Cesaire was educated in Paris. In the early 1940s he returned to Martinique and engaged in political action supporting the decolonization of the French colonies of Africa. In 1945 he became mayor of Fort-de-France,..
Charles Perrault (January 12, 1628 - May 15, 1703)
Charles Perrault (January 12, 1628 - May 15, 1703)
Charles Perrault, (born January 12, 1628, Paris, France--died May 15/16, 1703, Paris), French poet, prose writer, and storyteller, a leading member of the Academie Francaise, who played a prominent part in a literary controversy known as the quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns. He is best remembered for his collection of fairy stories for children, Contes de ma mere l'oye (1697; Tales of Mother Goose). He was the brother of the physician and amateur architect Claude Perrault.A lawyer by training, Charles Perrault first worked as an official in charge of royal buildings. He began to win a literary..
Jacques Prevert (February 04, 1900 - April 11, 1977)
Jacques Prevert (February 04, 1900 - April 11, 1977)
Jacques Prevert, (born Feb. 4, 1900, Neuilly-sur-Seine, Fr.--died April 11, 1977, Omonville-la-Petite), French poet who composed ballads of social hope and sentimental love; he also ranked among the foremost of screenwriters, especially during the 1930s and '40s.From 1925 to 1929 Prevert was associated with the Surrealists Robert Desnos, Yves Tanguy, Louis Aragon, and Andre Breton and renewed, in their style, the ancient tradition of oral poetry that led him to a highly popular form of "song poems," which were collected in Paroles (1945; "Words"). Many were put to music by Josef Kosma and..
Max Jacob (July 12, 1876 - March 05, 1944)
Max Jacob (July 12, 1876 - March 05, 1944)
Max Jacob, (born July 12, 1876, Quimper, Fr.--died March 5, 1944, Drancy), French poet who played a decisive role in the new directions of modern poetry during the early part of the 20th century. His writing was the product of a complex amalgam of Jewish, Breton, Parisian, and Roman Catholic elements.Jacob departed his native Brittany in 1894 to go to Paris, where he lived in extreme poverty but eventually became an important figure in Montmartre during the formative period of Cubism. He was a friend of the Cubist painters Pablo Picasso and Juan Gris and of the poet Guillaume Apollinaire. Jacob..
Jean Froissart
Jean Froissart
Jean Froissart, (born 1333?, Valenciennes, Brabant--died c. 1400, Chimay, Hainaut), medieval poet and court historian whose Chronicles of the 14th century remain the most important and detailed document of feudal times in Europe and the best contemporary exposition of chivalric and courtly ideals.As a scholar, Froissart lived among the nobility of several European courts. In England he served Queen Philippa of Hainaut, King Edward III, and his sons the Black Prince and the Duke of Clarence. He became the chaplain of Guy II de Chatillon, comte de Blois, under whose auspices he was ordained..
Saint-John Perse (May 31, 1887 - September 20, 1975)
Saint-John Perse (May 31, 1887 - September 20, 1975)
Saint-John Perse, pseudonym of Marie-Rene-Auguste-Alexis Saint-Leger Leger, (born May 31, 1887, Saint-Leger-les-Feuilles, Guadeloupe--died Sept. 20, 1975, Presqu'ile-de-Giens, France), French poet and diplomat who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1960 "for the soaring flight and evocative imagery of his poetry."He studied at the universities of Bordeaux and Paris and in 1914 entered the diplomatic service. He went to China and was successively consul at Shanghai and secretary at Peking. In 1921 he attended the Washington disarmament conference as an expert on East Asian..
Joachim du Bellay (.. - January 01, 1560)
Joachim du Bellay (.. - January 01, 1560)
Joachim du Bellay, (born c. 1522, Lire, Fr.--died Jan. 1, 1560, Paris), French poet, leader with Pierre de Ronsard of the literary group known as La Pleiade. Du Bellay is the author of the Pleiade's manifesto, La Defense et illustration de la langue francaise (The Defence & Illustration of the French Language).Du Bellay was born into a noble family of the Loire River valley, and he studied law and the humanities in Poitiers and Paris. He published The Defence & Illustration of the French Language in 1549. In it he asserted that French is capable of producing a modern literature equal in quality..
Pierre-Jean de Beranger (August 19, 1780 - July 16, 1857)
Pierre-Jean de Beranger (August 19, 1780 - July 16, 1857)
Pierre-Jean de Beranger, (born Aug. 19, 1780, Paris, France--died July 16, 1857, Paris), French poet and writer of popular songs, celebrated for his liberal and humanitarian views during a period when French society as a whole was undergoing rapid and sometimes violent change.Beranger was active in his father's business enterprises until they failed. He then found work as a clerk at the University of Paris (1809). He led a marginal existence, sleeping in a garret and doing literary hackwork in his spare time. After the downfall of Napoleon, he composed songs and poems highly critical of the..
Pierre Loti (January 14, 1850 - June 10, 1923)
Pierre Loti (January 14, 1850 - June 10, 1923)
Pierre Loti, pseudonym of Louis-marie-julien Viaud, (born Jan. 14, 1850, Rochefort, Fr.--died June 10, 1923, Hendaye), novelist whose exoticism made him popular in his time and whose themes anticipated some of the central preoccupations of French literature between World Wars.Loti's career as a naval officer took him to the Middle and Far East, thus providing him with the exotic settings of his novels and reminiscences. Following his naval schooling and training, he was promoted ship's lieutenant in 1881 and during 1885-91 saw service in Chinese waters. His subsequent promotions led to..
Alfred Jarry (September 08, 1873 - November 01, 1907)
Alfred Jarry (September 08, 1873 - November 01, 1907)
Alfred Jarry, (born Sept. 8, 1873, Laval, France--died Nov. 1, 1907, Paris), French writer mainly known as the creator of the grotesque and wild satirical farce Ubu roi (1896; "King Ubu"), which was a forerunner of the Theatre of the Absurd.A brilliant youth who had come to Paris at 18 to live on a small family inheritance, Jarry frequented the literary salons and began to write. His fortune was soon dissipated, and he lapsed into a chaotic and anarchic existence in which he met the demands of day-to-day life with self-conscious buffoonery. He died in a state of utter destitution and alcoholism.On..
Jean de La Bruyere (.. - May 10, 1696)
Jean de La Bruyere (.. - May 10, 1696)
Jean de La Bruyere, (born August 1645, Paris, France--died May 10/11, 1696, Versailles), French satiric moralist who is best known for one work, Les Caracteres de Theophraste traduits du grec avec Les Caracteres ou les moeurs de ce siecle (1688; The Characters, or the Manners of the Age, with The Characters of Theophrastus), which is considered to be one of the masterpieces of French literature.La Bruyere studied law at Orleans. Through the intervention of Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, the eminent humanist and theologian, he became one of the tutors to the Duke de Bourbon, grandson of the Prince..
Nicolas Boileau (November 01, 1636 - March 13, 1711)
Nicolas Boileau (November 01, 1636 - March 13, 1711)
Nicolas Boileau, in full Nicolas Boileau-Despreaux, (born November 1, 1636, Paris, France--died March 13, 1711, Paris), poet and leading literary critic in his day, known for his influence in upholding Classical standards in both French and English literature.He was the son of a government official who had started life as a clerk. Boileau made good progress at the College d'Harcourt and was encouraged to take up literary work by his brother Gilles Boileau, who was already established as a man of letters.He began by writing satires (c. 1658), attacking well-known public figures, which he read..
Francis Picabia (January 22, 1879 - November 30, 1953)
Francis Picabia (January 22, 1879 - November 30, 1953)
Francis Picabia, (born January 22, 1879, Paris, France--died November 30, 1953, Paris), French painter, illustrator, designer, writer, and editor, who was successively involved with the art movements Cubism, Dada, and Surrealism.Picabia was the son of a Cuban diplomat father and a French mother. After studying at the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs (1895-97), he painted for nearly six years in an Impressionist mode akin to that of Alfred Sisley. In 1909 he adopted a Cubist style, and, along with Marcel Duchamp, he helped found in 1911 the Section d'Or, a group of Cubist artists. Picabia went on to..
