1921 : Anatole France

1921 : Anatole France

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“in recognition of his brilliant literary achievements, characterized as they are by a nobility of style, a profound human sympathy, grace, and a true Gallic temperament”



April 16, 1844

Place of birth


Paris, France



October 12, 1924

Place of death


Tours, France







Notable award(s)


Nobel Prize in Literature 1921


Born into a modest peasant family of Anjou, his father, Francois-Noel Thibault, said Christmas-France, first under-legitimist officer, resigned after the Revolution of 1830. He held on the wharf Malaquais in Paris, a library (first library-France Thibault, then France) specializing in books and documents on the French Revolution, attended by many writers and scholars, as the brothers Goncourt. The name of Anatole France comes as his father. It is a diminutive of Francis. High in the library father, Anatole garda taste in books and scholarship, and an intimate knowledge of the revolutionary background of many of his novels and stories, including The gods are thirsty which is considered his masterpiece. From 1853 to 1862, Anatole France is studying at the institution Sainte-Marie and the College Stanislas. Although a few gifted students and suffering of being poor in a rich, it is noted for his compositions, including The Legend of St. Radegonde which will be published by the library in France and published journal. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1864. From the early 1860s, he worked for various booksellers and magazines, but refuses to take after his father, who considers very negatively “daubings” of his son. His literary career began with poetry; love with actress Elise Devoyod, he dedicates a few poems, but the push in 1866. It is a disciple of Leconte de Lisle, with whom he worked as a librarian some time in the Senate. It is part of the Parnassus Group from 1867. In 1876 he published The Marriage at Corinthian Lemerre, publisher for which he wrote many prefaces to the classics (Shakespeare, for example) and for Charavay some of these prefaces are met in Engineering Latin. The same year he became commission overseeing the Library of the Senate, a position he retained until his resignation on 1 February 1890. Anatole France married in 1877 with Valerie Guerin of Sauville (see family Mesnil) which have a daughter, Susan, born in 1881 and died in 1918. France’s relations with women were always difficult. Thus he, in the 1860s, nurtured a love for Elisa vain Rauline then Elise Devoyod. In 1888, he commits an affair with Ms. Arman of Caillavet, holding a famous literary salon of the Third Republic; this route will last until the death of the latter in 1910, shortly after a suicide attempt following another link in France with an actress during a trip to South America. Mrs Arman of Caillavet inspires Thais (1890) and The Red Lily (1894). After a final argument with his wife, who does not support this connection, France left the conjugal home one morning in June 1892 and send a separate letter to his wife. The divorce will be delivered to the crime and its costs on 2 August 1893. Thereafter, France will have many links, like Ms. Gagey who commit suicide in 1911. France belatedly turned to the novel and knows his first public success to 37 years in 1881 with The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard, crowned by the French Academy. This work is notable for its upbeat style and sometimes that magical naturalism contrasts with the prevailing then. He became in 1887 the prestigious literary critic Time. Anatole France was elected in the first round with 21 votes out of 34 present at the French Academy on 23 January 1896, at Armchair 38, where he succeeded Ferdinand de Lesseps. There is received on 24 December 1896. Become a poet, influential and rich, Anatole France is committed to many causes. It holds several speeches denouncing the Armenian genocide [8] and supports Archag Tchobanian, joined Emile Zola, with whom he reconciled during the Dreyfus affair, following the publication of J’accuse, in 1898, he signed , Almost alone in the French Academy, the petition called “intellectuals” calling for the re-trial. It makes its Legion of Honor after it was withdrawn at Zola long and refuses to sit under the dome. He helped found the League of Human Rights. Dreyfusard His commitment is reflected in the four volumes of his Contemporary History (1897 – 1901), chronic pettiness and a ridiculous prefecture province at the time of the case. It is in this work that forge the term xenophobia. France is committed to the separation of church and state for trade union rights, against Bagnes military. At the beginning of the First World War, he writes texts warriors and patriots, he later regrets, but advocates of peace friendship between the French and Germans, which generate indignation and hostility, and it will be worth letters of insults and death threats. It takes position in 1919 against the Treaty of Versailles, signed the protest group Clarity entitled “Against an unjust peace” and published in Humanity, 22 July 1919. Friend of Jaures and Pressense he worked since its inception in Humanity, publishing On the white stone in the early numbers. Near the SFIO, it is the latest criticism of the CPF. If written to the Soviets Hi, Humanity in November 1922, he protested against the first trial made to socialist revolutionary by sending a telegram from March 17. From December 1922, it is excluded from any collaboration with communist newspapers. Anatole France, while adhering to socialist ideas, and has kept away from political parties, as evidenced by his novels pessimistic about human nature, such as Island penguins and especially The gods are thirsty (published in 1912) which, because of his criticism of the climate of terror utopian ideals, was badly received by the left. He married in 1920 with Emma Laprevotte. It is winner of the 1921 Nobel Prize for literature for her work, and receives in Stockholm on December 10. In 1922, all of his works (opera omnia) is the subject of a papal condemnation (Decree of the Congregation of the Holy Office, 31 May 1922). For his 80th birthday, after the victory of the Cartel left, attends a public event in her honor on May 24 1924 in the Trocadero palace. He died on the evening of Sunday October 12 at The Bechellerie, commune of Saint-Cyr-sur-Loire, 23 h 26. At the announcement of his death, President of the Chamber of Deputies Paul Painleve said: “The level of human intelligence fell that night. ” His body was embalmed on October 14 and then moved to Paris and exposed Villa Said. Among the visitors, the president, Gaston Doumergue pay tribute to him on the morning of 17, followed by Council President Edouard Herriot. In contradiction with its provisions wills, national funeral held in Paris on October 18, after which he was buried in Neuilly-sur-Seine, with his parents. On 19 November 1925, the French Academy elected after four ballots, Paul Valery at the headquarters of Anatole France. Received ten-nine months later he did not once pronounce the name of his predecessor in the praise that he must decide, and called infinite drive, and thus drive is lost in his reading.


