1952 : Francois Mauriac

1952 : Francois Mauriac

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“for the deep spiritual insight and the artistic intensity with which he has in his novels penetrated the drama of human life”



October 11, 1885

Place of birth


Bordeaux, France



September 1, 1970

Place of death


Paris, France







Notable award(s)


Nobel Prize in Literature 1952


No father at the age of two and a half years, Francois Mauriac and studied with Marianist institution of St. Mary Major-Lebrun Cauderan. In addition to the various houses that the family held in Bordeaux, adolescence is marked by several places that all Girondins deeply mark his work: the Landes de Gascogne around Langon Verdelais and Saint-Symphorien, towns dominated by the bourgeoisie wine or having made his fortune in logging, climate heavy secrets he choked painted in most of his novels. He studied literature at the Faculty of Bordeaux, under the direction of Fortunat Strowsky. He then classmate Jean de la Ville de Mirmont, future author of The Horizon chimeric and Sundays Jean Dezert and befriended Andre Lafon, who later wrote The Student Gilles. In 1907, Francois Mauriac moved to Paris to prepare for school charters, but he soon abandoned those studies to dedicate himself entirely to writing. His first volume of poems, hands clasped, is published in 1909. While retaining the attention of literary circles, Mauritius Barres particular, it will be known to the general public that a decade later. In 1913, he married Jeanne Lafon, which gives him a first son, Claude, in 1914, the year of publication of his novel The Robe pretext. Her other children, Luce, John and Claire born respectively in 1919, 1924 and 1929. His literary career was interrupted by World War I, during which he served a while in a hospital of the Red Cross in Thessaloniki. After the victory of 1918, he resumed his activities and published in 1921, precedence, which blurs the long with good company Bordeaux, then, in 1922, Le Baiser the lepers. In a life marked by the first literary worldliness (young, he attended trade shows, including that of Natalie Clifford Barney), followed by political commitments including guided by a Christian ideal socializing (it follows a time of the Furrow and Marc Sangnier Action opposes French), Mauriac is primarily occupied by the composition of a romantic work which it is a remarkable analyst passions of the soul and a virulent pourfondeur the provincial bourgeoisie (Genitrix, The Desert love, Teresa Desqueyroux, The crux of vipers, The Mystery Frontenac). Most of his novels evoke, with some tragic intensity, the conflict between faith and flesh and develop in this direction several recurring images such as the famous “desert” spiritual personages that must inevitably cross. The quality of his novels and his poetry earned him triumphantly being elected to the French Academy on 1 June 1933 in the first round against Edmond See by 28 votes and 3 blank ballots in 31 voting. On 16 November 1933, at the time of receipt, he must still endure the speech unflattering Andre Chaumeix. While pursuing his literary work (The End of the Night, the first following Desqueyroux Teresa, The Black Angels), he takes part in new political battles, particularly during the Spanish Civil War, first in favor of nationalists Before fall, with Christians who are left in magazines or Spirit Seven, alongside Spanish Republicans (see Articles in this time). This commitment will cause the first break with his political family. Robert Brasillach he will sign his book on the Spanish Civil War a perfidious “to FM misplaced”. Under the Occupation, he published The Pharisee in 1941, which is to be appointed as “breaking agent” of consciousness by the French thuriferaires the new order. He joined the National Front of writers and participates in the underground press (including The French Letters), which appear in 1943, the Editions de Minuit, under the pseudonym “Drill,” The Black Book, released under the mantle. At the time of purification, it intervenes in favor of the novelist Henry Beraud, accused of collaboration, but fails to save the head of Robert Brasillach. It broke shortly after with the National Committee of writers because of their communist orientation and participates in the journal Cahiers of the Round Table, where young writers right, we will call later Hussars, will make their debut. In 1952, when his novel seems Galigai, Francois Mauriac received the Nobel Prize in Literature [2] to “soak the deep spiritual and artistic intensity with which his novels penetrated the drama of human life” [3] . His famous Notepad, it held until the end of his life, appeared first in The Round Table, and then in L’Express, just to create Francoise Giroud and Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber (1961 The “Notebook” emigrated permanently to literary Figaro). Vigorous polemicist, first absent from the debate on the war in Indochina (Vercors blamed his silence), then it takes courage position for the independence of Morocco then Algeria, and condemns the use of torture by French army (The executioners Imitation of Christ). It supports a time Pierre Mendes France under the Fourth Republic, but the generals’ putsch in Algiers precipitates his unwavering rallying to General de Gaulle under the Fifth Republic. He also chairs the Committee to Support the Christians of the USSR. In the sixties, he published his memoirs New interiors (1965) and its political memoirs (1967) and a hagiography of General De Gaulle (1964), which will remain faithful to the end. His last novel, formerly of boy receives an enthusiastic response from critics in 1969. A suite, “Maltaverne” remains unfinished. Francois Mauriac died in Paris on 1 September 1970 and is buried in the cemetery of VEMAR (Val-d’Oise). His complete works was published in twelve volumes between 1950 and 1956, then expanded and reprinted in the collection of the Pleiade. Mauriac and Jean Claude Mauriac, his son, and Anne Wiazemsky, his granddaughter, are also writers. Luce Mauriac, his daughter, published a novel in 2008. The field of Malagar, St. Maixant, who was at the end of adolescence and that the writer acquired in 1927 as a result of sharing family, is now owned by the regional council of Aquitaine. This house writer, transformed into a cultural center, is now open to visitors.