Francois de Malherbe (.. - October 16, 1628)
Francois de Malherbe (.. - October 16, 1628)
Francois de Malherbe, (born 1555, in or near Caen, Fr.--died Oct. 16, 1628, Paris), French poet who described himself as un excellent arrangeur de syllabes and theoretician whose insistence upon strict form, restraint, and purity of diction prepared the way for French Classicism.Malherbe received a Protestant education at Caen and Paris and later at the universities of Basel (1571) and Heidelberg (1573) but was shortly converted to a lukewarm Catholicism.In 1577 he went to Provence as secretary to the governor, Henri d'Angouleme. His first published poem was Les Larmes de Saint Pierre (1587;..
Pierre Bourdieu (August 01, 1930 - January 23, 2002)
Pierre Bourdieu (August 01, 1930 - January 23, 2002)
Pierre Bourdieu, (born August 1, 1930, Denguin, France--died January 23, 2002, Paris), French sociologist who was a public intellectual in the tradition of Emile Zola and Jean-Paul Sartre. Bourdieu's concept of habitus (socially acquired dispositions) was influential in recent postmodernist humanities and social sciences.Bourdieu was born into a working-class family in southern France. He attended a secondary school in Pau before transferring to a more prestigious school in Paris. He was later admitted to the Ecole Normal Superieure, where he studied philosophy under Louis Althusser...
Edgar Quinet (February 17, 1803 - March 27, 1875)
Edgar Quinet (February 17, 1803 - March 27, 1875)
Edgar Quinet, (born Feb. 17, 1803, Bourg-en-Bresse, Fr.--died March 27, 1875, Versailles), French poet, historian, and political philosopher who made a significant contribution to the developing tradition of liberalism in France.After moving to Paris in 1820, Quinet forsook the faith of his Protestant mother, became greatly attracted to German philosophy, and published in 1827-28, as his first major work, a translation of Herder's monumental philosophy of history, Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit (Outlines of a Philosophy of the History of Man). Soon, however,..
Gerard de Nerval (May 22, 1808 - January 26, 1855)
Gerard de Nerval (May 22, 1808 - January 26, 1855)
Gerard de Nerval, pseudonym of Gerard Labrunie, (born May 22, 1808, Paris, France--died January 26, 1855, Paris), French Romantic poet whose themes and preoccupations were to greatly influence the Symbolists and Surrealists.Nerval's father, a doctor, was sent to serve with Napoleon's Rhine army; his mother died when he was two years old, and he grew up in the care of relatives in the countryside at Mortefontaine in the Valois. The memory of his childhood there was to haunt him as an idyllic vision for the rest of his life. In 1820 he went to live with his father in Paris and attend the College de Charlemagne,..
Georges Bernanos (February 20, 1888 - July 05, 1948)
Georges Bernanos (February 20, 1888 - July 05, 1948)
Georges Bernanos, (born Feb. 20, 1888, Paris--died July 5, 1948, Neuilly-sur-Seine, Fr.), novelist and polemical writer whose masterpiece, The Diary of a Country Priest, established him as one of the most original and independent Roman Catholic writers of his time.Bernanos began life as a Royalist journalist and later worked as an inspector for an insurance company. Like his predecessor, the French Catholic writer Leon Bloy, Bernanos was a visionary for whom the supernatural world was never far away. He was also a man of humour and humanity who abhorred materialism and compromise with evil...
Jean Genet (December 19, 1910 - April 15, 1986)
Jean Genet (December 19, 1910 - April 15, 1986)
Jean Genet, (born Dec. 19, 1910, Paris, France--died April 15, 1986, Paris), French criminal and social outcast turned writer who, as a novelist, transformed erotic and often obscene subject matter into a poetic vision of the universe and, as a dramatist, became a leading figure in the avant-garde theatre, especially the Theatre of the Absurd.Genet, an illegitimate child abandoned by his mother, Gabrielle Genet, was raised by a family of peasants. Caught stealing at the age of 10, he spent part of his adolescence at a notorious reform school, Mettray, where he experienced much that was later..
George Sand (July 01, 1804 - June 08, 1876)
George Sand (July 01, 1804 - June 08, 1876)
George Sand, pseudonym of Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dudevant, nee Dupin, (born July 1, 1804, Paris, France--died June 8, 1876, Nohant), French Romantic writer known primarily for her so-called rustic novels.She was brought up at Nohant, near La Chatre in Berry, the country home of her grandmother. There she gained the profound love and understanding of the countryside that were to inform most of her works. In 1817 she was sent to a convent in Paris, where she acquired a mystical fervour that, though it soon abated, left its mark.In 1822 Aurore married Casimir Dudevant. The first years of the marriage..
Simone Weil (February 03, 1909 - August 24, 1943)
Simone Weil (February 03, 1909 - August 24, 1943)
Simone Weil, (born February 3, 1909, Paris, France--died August 24, 1943, Ashford, Kent, England), French mystic, social philosopher, and activist in the French Resistance during World War II, whose posthumously published works had particular influence on French and English social thought.Intellectually precocious, Weil also expressed social awareness at an early age. At five she refused sugar because the French soldiers at the front during World War I had none, and at six she was quoting the French dramatic poet Jean Racine (1639-99). In addition to studies in philosophy, classical..
Guillaume Apollinaire (August 26, 1880 - November 09, 1918)
Guillaume Apollinaire (August 26, 1880 - November 09, 1918)
Guillaume Apollinaire, pseudonym of Guillelmus (or Wilhelm) Apollinaris de Kostrowitzki, (born August 26, 1880, Rome?, Italy--died November 9, 1918, Paris, France), poet who in his short life took part in all the avant-garde movements that flourished in French literary and artistic circles at the beginning of the 20th century and who helped to direct poetry into unexplored channels.The son of a Polish emigree and an Italian officer, he kept his origins secret. Left more or less to himself, he went at the age of 20 to Paris, where he led a bohemian life. Several months spent in Germany in 1901 had..
Antoine de Saint-Exupery (June 29, 1900 - July 31, 1944)
Antoine de Saint-Exupery (June 29, 1900 - July 31, 1944)
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, in full Antoine-Marie-Roger de Saint-Exupery, (born June 29, 1900, Lyon, France--died July 31, 1944, near Marseille), French aviator and writer whose works are the unique testimony of a pilot and a warrior who looked at adventure and danger with a poet's eyes. His fable Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) has become a modern classic.Saint-Exupery came from an impoverished aristocratic family. A poor student, he failed the entrance examination to the Ecole Navale and then studied architecture for several months at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. In 1921 he was conscripted..
Anatole France (April 16, 1844 - October 12, 1924)
Anatole France (April 16, 1844 - October 12, 1924)
Anatole France, pseudonym of Jacques-Anatole-Francois Thibault, (born April 16, 1844, Paris, France--died Oct. 12, 1924, Saint-Cyr-sur-Loire), writer and ironic, skeptical, and urbane critic who was considered in his day the ideal French man of letters. He was elected to the French Academy in 1896 and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1921.The son of a bookseller, he spent most of his life around books. At school he received the foundations of a solid humanist culture and decided to devote his life to literature. His first poems were influenced by the Parnassian revival of classical..
Jules Romains (August 26, 1885 - August 14, 1972)
Jules Romains (August 26, 1885 - August 14, 1972)
Jules Romains, pseudonym of Louis-Henri-Jean Farigoule, (born August 26, 1885, Saint-Julien-Chapteuil, France--died August 14, 1972, Paris), French novelist, dramatist, poet, a founder of the literary movement known as Unanimism, and author of two internationally known works--a comedy, Knock, and the novel cycle Les Hommes de bonne volonte (Men of Good Will).Romains studied science and philosophy at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris. After teaching philosophy he decided in 1919 to devote his time to writing. In 1940, when the Germans occupied France, he took refuge in the United..
Francois Mauriac (October 11, 1885 - September 01, 1970)
Francois Mauriac (October 11, 1885 - September 01, 1970)
Francois Mauriac, (born Oct. 11, 1885, Bordeaux, France--died Sept. 1, 1970, Paris), novelist, essayist, poet, playwright, journalist, and winner in 1952 of the Nobel Prize for Literature. He belonged to the lineage of French Catholic writers who examined the ugly realities of modern life in the light of eternity. His major novels are sombre, austere psychological dramas set in an atmosphere of unrelieved tension. At the heart of every work Mauriac placed a religious soul grappling with the problems of sin, grace, and salvation.Mauriac came from a pious and strict upper-middle-class family...