Selected works:


  • LES NOCES CORINTHIENNES, 1876 – The Bride of Corinth, And Other Poems & Plays


  • JOCASTE ET LE CHAT MAIGRE, 1879 – Jocasta and the Famished Cat

  • LE CRIME DE SYLVESTRE BONNARD, 1881 – The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard (tr. by Lafcadio Hearn) – Sylvestre Bonnardin, institutin jasenen, rikos / Instituutin jasenen Sylvestre Bonnardin rikos (suom. Rakel Kansanen) – Film: Chasing Yesterday, 1936, dir. by George Nichols Jr.

  • LES DESIRS DE JEAN SERVIEN, 1882 – The Aspirations of Jean Servien (tr. by Alfred Allinson) – Jean Servienin intohimot

  • LE LIVRE DE MON AMI, 1885 – My Friend’s Book (tr. by Rosalie Feltenstein) – Ystavani kirja (suom. J. Hollo)

  • MARGUERITE, 1886 – Marguerite (trans. by J. Lewis May)

  • NOS ENFANTS, 1886 – In All France; Children in Town and Country (translated by Dr. A.G. Wippern)

  • LA VIE LITTERAIRE, 1882-92 – On Life & Letters (translated by A. W. Evans)

  • BALTHAZAR, 1889 – Balthasar

  • THAIS, 1890 – Thais (translators: A. D. Hall; Ernest Tristan; Robert B. Douglas; Basia Gulati) – Thais (suom.) – Basis for Massenet’s opera of 1894; adapted also into opera stage in 1923 by Frank Crane with Mary Garden. Films: 1914. dir. by Constance Crawley, Arthur Maude; 1917, dir. by Constance Crawley, Arthur Maude; 1984, dir. by Ryszard Ber