Selected works in French:

Novels and stories:

  • L’enfant charge de chaines – Paris : Grasset, 1913

  • La robe pretexte – Paris : Grasset, 1914

  • La chair et le sang – Paris : Emile-Paul, 1920

  • Preseances – Paris : Emile-Paul, 1921

  • Le baiser au lepreux – Paris : Grasset, 1922

  • Le fleuve de feu – Paris : Grasset, 1923

  • Genitrix – Paris : Grasset, 1923

  • Le mal – Paris : Grasset, 1924

  • Le desert de l’amour – Paris : Grasset, 1925

  • Coups de couteau – Paris : Tremois, 1926

  • Un homme de lettres – Paris : Lapina, 1926

  • Conscience, instinct divin – Paris : Emile-Paul, 1927

  • Therese Desqueyroux – Paris : Grasset, 1927

  • Destins – Paris: Grasset, 1928

  • Le demon de la connaissance – Paris : Tremois, 1928

  • Dieu et Mammon – Paris : Capitole, 1929

  • Trois recits – Paris : Grasset, 1929

  • Ce qui etait perdu – Paris : Grasset, 1930

  • Le n?ud de viperes – Paris : Grasset, 1932

  • Le mystere Frontenac – Paris : Grasset, 1933

  • La fin de la nuit – Paris : Grasset, 1935

  • Les anges noirs – Paris : Grasset, 1936

  • Les chemins de la mer – Paris : Grasset, 1939

  • La Pharisienne – Paris : Grasset, 1941

  • Le sagouin – Paris : La Palatine, 1951

  • Galigai – Paris : Flammarion, 1952

  • L’agneau – Paris : Flammarion, 1954

  • Un adolescent d’autrefois – Paris : Flammarion, 1969


  • Les Mains jointes – Paris: Falque, 1909

  • L’adieu a l’adolescence – Paris : Stock, 1911

  • Orages, 1925

  • Le Sang d’Atys, 1940


  • Asmodee, 1938

  • Les Mal-Aimes, 1945

  • Passage du malin, 1948

  • Le Feu sur la terre, 1951

Autobiography and journals:

  • Bordeaux – Paris : Emile-Paul, 1926

  • Mes plus lointains souvenirs – Paris : E. Hazan, 1929

  • Commencements d’une vie, 1932

  • Journal – 3 vol. – Paris : Grasset, 1934-1940

  • Le Cahier noir – Paris : Editions de Minuit, 1943

  • Memoires interieurs, 1959

  • Journal, 1932-1939 – Paris : Table Ronde, 1947

  • Journal – Paris : Flammarion, 1953

  • Ce que je crois – Paris : Grasset, 1962

  • Nouveaux memoires interieurs – Paris : Flammarion, 1965

  • Memoires politiques – Paris : Grasset, 1967

Essays and journalism:

  • Petits essais de psychologie religieuse – Paris : Societe Litteraire de France, 1920

  • La vie et la mort d’un poete – Paris : Bloud & Gay, 1924

  • Le Jeune Homme – Paris : Hachette, 1926

  • Proust – Paris : Lesage, 1926

  • La Province – Paris : Hachette, 1926

  • La rencontre avec Pascal; suivi de L’Isolement de Barres – Paris : Editions des cahiers libres, 1926