Romain Rolland (January 29, 1866 - December 30, 1944)
Romain Rolland (January 29, 1866 - December 30, 1944)
Romain Rolland, (born Jan. 29, 1866, Clamecy, France--died Dec. 30, 1944, Vezelay), French novelist, dramatist, and essayist, an idealist who was deeply involved with pacifism, the fight against fascism, the search for world peace, and the analysis of artistic genius. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1915.At age 14, Rolland went to Paris to study and found a society in spiritual disarray. He was admitted to the Ecole Normale Superieure, lost his religious faith, discovered the writings of Benedict de Spinoza and Leo Tolstoy, and developed a passion for music. He studied history..
Simone de Beauvoir (January 09, 1908 - April 14, 1986)
Simone de Beauvoir (January 09, 1908 - April 14, 1986)
Simone de Beauvoir, in full Simone Lucie-Ernestine-Marie-Bertrand de Beauvoir, (born Jan. 9, 1908, Paris, France--died April 14, 1986, Paris), French writer and feminist, a member of the intellectual fellowship of philosopher-writers who have given a literary transcription to the themes of Existentialism. She is known primarily for her treatise Le Deuxieme Sexe, 2 vol. (1949; The Second Sex), a scholarly and passionate plea for the abolition of what she called the myth of the "eternal feminine." This seminal work became a classic of feminist literature.Schooled in private institutions,..
Eugene Ionesco (November 26, 1909 - March 28, 1994)
Eugene Ionesco (November 26, 1909 - March 28, 1994)
Eugene Ionesco, Romanian Eugen Ionescu, (born Nov. 26, 1909, Slatina, Rom.--died March 28, 1994, Paris, France), Romanian-born French dramatist whose one-act "antiplay" La Cantatrice chauve (1949; The Bald Soprano) inspired a revolution in dramatic techniques and helped inaugurate the Theatre of the Absurd. Elected to the Academie Francaise in 1970, Ionesco remains among the most important dramatists of the 20th century.Ionesco was taken to France as an infant but returned to Romania in 1925. After obtaining a degree in French at the University of Bucharest, he worked for a doctorate..
Jean Anouilh (June 23, 1910 - October 03, 1987)
Jean Anouilh (June 23, 1910 - October 03, 1987)
Jean Anouilh, in full Jean-Marie-Lucien-Pierre Anouilh, (born June 23, 1910, Bordeaux, France--died Oct. 3, 1987, Lausanne, Switz.), playwright who became one of the strongest personalities of the French theatre and achieved an international reputation. His plays are intensely personal messages; often they express his love of the theatre as well as his grudges against actors, wives, mistresses, critics, academicians, bureaucrats, and others. Anouilh's characteristic techniques include the play within the play, flashbacks and flash forwards, and the exchange of roles.The Anouilh..
Michel Houellebecq (February 26, 1956 - ..)
Michel Houellebecq (February 26, 1956 - ..)
Michel Houellebecq, original name Michel Thomas, (born February 26, 1956 or 1958, Reunion, France), French writer, satirist, and provocateur whose work exposes his sometimes darkly humorous, often offensive, and thoroughly misanthropic view of humanity and the world. He was one of the best-known, if not always best-loved, French novelists of the early 21st century.Houellebecq's parents sent him to live with his maternal grandparents when he was an infant. At age five or six he was transferred to the care of his paternal grandmother, whose maiden name he later adopted. His body of work gives..
Tahar Ben Jelloun (December 01, 1944 - ..)
Tahar Ben Jelloun (December 01, 1944 - ..)
Tahar Ben Jelloun, (born December 1, 1944, Fes, Morocco), Moroccan-French novelist, poet, and essayist who wrote expressively about Moroccan culture, the immigrant experience, human rights, and sexual identity.While studying philosophy at Muhammad V University in Rabat, Ben Jelloun began to write poems for the politically charged journal Souffles. After publishing his first collection of poetry, Hommes sous linceul de silence (1971; "Men Under the Shroud of Silence"), he moved to France. There he continued to write poems, collected in Cicatrices du soleil (1972; "Scars of the Sun"),..
Jean Cocteau (July 05, 1889 - October 11, 1963)
Jean Cocteau (July 05, 1889 - October 11, 1963)
Jean Cocteau, (born July 5, 1889, Maisons-Laffitte, near Paris, France--died October 11, 1963, Milly-la-Foret, near Paris), French poet, librettist, novelist, actor, film director, and painter. Some of his most important works include the poem L'Ange Heurtebise (1925; "The Angel Heurtebise"); the play Orphee (1926; Orpheus); the novels Les Enfants terribles (1929; "The Incorrigible Children"; Eng. trans. Children of the Game or The Holy Terrors) and La Machine infernale (1934; The Infernal Machine); and his surrealistic motion pictures Le Sang d'un poete (1930; The Blood of a Poet)..
Stephane Mallarme (March 18, 1842 - September 09, 1898)
Stephane Mallarme (March 18, 1842 - September 09, 1898)
Stephane Mallarme, (born March 18, 1842, Paris--died Sept. 9, 1898, Valvins, near Fontainebleau, Fr.), French poet, an originator (with Paul Verlaine) and a leader of the Symbolist movement in poetry.Mallarme enjoyed the sheltered security of family life for only five brief years, until the early death of his mother in August 1847. This traumatic experience was echoed 10 years later by the death of his younger sister Maria, in August 1857, and by that of his father in 1863. These tragic events would seem to explain much of the longing Mallarme expressed, from the very beginning of his poetic career,..
Jules Verne (February 08, 1828 - March 24, 1905)
Jules Verne (February 08, 1828 - March 24, 1905)
Jules Verne, (born February 8, 1828, Nantes, France--died March 24, 1905, Amiens), prolific French author whose writings laid much of the foundation of modern science fiction.Verne's father, intending that Jules follow in his footsteps as an attorney, sent him to Paris to study law. But the young Verne fell in love with literature, especially theatre. He wrote several plays, worked as secretary of the Theatre Lyrique (1852-54), and published short stories and scientific essays in the periodical Musee des familles. In 1857 Verne married and for several years worked as a broker at the Paris..
Francois Truffaut (February 06, 1932 - October 21, 1984)
Francois Truffaut (February 06, 1932 - October 21, 1984)
Francois Truffaut, (born February 6, 1932, Paris, France--died October 21, 1984, Neuilly-sur-Seine, near Paris), French film critic, director, and producer whose attacks on established filmmaking techniques paved the way for the movement known as the Nouvelle Vague (New Wave).Early worksTruffaut was born into a working-class home. His own troubled childhood provided the inspiration for Les Quatre Cents Coups (1959; The 400 Blows), a semiautobiographical study of a working-class delinquent. It is the first of the Antoine Doinel trilogy, tracing its hero's evolution from an antisocial..
Paul Valery (October 30, 1871 - July 20, 1945)
Paul Valery (October 30, 1871 - July 20, 1945)
Paul Valery, in full Ambroise-Paul-Toussaint-Jules Valery, (born Oct. 30, 1871, Sete, Fr.--died July 20, 1945, Paris), French poet, essayist, and critic. His greatest poem is considered La Jeune Parque (1917; "The Young Fate"), which was followed by Album de vers anciens 1890-1900 (1920) and Charmes ou poemes (1922), containing "Le Cimetiere marin" ("The Graveyard by the Sea"). He later wrote a large number of essays and occasional papers on literary topics and took a great interest in scientific discoveries and in political problems.Valery was born at a small Mediterranean port where..
Francois Hollande (August 12, 1954 - ..)
Francois Hollande (August 12, 1954 - ..)
Francois Hollande, in full Francois Gerard Georges Hollande, (born August 12, 1954, Rouen, France), French politician who was president of France (2012-17). He earlier served as first secretary of the Socialist Party (1997-2008).Early life and political riseThe son of a physician in France's northwestern Haute-Normandie region, Hollande was educated at the elite Ecole Nationale d'Administration, where his classmates included future prime minister Dominique de Villepin and future Socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal, who would also become Hollande's longtime companion...