  • L’ETUI DE NACRE, 1892 – Tales from a Mother-of-Pearl Casket (tr. by Henri Pene Du Bois) / Mother of Pearl (tr. by Frederic Chapman)

  • LE JONGLEUR DE NOTRE DAME, 1892 – Our Lady’s Juggler (tr. by Frederic Chapman) – Opera by Jules Massenet in 1902. Films: 1970, dir. by Milton H. Lehr; television film 1984, dir. by Michael Ray Rhodes


  • LA ROTISSERIE DE LA REINE PEDAUQUE, 1893 – At the Sign of the Reine Pedauque (tr. by Mrs. Wilfrid Jackson) / The Romance of the Queen Pedauque / At the Sign of the Web-Footed Queen / The Queen Pedauque (tr. by Jos. A. V. Stritzko) – Kuningatar Hanhenjalan ravintola (suom. Eino Leino) – Television film 1975, dir. by Jean-Paul Carrere

  • LES OPINIONS DE JEROME COIGNARD, 1893 – The Opinion of Mr. Jerome Coignard (tr. by Mrs Wilfrid Jackson) – Apotti Coignard’n ajatuksia (suom. Eino Leino, Eino Palola; see also: Urho Kekkonen)

  • LE LYS ROUGE, 1894 – The Red Lily (translators: by Linda Frey; Winifred Stephens) – Punainen lilja (suom. Huvi Vuorinen) – Film 1920, dir. by Charles Maudru


  • LE PUITS DE SAINTE-CLARE, 1895 – The Well of Santa Clara (tr. by Alfred Allinson) – Pyhan Klaaran kaivolla (suom. J. Hollo)

  • LE JARDIN D’EPICURE, 1895 – The Garden of Epicuros

  • L’ORME DU MAIL, 1897 (L’Histoire contemporaine) – The Elm Tree on the Mall

  • LE MANNEQUIN D’OSIER, 1897 (L’Histoire contemporaine) – The Wicker Work Woman (ed. by Frederic Chapman)

  • L’ANNEAU D’AMETHYSTE, 1899 (L’Histoire contemporaine) – The Amethyst Ring (tr. by B. Drillien)

  • MONSIEUR BERGERET A PARIS, 1901 (L’Histoire contemporaine) – Monsieur Bergeret in Paris (tr. by B. Drillien)

  • PIERRE NOZIERE, 1898 – Pierre Noziere (trans. J. Lewis May) – Pierre Noziere (suom. Arvi Nuormaa)

  • CLIO, 1900 – Clio (translated by Winifred Stephens)

  • L’AFFAIRE CRAINQUEBILLE, 1901 – Crainquebille (tr. by Jacques Le Clercq) – Crainquebille y.m. kertomuksia (suom. Otto Manninen) – Films: 1922, dir. by Jacques Feyder; 1934, dir. by Jacques de Baroncelli; 1954, dir. by Ralph Habib

  • DR. CRAINQUEBILLE, 1902 – Cranquebille (tr. by Winifred Stephens)

  • HISTOIRE COMIQUE, 1903 – A Mummer’s Tale

  • LE PARTI NOIR, 1904

  • SUR LA PIERRE BLANCHE, 1905 – The White Stone (ed. by Frederic Chapman) – Valkoisella kivella (suom. Siimes Kanervio)



  • L’ILE DES PINGOUINS, 1908 – Penguin Island (translators: David Caute; H. R. Steeves; Belle Notkin Burke) – Pingviinien saari (suom. Joel Lehtonen) – Film: L’Exercice du pouvoir, 1978, dir. by Philippe Galland

  • LES CONTES DE JACQUES TOURNEBROCHE, 1908 – The Merrie Tales of Jacques Tournebroche (tr. by Alfred Allinson) – Paistinkaantajan pakinoita (suom. Huvi Vuorinen)

  • LA VIE DE JEANNE D’ARC, 1908 – The Life of Joan of Arc (tr. by Winifred Stephens)