Jean-Philippe Rameau (September 25, 1683 - September 12, 1764)
Jean-Philippe Rameau (September 25, 1683 - September 12, 1764)
Jean-Philippe Rameau, (baptized September 25, 1683, Dijon, France--died September 12, 1764, Paris), French composer of the late Baroque period, best known today for his harpsichord music, operas, and works in other theatrical genres but in his lifetime also famous as a music theorist.Rameau's father, Jean, played the organ for 42 years in various churches in Dijon and hoped one day to see his son on a lawyer's, rather than an organist's, bench. These hopes were dashed by the boy's deplorable performance in school. At the age of 17 he is said to have fallen in love with a young widow who laughed at..
Marquis de Sade (June 02, 1740 - December 02, 1814)
Marquis de Sade (June 02, 1740 - December 02, 1814)
Marquis de Sade, byname of Donatien-Alphonse-Francois, Comte de Sade, (born June 2, 1740, Paris, France--died December 2, 1814, Charenton, near Paris), French nobleman whose perverse sexual preferences and erotic writings gave rise to the term sadism. His best-known work is the novel Justine (1791).Heritage and youthRelated to the royal house of Conde, the de Sade family numbered among its ancestors Laure de Noves, whom the 14th-century Italian poet Petrarch immortalized in verse. When the marquis was born at the Conde mansion, his father was away from home on a diplomatic mission. De Sade's..
Alphonse de Lamartine (October 21, 1790 - February 28, 1869)
Alphonse de Lamartine (October 21, 1790 - February 28, 1869)
Alphonse de Lamartine, (born October 21, 1790, Macon, France--died February 28, 1869, Paris), French poet, historian, and statesman who achieved renown for his lyrics in Meditations poetiques (1820), which established him as one of the key figures in the Romantic movement in French literature. In 1847 his Histoire des Girondins became widely popular, and he rose to considerable political prominence in early 1848, when he led the Second Republic for a short time.Early life and Meditations poetiquesHis father, an aristocrat, was imprisoned during the culminating phase of the French Revolution..
Andre Malraux (November 03, 1901 - November 23, 1976)
Andre Malraux (November 03, 1901 - November 23, 1976)
Andre Malraux, in full Andre-Georges Malraux, (born Nov. 3, 1901, Paris, France--died Nov. 23, 1976, Paris), French novelist, art historian, and statesman who became an active supporter of Gen. Charles de Gaulle and, after de Gaulle was elected president in 1958, served for 10 years as France's minister of cultural affairs. His major works include the novel La Condition humaine (1933; Man's Fate); Les Voix du silence (1951; The Voices of Silence), a history and philosophy of world art; and Le Musee imaginaire de la sculpture mondiale (1952-54; Museum Without Walls).LifeMalraux was born into..
Germaine de Stael (April 22, 1766 - July 14, 1817)
Germaine de Stael (April 22, 1766 - July 14, 1817)
Germaine de Stael, in full Anne-Louise-Germaine Necker, Baronne (baroness) de Stael-Holstein, byname Madame de Stael, (born April 22, 1766, Paris, Fr.--died July 14, 1817, Paris), French-Swiss woman of letters, political propagandist, and conversationalist, who epitomized the European culture of her time, bridging the history of ideas from Neoclassicism to Romanticism. She also gained fame by maintaining a salon for leading intellectuals. Her writings include novels, plays, moral and political essays, literary criticism, history, autobiographical memoirs, and even a number..
Hippolyte Taine (April 21, 1828 - March 05, 1893)
Hippolyte Taine (April 21, 1828 - March 05, 1893)
Hippolyte Taine, in full Hippolyte-Adolphe Taine, (born April 21, 1828, Vouziers, Ardennes, France--died March 5, 1893, Paris), French thinker, critic, and historian, one of the most-esteemed exponents of 19th-century French positivism. He attempted to apply the scientific method to the study of the humanities.Early life and careerTaine was born into a professional middle-class family; his father was a lawyer. He was educated privately at home until shortly after his father's death. Thereafter, he went with his mother to live in Paris and became an outstanding pupil at the College Bourbon..
Jean-Paul Sartre (June 21, 1905 - April 15, 1980)
Jean-Paul Sartre (June 21, 1905 - April 15, 1980)
Jean-Paul Sartre, (born June 21, 1905, Paris, France--died April 15, 1980, Paris), French novelist, playwright, and exponent of Existentialism--a philosophy acclaiming the freedom of the individual human being. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1964, but he declined it.Early life and writingsSartre lost his father at an early age and grew up in the home of his maternal grandfather, Carl Schweitzer, uncle of the medical missionary Albert Schweitzer and himself professor of German at the Sorbonne. The boy, who wandered in the Luxembourg Gardens of Paris in search of playmates,..
Francois Villon
Francois Villon
Francois Villon, pseudonym of Francois de Montcorbier or Francois des Loges, (born 1431, Paris--died after 1463), one of the greatest French lyric poets. He was known for his life of criminal excess, spending much time in prison or in banishment from medieval Paris. His chief works include Le Lais (Le Petit Testament), Le Grand Testament, and various ballades, chansons, and rondeaux.LifeVillon's father died while he was still a child, and he was brought up by the canon Guillaume de Villon, chaplain of Saint-Benoit-le-Betourne. The register of the faculty of arts of the University of Paris..
Jean de La Fontaine (July 08, 1621 - April 13, 1695)
Jean de La Fontaine (July 08, 1621 - April 13, 1695)
Jean de La Fontaine, (born July 8?, 1621, Chateau-Thierry, France--died April 13, 1695, Paris), poet whose Fables rank among the greatest masterpieces of French literature.LifeLa Fontaine was born in the Champagne region into a bourgeois family. There, in 1647, he married an heiress, Marie Hericart, but they separated in 1658. From 1652 to 1671 he held office as an inspector of forests and waterways, an office inherited from his father. It was in Paris, however, that he made his most important contacts and spent his most productive years as a writer. An outstanding feature of his existence was..
Andre Gide (November 22, 1869 - February 19, 1951)
Andre Gide (November 22, 1869 - February 19, 1951)
Andre Gide, in full Andre-Paul-Guillaume Gide, (born Nov. 22, 1869, Paris, France--died Feb. 19, 1951, Paris), French writer, humanist, and moralist who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1947.Heritage and youthGide was the only child of Paul Gide and his wife, Juliette Rondeaux. His father was of southern Huguenot peasant stock; his mother, a Norman heiress, although Protestant by upbringing, belonged to a northern Roman Catholic family long established at Rouen. When Gide was eight he was sent to the Ecole Alsacienne in Paris, but his education was much interrupted by neurotic..
Henri Bergson (October 18, 1859 - January 04, 1941)
Henri Bergson (October 18, 1859 - January 04, 1941)
Henri Bergson, in full Henri-Louis Bergson, (born Oct. 18, 1859, Paris, France--died Jan. 4, 1941, Paris), French philosopher, the first to elaborate what came to be called a process philosophy, which rejected static values in favour of values of motion, change, and evolution. He was also a master literary stylist, of both academic and popular appeal, and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1927.Early yearsThrough his father, a talented musician, Bergson was descended from a rich Polish Jewish family--the sons of Berek, or Berek-son, from which the name Bergson is derived. His mother..
Guy de Maupassant (August 05, 1850 - July 06, 1893)
Guy de Maupassant (August 05, 1850 - July 06, 1893)
Guy de Maupassant, in full Henry-Rene-Albert-Guy de Maupassant, (born August 5, 1850, Chateau de Miromesnil?, near Dieppe, France--died July 6, 1893, Paris), French naturalist writer of short stories and novels who is by general agreement the greatest French short-story writer.Early lifeMaupassant was the elder of the two children of Gustave and Laure de Maupassant. His mother's claim that he was born at the Chateau de Miromesnil has been disputed. The couple's second son, Herve, was born in 1856.Both parents came of Norman families, the father's of the minor aristocracy, but the marriage..