  • LES SEPT FEMMES DE LE BARBE-BLEU ET AUTRES CONTES MERVEILLEUX, 1909 – The Seven Wives of Bluebeard And Other Marvelous Tales (tr. by D. B. Stewart) – Siniparran seitseman vaimoa (suom. L. Onerva)

  • LA COMEDIE DE CELUI QUI EPOUSA UNE FEMME MUETTE, 1912 – The Man Who Married a Dumb Wife – Film: Mamali-qirurgi, 1970, dir. by Mikheil Chiaureli

  • LES DIEUX ONT SOIF, 1912 – The Gods Are Athirst (tr. by Linda Frey; Dr. A.G. Wippern) / The Gods Will Have Blood (tr. by Frederick Davies) – Jumalat janoavat (suom. L. Onerva) – Film 1926, dir. by Charles Maudru

  • LE GENIE LATIN, 1913 – The Latin Genius (tr. by Wilfrid S. Jackson)

  • LA REVOLTE DES ANGES, 1914 – The Revolt of the Angels (tr. by Mrs. Wilfrid Jackson) – Enkelten kapina (suom. Joel Lehtonen)


  • LE PETIT PIERRE, 1918 – Little Pierre (tr. by J. Lewis May) – Pikku Pietari (suom. J. A. Hollo)

  • LA VIE EN FLEUR, 1922 – The Bloom of Life


  • UVRES COMPLETES, 1925-35



  • Prefaces, Introductions, and Other Uncollected Papers, 1970

  • Works, 1974 (40 vols.)


1921: Nobel Prize in Literature.

Presentation Speech:

Presentation Speech by E.A. Karlfeldt, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, on December 10, 1921

Anatole France was no longer a young man when, in 1881, he captured the attention of the literary public in France and subsequently in the civilized world with his curious novel, Le Crime de Sylvestre Bonnard. He had behind him a long stretch of years during which his development had been carried on without attracting wide attention. But if, during this period of slow growth, his literary efforts had been infrequent and not very energetic, the work to which he had subjected his intellect, his thought, and his taste had been proportionately wider and more vigorous. No immoderate desire for fame moved him. Ambition seems to have played a small role in his life. Indeed, he tells the story that at the age of seven he wanted to be famous. Excited by the legends of saints told to him by his good, pious mother, he wanted to settle in the desert and as a hermit match the glory of St. Anthony and St. Jerome. His desert was the Jardin des Plantes where the huge beasts lived in houses and cages, and where God the Father seemed to him to raise his arms to heaven blessing the antelope, the gazelle, and the dove. His mother was frightened by such vanity but her husband soothed her: My dear, you will see that at twenty he will be disgusted with fame. My father was not mistaken, France says. Like the King of Yvetot, I lived quite well without fame and no longer had the least desire to engrave my name on the memory of men. As for the dream of becoming a hermit, I refashioned it every time I believed I felt life was thoroughly bad; in other words, I refashioned it every day. But every day nature took me by the ear and led me to the amusements in which our humble lives pass away. At the age of fifteen the young Anatole France dedicated his first essay, to his father and his beloved mother. This work is now lost, but even much later, when his faith in saints had vanished, he was still able to write legends with a pen dipped in the gold of haloes.

The poet’s star seems to have been illuminated first in that bright constellation bearing the name Anatole France. In the old library of his worthy father, he soon felt a thirst for knowledge, amidst the noble dust of old books. Into this shop, whose proud sign inspired father and son to take up the literary name, came collectors and bibliophiles to examine the recently acquired treasures and to discuss authors and editions. Thus the young Anatole, always a good listener, was initiated into the mysteries of erudition, a pursuit he considered the highest pleasure of a peaceful life. We need only look at the Abbe Coignard, all beaming as he leaves the grill room of the Reine Pedauque where he pays for the material pleasures of this world by giving some lessons to a young spit-turner and by dispensing the treasures of an eloquence full of wisdom, irony, and Christian faith; we see him turn toward the library to feast his spirit free of charge on the latest books arrived from Holland, the country of classical editions. And, bored with domestic tedium, here is Mr. Bergeret, who comes to pass the finest hours of his day in conversation with friends gathered around the library’s display shelves. Anatole France is the poet of libraries and bookworms. His imagination revels in the visions of bibliophiles, as when he praises that marvellous Astaracienne, a giant collection of books and manuscripts in which a noble cabalist sought proofs to bolster his superstition. More fervently than ever, says Coignard toward the end of his adventurous career, I want to sit down behind a table, in some venerable gallery, where many choice books would be assembled in silence. I prefer their conversation to that of men. I have found diverse ways of life and I judge that the best way is to devote oneself to study, to support calmly one’s part in the vicissitudes of life, and to prolong, by the spectacle of centuries and of empires, the brevity of our days.» Love of intellectual work is a fundamental characteristic of Anatole France’s personal religion and just like his Abbe, he prefers, from the height of the ivory tower of knowledge and thought, to turn his gaze toward far-off times and countries. His irony lives in the present, his devotion in the past.

Yet though our existence is fragile, beauty lives everywhere, and for the writer it materializes in form and style. Anatole France’s vast studies and great meditation have bestowed a rare solidity on his work, but no less serious is the labour he has devoted to the perfecting of his style. The language which he had to shape is one of the noblest; French is the most richly endowed daughter of the mother tongue Latin. It has served the greatest masters. Now grave, now merry, it possesses serenity and charm, strength and melody. In many places France calls it the most beautiful language on earth and lavishes the most tender epithets on it as to a beloved woman. But as a true son of the ancients, he wishes it simplex munditiis. He is an artist, certainly one of the greatest, but his art aspires to keep his language, through severe purification, as simple and, at the same time, as expressive as possible. In contemporary Europe, where flourishes a superficial dilettantism, dangerous for the purity of languages, his work is a richly instructive example of what art can do with true resources. His language is the classical French, the French of Fenelon and Voltaire, and rather than contribute new ornaments to it, he gives it a slightly archaic stamp which admirably suits his subjects, often taken from antiquity. His French is so transparent that one would like to apply to it what he said of Leila, daughter of Lilith, one of the luminous and fragile beings sprung from his imagination: If crystal could speak, it would speak in this fashion.

Let us recall now, for our own pleasure, some of the works which have secured for the name of Anatole France the world-wide renown which he has so little desired but which nevertheless he cannot avoid. By so doing we will often encounter France himself, for he is less inclined than most writers to hide behind his characters and words.

He is recognized as a master of the tale, which he has made a wholly personal genre, in which erudition, imagination, serene charm of style, and depth of irony and passion combine to produce marvellous effects. Who can ever forget his Balthazar? The Negro King of Ethiopia comes to pay a visit to Balkis, the beautiful Queen of Sheba, and soon wins her love. But shortly the fickle queen forgets him to give herself to another. Wounded to death physically and emotionally, Balthazar returns to his country to devote himself to the highest wisdom of the seers, astrology. Suddenly an astonishing and sublime light spreads over the intense gloom of his passion. Balthazar discovers a new star and, high in the heavenly concourse, the star speaks to him, and in the light it sheds he joins with two neighbouring kings. No longer can Balkis hold him. His soul is detached from voluptuousness and he undertakes the pursuit of the star. The star which spoke was no other than the star which led the Three Wise Men to the manger at Jerusalem.

Another time France opens before our eyes a mother-of-pearl casket filled with priceless jewels, chased by the hand of a master of antiquity. We find in it the legend, slightly ironic but most seductive, of Celestin and d’Amyers, of the old hermit and the young faun singing together the Easter Alleluia, the one exalting in the return of Christ and the other in the return of the sun, worshippers communing in a single innocent piety, reunited at last – under the alarmed eye of the historian – in a single sacred tomb. This story shows us France in a realm in which he delights, the realm between paganism and Christianity, where twilight and dawn are mingled, where satyrs meet with apostles, where sacred and profane animals wander, where ample materials are found to exercise his fantasy, his contemplation, and his spiritual irony in all its nuances. One often does not know whether to call it fiction or reality.