Marcel Proust (July 10, 1871 - November 18, 1922)
Marcel Proust (July 10, 1871 - November 18, 1922)
Marcel Proust, (born July 10, 1871, Auteuil, near Paris, France--died November 18, 1922, Paris), French novelist, author of A la recherche du temps perdu (1913-27; In Search of Lost Time), a seven-volume novel based on Proust's life told psychologically and allegorically.Life and worksMarcel was the son of Adrien Proust, an eminent physician of provincial French Catholic descent, and his wife, Jeanne, nee Weil, of a wealthy Jewish family. After a first attack in 1880, he suffered from asthma throughout his life. His childhood holidays were spent at Illiers and Auteuil (which together became..
Gustave Flaubert (December 12, 1821 - May 08, 1880)
Gustave Flaubert (December 12, 1821 - May 08, 1880)
Gustave Flaubert, (born December 12, 1821, Rouen, France--died May 8, 1880, Croisset), novelist regarded as the prime mover of the realist school of French literature and best known for his masterpiece, Madame Bovary (1857), a realistic portrayal of bourgeois life, which led to a trial on charges of the novel's alleged immorality.Early life and worksFlaubert's father, Achille Cleophas Flaubert, who was from Champagne, was chief surgeon and clinical professor at the Hotel-Dieu hospital in Rouen. His mother, a doctor's daughter from Pont l'Eveque, belonged to a family of distinguished..
Denis Diderot (October 05, 1713 - July 31, 1784)
Denis Diderot (October 05, 1713 - July 31, 1784)
Denis Diderot, (born October 5, 1713, Langres, France--died July 31, 1784, Paris), French man of letters and philosopher who, from 1745 to 1772, served as chief editor of the Encyclopedie, one of the principal works of the Age of Enlightenment.Youth and marriageDiderot was the son of a widely respected master cutler. He was tonsured in 1726, though he did not in fact enter the church, and was first educated by the Jesuits at Langres. From 1729 to 1732 he studied in Paris at the College d'Harcourt or at the Lycee Louis-le-Grand or possibly at both these institutions, and he was awarded the degree of..
Emile Zola (April 02, 1840 - September 28, 1902)
Emile Zola (April 02, 1840 - September 28, 1902)
Emile Zola, in full Emile-Edouard-Charles-Antoine Zola, (born April 2, 1840, Paris, France--died September 28, 1902, Paris), French novelist, critic, and political activist who was the most prominent French novelist of the late 19th century. He was noted for his theories of naturalism, which underlie his monumental 20-novel series Les Rougon-Macquart, and for his intervention in the Dreyfus Affair through his famous open letter, "J'accuse."LifeThough born in Paris in 1840, Zola spent his youth in Aix-en-Provence in southern France, where his father, a civil engineer of Italian descent,..
Honore de Balzac (May 20, 1799 - August 18, 1850)
Honore de Balzac (May 20, 1799 - August 18, 1850)
Honore de Balzac, original name Honore Balssa, (born May 20, 1799, Tours, France--died August 18, 1850, Paris), French literary artist who produced a vast number of novels and short stories collectively called La Comedie humaine (The Human Comedy). He helped to establish the traditional form of the novel and is generally considered to be one of the greatest novelists of all time.Early careerBalzac's father was a man of southern peasant stock who worked in the civil service for 43 years under Louis XVI and Napoleon. Honore's mother came from a family of prosperous Parisian cloth merchants. His..
Stendhal (January 23, 1783 - March 23, 1842)
Stendhal (January 23, 1783 - March 23, 1842)
Stendhal, pseudonym of Marie-Henri Beyle, (born January 23, 1783, Grenoble, France--died March 23, 1842, Paris), one of the most original and complex French writers of the first half of the 19th century, chiefly known for his works of fiction. His finest novels are Le Rouge et le noir (1830; The Red and the Black) and La Chartreuse de Parme (1839; The Charterhouse of Parma).LifeStendhal is only one of the many pseudonyms Henri Beyle adopted. His father, Cherubin Beyle, was a barrister in Grenoble's high court of justice. Henri's mother died when he was seven, and this loss, which he felt keenly,..
Blaise Pascal (June 19, 1623 - August 19, 1662)
Blaise Pascal (June 19, 1623 - August 19, 1662)
Blaise Pascal, (born June 19, 1623, Clermont-Ferrand, France--died August 19, 1662, Paris), French mathematician, physicist, religious philosopher, and master of prose. He laid the foundation for the modern theory of probabilities, formulated what came to be known as Pascal's principle of pressure, and propagated a religious doctrine that taught the experience of God through the heart rather than through reason. The establishment of his principle of intuitionism had an impact on such later philosophers as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Henri Bergson and also on the Existentialists.Pascal's..
Hector Berlioz (December 11, 1803 - March 08, 1869)
Hector Berlioz (December 11, 1803 - March 08, 1869)
Hector Berlioz, in full Louis-Hector Berlioz, (born December 11, 1803, La Cote-Saint-Andre, France--died March 8, 1869, Paris), French composer, critic, and conductor of the Romantic period, known largely for his Symphonie fantastique (1830), the choral symphony Romeo et Juliette (1839), and the dramatic piece La Damnation de Faust (1846). His last years were marked by fame abroad and hostility at home.Early careerThe birthplace of Berlioz was a village about 35 miles (56 km) northwest of Grenoble in the French Alps. France was at war; the schools were disrupted; and Berlioz received his..
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Arthur Rimbaud (October 20, 1854 - November 10, 1891)
Arthur Rimbaud (October 20, 1854 - November 10, 1891)
Arthur Rimbaud, in full Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud, (born October 20, 1854, Charleville, France--died November 10, 1891, Marseille), French poet and adventurer who won renown in the Symbolist movement and markedly influenced modern poetry.ChildhoodRimbaud grew up at Charleville in the Ardennes region of northeastern France. He was the second son of an army captain and a local farmer's daughter. The father spent little time with the family and eventually abandoned the children to the sole care of their mother, a strong-willed, bigoted woman who pinned all her ambitions on her younger son,..
Francois Rabelais (.. - April 09, 1553)
Francois Rabelais (.. - April 09, 1553)
Francois Rabelais, pseudonym Alcofribas Nasier, (born c. 1494, Poitou, France--died probably April 9, 1553, Paris), French writer and priest who for his contemporaries was an eminent physician and humanist and for posterity is the author of the comic masterpiece Gargantua and Pantagruel. The four novels composing this work are outstanding for their rich use of Renaissance French and for their comedy, which ranges from gross burlesque to profound satire. They exploit popular legends, farces, and romances, as well as classical and Italian material, but were written primarily for a court..
Jean Racine (December 22, 1639 - April 21, 1699)
Jean Racine (December 22, 1639 - April 21, 1699)
Jean Racine, in full Jean-Baptiste Racine, (baptized December 22, 1639, La Ferte-Milon, France--died April 21, 1699, Paris), French dramatic poet and historiographer renowned for his mastery of French classical tragedy. His reputation rests on the plays he wrote between 1664 and 1691, notably Andromaque (first performed 1667, published 1668), Britannicus (first performed 1669, published 1670), Berenice (first performed 1670, published 1671), Bajazet (first performed and published 1672), Phedre (first performed and published 1677), and Athalie (first performed and published..
Moliere (January 15, 1622 - February 17, 1673)
Moliere (January 15, 1622 - February 17, 1673)
Moliere, original name Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, (baptized January 15, 1622, Paris, France--died February 17, 1673, Paris), French actor and playwright, the greatest of all writers of French comedy.Although the sacred and secular authorities of 17th-century France often combined against him, the genius of Moliere finally emerged to win him acclaim. Comedy had a long history before Moliere, who employed most of its traditional forms, but he succeeded in inventing a new style that was based on a double vision of normal and abnormal seen in relation to each other--the comedy of the true opposed..
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (June 28, 1712 - July 02, 1778)
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (June 28, 1712 - July 02, 1778)
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, (born June 28, 1712, Geneva, Switzerland--died July 2, 1778, Ermenonville, France), Swiss-born philosopher, writer, and political theorist whose treatises and novels inspired the leaders of the French Revolution and the Romantic generation.Rousseau was the least academic of modern philosophers and in many ways was the most influential. His thought marked the end of the Age of Reason. He propelled political and ethical thinking into new channels. His reforms revolutionized taste, first in music, then in the other arts. He had a profound impact on people's way of..