Romantic chastity is celebrated in the legends of the saints Oliverie and Liberette, Euphrosine and Scolastica. These are pages taken from the chronicles of saints, literary pastiches perhaps, executed with talent and a sense for the miraculous.

Still another time France takes us to the pits outside of Sienna where, in the spring twilight, a sweet barefooted Carmelite narrates the story of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Claire, the daughter of his soul, and that of the holy satyr who served masters as different as Jupiter, Saturn, and the Galilean, a profound if hardly edifying legend, but recounted by France in the most exquisite style.

In his famous novel Thais (1890) he enthusiastically penetrates the Alexandrine world at the time when the scourging thorns of Christianity were ravaging among the last effeminate survivors of Hellenic civilization. Asceticism and voluptuousness are at their heights here, mysteries and aesthetic orgies flower side by side, angels and demons incarnate press around the Fathers of the Church and the neo-Hellenic philosophers, disputing over human souls. The story is steeped in the moral nihilism of that era, but it includes beautiful passages such as the magnificent descriptions of the desert solitude in which the anchorites preach from atop their columns or are subject to nightmares in the mummies’ tombs.

However, one must put La Rotisserie de la Reine Pedauque (1893) [At the Sign of the Reine Pedauque] in the first rank of Anatole France’s novels. There he has sketched a group of true-to-life characters, legitimate or natural offspring of his mind in their own colourful world. The Abbe Coignard is so alive that one can study him as a real character who reveals all his complexity only when one has penetrated his privacy. Perhaps others have had the same experience I had. At first I had but little sympathy for this clumsy, loquacious priest and doctor of theology, who has so little concern for his dignity that sometimes he even steals or commits other equally heinous crimes, which he nevertheless defends with shameless casuistry. But he improves on better acquaintance, and I have learned to love him. He is not only a brilliant sophist, but an infinitely amusing character who exercises his irony not only on others but also on himself. There is profound humour in the contrast between his lofty views and his shabby life, and one must regard him with the smiling tolerance of his creator. Coignard is one of the most remarkable figures in contemporary literature. He is a new and vigorous plant in the Rabelaisian vineyard.

A type at once grotesque and lovable is the cabalist of Astarac. The crude mystic evidently must be included in a novel dealing with eighteenth-century manners. But the beings this magician evokes are of a singularly ethereal species; freed of earthly bonds, he enjoys the sweet and useful society of salamanders and sylphs. As proof of the talents of these beings, d’Astarac tells how once a sylph obliged a French scholar by arranging delivery of a message to Descartes, who was then living in Stockholm where he was teaching philosophy to Queen Christine. Sworn enemy of superstition that he may be, Anatole France should be grateful to that superstition for all the happy suggestions it has given him for his work.

Admirably rendered is the accent of pious simplicity with which the Abbe’s student, the young spit-turner, recounts all these turbulent events. When his master, revered despite everything, after having suffered to his last moments the assault of the powers of darkness, finally dies a holy death in a Church he had never ceased to recognize openly, the student traces in Latin an ingenuous epithet praising the Abbe’s wisdom and virtues. The author himself, in a later work, delivers an obituary eulogy for his principal hero. Presenting him as a blend of an Epicurean with a St. Francis, one who scorned men tenderly, France speaks of his benevolent irony and his merciful scepticism. Aside from the religious aspect, this characterization applies equally well to Anatole France himself

Let us accompany him then without fear in his philosophical strolls in the garden of Epicurus. He will teach us humility. He will say to us: the world is infinitely large and man is infinitely small. What do you imagine? Our ideals are luminous shades but it is in following them that we find our only true happiness. He will say that human mediocrity is widespread, but he will not exclude himself from it. We may reproach him for the sensuality that occupies too large a place in some of his works and for the hedonistic sentiments, for example, which he describes under the sign of the red lily of Florence, and which are not made for serious minds. He will reply, according to the maxims of his spiritual father, that the pleasures of the mind surpass by far those of the flesh, and the serene calm of the soul is the port into which the wise man steers his boat in order to escape the tempests of sensual life. We shall hear him express the wish that time, which deprives us of so many things, may allow us compassion for our fellow man, so that in our old age we do not find ourselves shut up as in a tomb.