Voltaire (November 21, 1694 - May 30, 1778)
Voltaire (November 21, 1694 - May 30, 1778)
Voltaire, pseudonym of François-Marie Arouet, (born November 21, 1694, Paris, France—died May 30, 1778, Paris), one of the greatest of all French writers. Although only a few of his works are still read, he continues to be held in worldwide repute as a courageous crusader against tyranny, bigotry, and cruelty. Through its critical capacity, wit, and satire, Voltaire’s work vigorously propagates an ideal of progress to which people of all nations have remained responsive. His long life spanned the last years of classicism and the eve of the revolutionary era, and during this age of transition..
Victor Hugo (February 26, 1802 - May 22, 1885)
Victor Hugo (February 26, 1802 - May 22, 1885)
Victor Hugo, in full Victor-Marie Hugo, (born February 26, 1802, Besançon, France—died May 22, 1885, Paris), poet, novelist, and dramatist who was the most important of the French Romantic writers. Though regarded in France as one of that country’s greatest poets, he is better known abroad for such novels as Notre-Dame de Paris (1831) and Les Misérables (1862).Early years (1802–30)Victor was the third son of Joseph-Léopold-Sigisbert Hugo, a major and, later, general in Napoleon’s army. His childhood was coloured by his father’s constant traveling with the imperial army and by the disagreements..
Peter Abelard (.. - April 21, 1142)
Peter Abelard (.. - April 21, 1142)
Peter Abelard, French Pierre Abélard, orAbailard, Latin Petrus Abaelardus, orAbeilardus, (born 1079, Le Pallet, near Nantes, Brittany [now in France]—died April 21, 1142, Priory of Saint-Marcel, near Chalon-sur-Saône, Burgundy [now in France]), French theologian and philosopher best known for his solution of the problem of universals and for his original use of dialectics. He is also known for his poetry and for his celebrated love affair with Héloïse.Early lifeThe outline of Abelard’s career is well known, largely because he described so much of it in his famous Historia calamitatum..
Paul Verlaine (March 30, 1844 - January 08, 1896)
Paul Verlaine (March 30, 1844 - January 08, 1896)
Paul Verlaine, (born March 30, 1844, Metz, France—died January 8, 1896, Paris), French lyric poet first associated with the Parnassians and later known as a leader of the Symbolists. With Stéphane Mallarmé and Charles Baudelaire he formed the so-called Decadents.Life.Verlaine was the only child of an army officer in comfortable circumstances. He was undoubtedly spoiled by his mother. At the Lycée Bonaparte (now Condorcet) in Paris, he showed both ability and indolence and at 14 sent his first extant poem (“La Mort”) to the “master” poet Victor Hugo. Obtaining the baccalauréat in 1862, with..
Paul Claudel (August 06, 1868 - February 23, 1955)
Paul Claudel (August 06, 1868 - February 23, 1955)
Paul Claudel, in full Paul-Louis-Charles-Marie Claudel, (born Aug. 6, 1868, Villeneuve-sur-Fère, Fr.—died Feb. 23, 1955, Paris), poet, playwright, essayist, a towering force in French literature of the first half of the 20th century, whose works derive their lyrical inspiration, their unity and scope, and their prophetic tone from his faith in God.Claudel, the brother of the sculptor Camille Claudel, was born in a village of Champagne. Their family was one of farmers and gentry, an inauspicious background for his subsequent diplomatic career. Becoming expert in economic affairs, in..
Jacques Derrida (July 15, 1930 - October 08, 2004)
Jacques Derrida (July 15, 1930 - October 08, 2004)
Jacques Derrida, (born July 15, 1930, El Biar, Algeria—died October 8, 2004, Paris, France), French philosopher whose critique of Western philosophy and analyses of the nature of language, writing, and meaning were highly controversial yet immensely influential in much of the intellectual world in the late 20th century.Life and workDerrida was born to Sephardic Jewish parents in French-governed Algeria. Educated in the French tradition, he went to France in 1949, studied at the elite École Normale Supérieure (ENS), and taught philosophy at the Sorbonne (1960–64), the ENS (1964–84),..
Gabriel Marcel (December 07, 1889 - October 08, 1973)
Gabriel Marcel (December 07, 1889 - October 08, 1973)
Gabriel Marcel, in full Gabriel-Honoré Marcel, (born December 7, 1889, Paris, France—died October 8, 1973, Paris), French philosopher, dramatist, and critic who was associated with the phenomenological and existentialist movements in 20th-century European philosophy and whose work and style are often characterized as theistic or Christian existentialism (a term Marcel disliked, preferring the more neutral description “neo-Socratic” because it captures the dialogical, probing, and sometimes inchoate nature of his reflections).Early life, philosophical style, and principal..
Charles Baudelaire (April 09, 1821 - August 31, 1867)
Charles Baudelaire (April 09, 1821 - August 31, 1867)
Charles Baudelaire, in full Charles-Pierre Baudelaire, (born April 9, 1821, Paris, France—died August 31, 1867, Paris), French poet, translator, and literary and art critic whose reputation rests primarily on Les Fleurs du mal (1857; The Flowers of Evil), which was perhaps the most important and influential poetry collection published in Europe in the 19th century. Similarly, his Petits poèmes en prose (1868; “Little Prose Poems”) was the most successful and innovative early experiment in prose poetry of the time.Early lifeBaudelaire was the only child of François Baudelaire and his..
Albert Camus (November 07, 1913 - January 04, 1960)
Albert Camus (November 07, 1913 - January 04, 1960)
Albert Camus, (born November 7, 1913, Mondovi, Algeria—died January 4, 1960, near Sens, France), French novelist, essayist, and playwright, best known for such novels as L’Étranger (1942; The Stranger), La Peste (1947; The Plague), and La Chute (1956; The Fall) and for his work in leftist causes. He received the 1957 Nobel Prize for Literature.Early yearsLess than a year after Camus was born, his father, an impoverished worker, was killed in World War I during the First Battle of the Marne. His mother, of Spanish descent, did housework to support her family. Camus and his elder brother Lucien..
Maurice Blanchot (September 27, 1907 - February 20, 2003)
Maurice Blanchot (September 27, 1907 - February 20, 2003)
Maurice Blanchot, French novelist and critic (born Sept. 27, 1907, Quain, France--died Feb. 20, 2003, Mesnil Saint Denis, France), was a reclusive intellectual who influenced such postmodernist thinkers as Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and Roland Barthes; he also supported new writers, including Samuel Beckett and Alain Robbe-Grillet. Though Blanchot wrote for right-wing journals before World War II, after the war he opposed the French occupation of Algeria, and he joined the antigovernment demonstrations in 1968. He was associated with Jean-Paul Sartre on Les Temps Modernes..
Tristan Bernard (September 07, 1866 - December 07, 1947)
Tristan Bernard (September 07, 1866 - December 07, 1947)
Tristan Bernard, pseudonym of Paul Bernard, (born Sept. 7, 1866, Besancon, France--died Dec. 7, 1947, Paris), French playwright, novelist, journalist, and lawyer who wrote for the theatre de boulevard, a genre meant to entertain middle-class Parisian audiences on Sunday afternoons.Bernard's merit consisted in limiting his literary ambitions to his capabilities. His works were characterized by a tone of light cynicism and a cross fire of lively dialogue, together with a keen insight into the foibles of his bourgeois audiences. Among Bernard's most successful plays were L'Anglais tel..
Francoise Sagan (June 21, 1935 - September 24, 2004)
Francoise Sagan (June 21, 1935 - September 24, 2004)
Francoise Sagan, pseudonym of Francoise Quoirez, (born June 21, 1935, Carjac, France--died September 24, 2004, Honfleur), French novelist and dramatist who wrote her first and best-known novel, the international best-seller Bonjour Tristesse (1954), when she was 19 years old.Educated at private and convent schools in France and Switzerland, Sagan attended the Sorbonne. She wrote the manuscript of Bonjour Tristesse in three weeks; it was made into a film in 1958. Among the novels that followed Bonjour Tristesse are Un Certain Sourire (1956; A Certain Smile), Aimez-vous Brahms? (1959),..
Sacha Guitry (February 21, 1885 - July 24, 1957)
Sacha Guitry (February 21, 1885 - July 24, 1957)
Sacha Guitry, original name Alexandre-Georges Guitry, (born February 21, 1885, St. Petersburg, Russia--died July 24, 1957, Paris, France), prodigious French playwright, director, and screenwriter who often acted in his own productionsSacha, the son of the actor Lucien Guitry, achieved his first theatrical success with Nono (1905). This was followed by Chez les Zoaques (1906), Petite Hollande (1908), Le Scandale de Monte Carlo (1908), Le Veilleur de nuit (1911)--one of his best plays--and Un Beau Mariage (1911). It is difficult to draw an absolute distinction between his work as an actor..
Georges Bataille (September 10, 1897 - July 09, 1962)
Georges Bataille (September 10, 1897 - July 09, 1962)
Georges Bataille, (born Sept. 10, 1897, Billom, France--died July 9, 1962, Paris), French librarian and writer whose essays, novels, and poetry expressed his fascination with eroticism, mysticism, and the irrational. He viewed excess as a way to gain personal "sovereignty."After training as an archivist at the school of paleography known as the Ecole des Chartes (School of Charters) in Paris, he worked as a librarian and medieval specialist at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris until 1942. In 1951 he became keeper of the Orleans library. He also edited scholarly journals and in 1946 founded..
Paul Morand (March 13, 1888 - July 24, 1976)
Paul Morand (March 13, 1888 - July 24, 1976)
Paul Morand, (born March 13, 1888, Paris, France--died July 24, 1976, Paris), French diplomat and novelist whose early fiction captured the feverish atmosphere of the 1920s.Morand joined the diplomatic service in 1912, serving as attache in London, Rome, Madrid, and Siam (Thailand). In his early fiction--Ouvert la nuit (1922; Open All Night), Ferme la nuit (1923; Closed All Night), and Lewis et Irene (1924; Lewis and Irene)--he borrowed the cinematic techniques of rapid scene changing and transported the reader back and forth from one capital to another. Later he wrote several collections..
Octave Mirbeau (February 16, 1850 - February 16, 1917)
Octave Mirbeau (February 16, 1850 - February 16, 1917)
Octave Mirbeau, in full Octave-Henri-Marie Mirbeau, (born Feb. 16, 1850, Trevieres, France--died Feb. 16, 1917, Paris), French journalist and writer of novels and plays who unsparingly satirized the clergy and social conditions of his time and was one of the 10 original members of the Academie Goncourt, founded in 1903.His first work was as a journalist for Bonapartist and Royalist newspapers. He made his reputation as a storyteller with tales of the Norman peasantry, Lettres de ma chaumiere (1886; "Letters from My Cottage") and Le Calvaire (1887; "The Calvary"), a chapter of which, on the..
Raymond Queneau (February 21, 1903 - October 25, 1976)
Raymond Queneau (February 21, 1903 - October 25, 1976)
Raymond Queneau, (born Feb. 21, 1903, Le Havre, France--died Oct. 25, 1976, Paris), French author who produced some of the most important prose and poetry of the mid-20th century.After working as a reporter for L'Intransigeant (1936-38), Queneau became a reader for the prestigious Encyclopedie de la Pleiade, a scholarly edition of past and present classical authors, and by 1955 was its director.From Queneau's Surrealist period in the 1920s he retained a taste for verbal juggling, a tendency toward black humour, and a derisive posture toward authority. His puns, sneers, spelling extravaganzas,..
Comte de Lautreamont (April 04, 1846 - November 24, 1870)
Comte de Lautreamont (April 04, 1846 - November 24, 1870)
Comte de Lautreamont, pseudonym of Isidore Lucien Ducasse, (born April 4, 1846, Montevideo, Uruguay--died November 24, 1870, Paris, France), poet, a strange and enigmatic figure in French literature, who is recognized as a major influence on the Surrealists.The son of a chancellor in the French consulate, Lautreamont was sent to France for schooling; he studied at the imperial lycees in Tarbes (1859-62) and Pau (1863-65). He set out for Paris in 1867, ostensibly to attend the Ecole Polytechnique, and disappeared into obscurity. Little else is known of his life. He took the name of Lautreamont..
Tristan Tzara
Tristan Tzara
Tristan Tzara, original name Samuel Rosenstock, (born 1896, Moinesti, Rom.--died December 1963, Paris), Romanian-born French poet and essayist known mainly as the founder of Dada, a nihilistic revolutionary movement in the arts, the purpose of which was the demolition of all the values of modern civilization.The Dadaist movement originated in Zurich during World War I, with the participation of the artists Jean Arp, Francis Picabia, and Marcel Duchamp. Tzara wrote the first Dada texts--La Premiere Aventure celeste de Monsieur Antipyrine (1916; "The First Heavenly Adventure of Mr. Antipyrine")..
Rene Char (June 14, 1907 - February 19, 1988)
Rene Char (June 14, 1907 - February 19, 1988)
Rene Char, (born June 14, 1907, L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Fr.--died Feb. 19, 1988, Paris), French poet who began as a Surrealist but who, after his experiences as a Resistance leader in World War II, wrote economical verse with moralistic overtones.After completing his education in Provence, Char moved in the late 1920s to Paris, where he became friends with Surrealist writers and wrote poems about his native Provence. His most important early book of verse, Le Marteau sans maitre (1934; "The Hammer Without a Master"), was Surrealistic in style, being marked by verbal luxuriance and a free play..
Rene Dubos (February 20, 1901 - February 20, 1982)
Rene Dubos (February 20, 1901 - February 20, 1982)
Rene Dubos, in full Rene Jules Dubos, (born Feb. 20, 1901, Saint-Brice, France--died Feb. 20, 1982, New York, N.Y., U.S.), French-born American microbiologist, environmentalist, and author whose pioneering research in isolating antibacterial substances from certain soil microorganisms led to the discovery of major antibiotics. Dubos is also known for his research and writings on a number of subjects, including antibiotics, acquired immunity, tuberculosis, and bacteria indigenous to the gastrointestinal tract. In his later years his interest shifted to man's relationship to the..
Ludovic Halevy (January 01, 1834 - May 08, 1908)
Ludovic Halevy (January 01, 1834 - May 08, 1908)
Ludovic Halevy, (born Jan. 1, 1834, Paris, Fr.--died May 8, 1908, Paris), French librettist and novelist who, in collaboration with Henri Meilhac, wrote the librettos for most of the operettas of Jacques Offenbach and who also wrote satiric comedies about contemporary Parisian life.The son of the writer Leon Halevy and the nephew of the operatic composer Fromental Halevy, Ludovic began writing for the stage while still a member of the French civil service. His first real success was his anonymous collaboration on the libretto for Offenbach's operetta Orphee aux enfers (1858; "Orpheus in..
Alfred de Musset (December 11, 1810 - May 02, 1857)
Alfred de Musset (December 11, 1810 - May 02, 1857)
Alfred de Musset, in full Louis-Charles-Alfred de Musset, (born Dec. 11, 1810, Paris, France--died May 2, 1857, Paris), French Romantic dramatist and poet, best known for his plays.Musset's autobiographical La Confession d'un enfant du siecle (1836; The Confession of a Child of the Century), if not entirely trustworthy, presents a striking picture of Musset's youth as a member of a noble family, well-educated but ruled by his emotions in a period when all traditional values were under attack. While still an adolescent he came under the influence of the leaders of the Romantic movement--Charles..
Louis Aragon (October 03, 1897 - December 24, 1982)
Louis Aragon (October 03, 1897 - December 24, 1982)
Louis Aragon, original name Louis Andrieux, (born Oct. 3, 1897, Paris, France--died Dec. 24, 1982, Paris), French poet, novelist, and essayist who was a political activist and spokesperson for communism.Through the Surrealist poet Andre Breton, Aragon was introduced to avant-garde movements such as Dadaism. Together with Philippe Soupault, he and Breton founded the Surrealist review Litterature (1919). Aragon's first poems, Feu de joie (1920; "Bonfire") and Le Mouvement perpetuel (1925; "Perpetual Motion"), were followed by a novel, Le Paysan de Paris (1926; The Nightwalker). In..