Following this inclination Anatole France left his aesthetic seclusion, his ivory tower, to throw himself into the social fray of his time, to clamour like Voltaire for the restoration of the rights of persons unjustly condemned as well as of his own wounded patriotism; and he has gone into the workers’ quarters to look for means of reconciling classes and nations. His old age has not become a walled tomb. The end has been good for him. After having been accorded many sunny years at the court of the Graces, he still throws the glint of gay learning into the idealistic struggle that, at an advanced age, he wages against the decadence of societies and against materialism and the power of money. His activity in this regard does not interest us directly, but we obtain from it the inestimable advantage of being able to fix his literary image against the background of a lofty nobility of sentiments. There is nothing of the careerist about him. His much discussed work on Joan of Arc, which has cost him enormous toil and which was intended to tear the veil of mysticism from the inspired heroine of France and to restore her to nature, to real life, was a thankless enterprise in an era prepared to canonize her.

The Gods are Athirst! The great drama of the Revolution unfolds and, as with the battle of ideas, the trivial destinies of men are reflected in blood. Do not believe, however, that France would wish to present this squaring of accounts as being definitive. A century is far too short a period of time to permit delineating distinctly the march of men toward more tolerance and humanity. How have events fulfilled his predictions! Several years after the appearance of this book the great catastrophe occurred. What beautiful arenas have been prepared now for the games of salamanders! The smoke of battles still hangs over the earth. And out of the fog surge gnomes, sinister spirits of the earth. Are these the dead who return? Sombre prophets announce a new revelation. A wave of superstition threatens to flood the ruins of civilization. Anatole France wields the subtle and corrosive weapon which puts to flight the ghosts and the false saints. For our times, faith is infinitely necessary – but a faith purified by healthy doubts, by the spirit of clarity, a new humanism, a new Renaissance, a new Reformation.

Sweden cannot forget the debt which, like the rest of the civilized world, she owes to French civilization. Formerly we received in abundance the gifts of French Classicism like the ripe and delicate fruits of antiquity. Without them, where would we be? This is what we must ask ourselves today. In our time Anatole France has been the most authoritative representative of that civilization; he is the last of the great classicists. He has even been called the last European. And indeed, in an era in which chauvinism, the most criminal and stupid of ideologies, wants to use the ruins of the great destruction for the building of new walls to prevent free intellectual exchange between peoples, his clear and beautiful voice is raised higher than that of others, exhorting people to understand that they need one another. Witty, brilliant, generous, this knight without fear is the best champion in the sublime and incessant war which civilization has declared against barbarism. He is a marshal of the France of the glorious era in which Corneille and Racine created their heroes.

Today, as we in our old Germanic country award the world prize of the poets to this Gallic master, the faithful servant of truth and beauty, the heir of humanism, of the lineage of Rabelais, Montaigne, Voltaire, Renan, we think of the words he once spoke at the foot of Renan’s statue – his profession of faith is complete in them: Slowly but surely humanity realizes wise men’s dreams.

Mr. Anatole France – You have inherited that admirable tool, the French language, the language of a noble and classical nation, which is reverently guarded by the famous academy you adorn and is maintained by it in an enviable condition of purity. You have that brilliant tool of piercing sharpness, and in your hand it acquires a scintillating beauty. You have used it masterfully to cut out chefs-d’oeuvre very French in their style and refinement. But it is not your art alone that charms us: we revere your creative genius as well, and we have been enticed by the generous, compassionate heart which so many exalted pages of your works reveal.


The Red Lily

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