Remy de Gourmont (April 04, 1858 - September 27, 1915)
Remy de Gourmont (April 04, 1858 - September 27, 1915)
Remy de Gourmont, in full Remy-Marie-Charles de Gourmont, (born April 4, 1858, Bazoches-en-Houlmes, France--died September 27, 1915, Paris), novelist, poet, playwright, and philosopher who was one of the most-penetrating contemporary critics of the French Symbolist movement. His prolific writings, many of which were translated into English, disseminated the Symbolist aesthetic doctrines.Gourmont was born in the Chateau de La Motte, the scion of an aristocratic Norman family and descendant on his mother's side of the French poet Francois de Malherbe. After studying law at Caen, Gourmont..
Charles Peguy (January 07, 1873 - September 05, 1914)
Charles Peguy (January 07, 1873 - September 05, 1914)
Charles Peguy, (born Jan. 7, 1873, Orleans, Fr.--died Sept. 5, 1914, near Villeroy), French poet and philosopher who combined Christianity, socialism, and patriotism into a deeply personal faith that he carried into action.Peguy was born to poverty. His mother, widowed when he was an infant, mended chairs for a living. He attended the lycee at Orleans on a scholarship and in 1894 entered the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, intending to teach philosophy. In 1895 he turned to socialism, convinced it was the sole means by which poverty and destitution in the modern world could be overcome. He..
Jules Laforgue (August 16, 1860 - August 20, 1887)
Jules Laforgue (August 16, 1860 - August 20, 1887)
Jules Laforgue, (born Aug. 16, 1860, Montevideo, Uruguay--died Aug. 20, 1887, Paris), French Symbolist poet, a master of lyrical irony and one of the inventors of vers libre ("free verse"). The impact of his work was felt by several 20th-century American poets, including T.S. Eliot, and he also influenced the work of the Surrealists. His critical essays, though somewhat neglected, are also notable.Laforgue was brought up by relatives at Tarbes, Fr., from 1866 to 1876, when he joined his family in Paris. After finishing his schooling at the Lycee Fontanes, he attended the lectures of the literary..
Andre Breton (February 18, 1896 - September 28, 1966)
Andre Breton (February 18, 1896 - September 28, 1966)
Andre Breton, (born February 18, 1896, Tinchebray, France--died September 28, 1966, Paris), French poet, essayist, critic, and editor, chief promoter and one of the founders of the Surrealist movement.As a medical student, Breton was interested in mental illness; his reading of the works of Sigmund Freud (whom he met in 1921) introduced him to the concept of the unconscious. Influenced by psychiatry and Symbolist poetry, he joined the Dadaists. In 1919 with Louis Aragon and Philippe Soupault, he cofounded the review Litterature; in its pages, Breton and Soupault published "Les Champs magnetiques"..
Antonin Artaud (September 04, 1896 - March 04, 1948)
Antonin Artaud (September 04, 1896 - March 04, 1948)
Antonin Artaud, original name in full Antoine-Marie-Joseph Artaud, (born Sept. 4, 1896, Marseille, France--died March 4, 1948, Ivry-sur-Seine), French dramatist, poet, actor, and theoretician of the Surrealist movement who attempted to replace the "bourgeois" classical theatre with his "theatre of cruelty," a primitive ceremonial experience intended to liberate the human subconscious and reveal man to himself.Artaud's parents were partly Levantine Greek, and he was much affected by this background, especially in his fascination with mysticism. Lifelong mental disorders sent..
Marguerite Duras (April 04, 1914 - March 03, 1996)
Marguerite Duras (April 04, 1914 - March 03, 1996)
Marguerite Duras, pseudonym of Marguerite Donnadieu, (born April 4, 1914, Gia Dinh, Cochinchina [Vietnam]--died March 3, 1996, Paris, France), French novelist, screenwriter, scenarist, playwright, and film director, internationally known for her screenplays of Hiroshima mon amour (1959) and India Song (1975). The novel L'Amant (1984; The Lover; film, 1992) won the prestigious Prix Goncourt in 1984.Duras spent most of her childhood in Indochina, but at the age of 17 she moved to France to study at the University of Paris, Sorbonne, from which she received licences in law and politics...
Louis-Ferdinand Celine (May 27, 1894 - July 01, 1961)
Louis-Ferdinand Celine (May 27, 1894 - July 01, 1961)
Louis-Ferdinand Celine, pseudonym of Louis-Ferdinand Destouches, (born May 27, 1894, Courbevoie, near Paris, France--died July 1, 1961, Meudon), French writer and physician who, while admired for his talent, is better known for his anti-Semitism and misanthropy.Celine received his medical degree in 1924 and traveled extensively on medical missions for the League of Nations. In 1928 he opened a practice in a suburb of Paris, writing in his spare time. He became famous with his first novel, Voyage au bout de la nuit (1932; Journey to the End of Night), the story of a man's tortured and hopeless..
Roland Barthes (November 12, 1915 - March 25, 1980)
Roland Barthes (November 12, 1915 - March 25, 1980)
Roland Barthes, in full Roland Gerard Barthes, (born November 12, 1915, Cherbourg, France--died March 25, 1980, Paris), French essayist and social and literary critic whose writings on semiotics, the formal study of symbols and signs pioneered by Ferdinand de Saussure, helped establish structuralism and the New Criticism as leading intellectual movements.Barthes studied at the University of Paris, where he took a degree in classical letters in 1939 and in grammar and philology in 1943. After working (1952-59) at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, he was appointed to the..
Jean Giraudoux (October 29, 1882 - January 31, 1944)
Jean Giraudoux (October 29, 1882 - January 31, 1944)
Jean Giraudoux, in full Hyppolyte-Jean Giraudoux, (born October 29, 1882, Bellac, France--died January 31, 1944, Paris), French novelist, essayist, and playwright who created an impressionistic form of drama by emphasizing dialogue and style rather than realism.Giraudoux was educated at the Ecole Normale Superieure and made the diplomatic service his career. He became known as an avant-garde writer with a group of early poetic novels, such as Suzanne et le Pacifique (1921). Although those works were generally considered difficult, farfetched, and precious, other works soon appeared...
Theophile Gautier (August 31, 1811 - October 23, 1872)
Theophile Gautier (August 31, 1811 - October 23, 1872)
Theophile Gautier, byname le bon Theo, (born August 31, 1811, Tarbes, France--died October 23, 1872, Neuilly-sur-Seine), poet, novelist, critic, and journalist whose influence was strongly felt in the period of changing sensibilities in French literature--from the early Romantic period to the aestheticism and naturalism of the end of the 19th century.Gautier lived most of his life in Paris. At the College de Charlemagne he met Gerard de Nerval and began a lasting friendship. He studied painting but soon decided that his true vocation was poetry. Sympathetic to the Romantic movement, he..
Pierre Corneille (June 06, 1606 - October 01, 1684)
Pierre Corneille (June 06, 1606 - October 01, 1684)
Pierre Corneille, (born June 6, 1606, Rouen, France--died Oct. 1, 1684, Paris), French poet and dramatist, considered the creator of French classical tragedy. His chief works include Le Cid (1637), Horace (1640), Cinna (1641), and Polyeucte (1643).Early life and career.Pierre Corneille was born into a well-to-do, middle-class Norman family. His grandfather, father, and an uncle were all lawyers; another uncle and a brother entered the church; his younger brother, Thomas, became a well-known poet and popular playwright. Pierre was educated at the Jesuit school in his hometown, won two..
Michel de Montaigne (February 28, 1533 - September 23, 1592)
Michel de Montaigne (February 28, 1533 - September 23, 1592)
Michel de Montaigne, in full Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, (born February 28, 1533, Chateau de Montaigne, near Bordeaux, France--died September 23, 1592, Chateau de Montaigne), French writer whose Essais (Essays) established a new literary form. In his Essays he wrote one of the most captivating and intimate self-portraits ever given, on a par with Augustine's and Rousseau's.Living, as he did, in the second half of the 16th century, Montaigne bore witness to the decline of the intellectual optimism that had marked the Renaissance. The sense of immense human possibilities, stemming from the..
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