  • La vie de Jean Racine – Paris : Plon, 1928

  • Le Roman, 1928

  • Le Jeudi-Saint – Paris : Flammarion, 1931

  • Souffrances et bonheur du chretien – Paris : Grasset, 1931

  • Le Romancier et ses personnages, 1933

  • Vie de Jesus, 1936

  • Sainte Marguerite de Cortone – Paris : Flammarion, 1945

  • Du cote de chez Proust – Paris : Table Ronde, 1947

  • Mes Grands hommes – Monaco : Editions du Rocher, 1949

  • La mort d’Andre Gide – Paris : Estienne, 1952

  • Paroles catholiques – Paris : Plon, 1954

  • Bloc-notes, 1952-1957 – Paris : Flammarion, 1958

  • Le nouveau bloc-notes, 1958-1960 – Paris : Flammarion, 1961

  • De Gaulle – Paris : Grasset, 1964

  • Le nouveau bloc-notes, 1961-1964 – Paris : Flammarion, 1968

  • Le nouveau bloc-notes, 1965-1967 – Paris : Flammarion, 1970

  • Le dernier bloc-notes, 1968-1970 – Paris: Flammarion, 1971

  • La paix de cimes : chroniques, 1948-1955 – Paris : Bartillat, 1999

Works translated into English:

  • The Kiss to the Leper / translated by James Whitall – London : Heinemann, 1923

  • Therese / translated by Eric Sutton – London : Secker, 1928

  • The Desert of Love / translated by Samuel Putnam – New York : Covici, Friede, 1929

  • Destinies / translated by Eric Sutton – London : Secker, 1929

  • The Family/ translated by Lewis Galantiere – New York : Covici, Friede, 1930

  • Suspicion / translated by Harold F. Kynaston-Snell – London : Nash & Grayson, 1931

  • Maundy Thursday / translated by Harold F. Kynaston-Snell – London : Burns Oates & Washbourne, 1932

  • Vipers’ Tangle / translated by Warre B. Wells – London : Gollancz, 1933

  • God and Mammon / translated by Bernard Wall and Barbara Wall – London : Sheed & Ward, 1936

  • Life of Jesus / translated by Julie Kernan – London : Hodder & Stoughton, 1937

  • Asmode, or The Intruder / translated by Basil Bartlett – London : Secker & Warburg, 1939

  • The Eucharist : the Mystery of Holy Thursday / translated by Marie-Louise Dufrenoy – New York : Longmans, Green, 1944. – (Republ. As Holy Thursday, 1991)

  • Woman of the Pharisees / translated by Gerard Hopkins – London : Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1946

  • Therese: A Portrait in Four Parts / translated by Gerard Hopkins – New York : Holt, 1947

  • Saint Margaret of Cortona / translated by Bernard Frechtman – New York : Philosophical Library, 1948

  • The Unknown Sea / translated by Gerard Hopkins – London : Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1948

  • The Desert of Love and The Enemy / translated by Gerard Hopkins – London : Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1949

  • Great Men / translated by Elsie Pell – London : Rockliff, 1949

  • Proust’s Way / translated by Elsie Pell – New York : Philosophical Library, 1950

  • The Knot of Vipers / translated by Gerard Hopkins – Andover : Eyre & Spottiswode, 1951

  • That Which Was Lost and The Dark Angels / translated by J. H. F. McEwen – London : Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1951

  • The Frontenac Mystery / translated by Gerard Hopkins – London : Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1952

  • The Little Misery / translated by Gerard Hopkins – London : Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1952

  • The Loved and the Unloved / translated by Gerard Hopkins – New York : Pellegrini & Cudahy, 1952

  • The Stumbling Block / translated by Elsie Pell – New York : Philosophical Library, 1952

  • Letters on Art and Literature / translated by Mario A. Pei – New York : Philosophical Library, 1953

  • The Mask of Innocence / translated by Gerard Hopkins – New York : Farrar, Straus & Young, 1953

  • Flesh and Blood / translated by Gerard Hopkins – London : Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1954

  • The River of Fire / translated by Gerard Hopkins – London : Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1954

  • The Lamb / translated by Gerard Hopkins – London : Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1955

  • Words of Faith / translated by Edward H. Flannery – New York : Philosophical Library, 1955

  • Lines of Life / translated by Gerard Hopkins – London : Eyre & Spottiswode, 1957

  • Questions of Precedence / translated by Gerard Hopkins – London : Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1958

  • September Roses / translated by Gerard Hopkins – London : John Lane, 1958

  • Memoires interieurs / translated by Gerard Hopkins – London : Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1960

  • The Son of Man / translated by Bernard Murchland – Cleveland : World, 1960

  • The Stuff of Youth / translated by Gerard Hopkins – London : Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1960

  • Second Thoughts : Reflections on Literature and on Life / translated by Adrienne Foulke – Cleveland : World, 1961

  • Young Man in Chains / translated by Gerard Hopkins – London : Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1961

  • What I Believe / translated by Wallace Fowlie – New York : Farrar, Straus, 1963

  • Anguish and Joy of the Christian Life / translated by Harold Evans – Wilkes-Barre, Pa.: Dimension, 1964

  • The Holy Terror / translated by Anne Carter – London : Cape, 1964

  • De Gaulle / translated by Richard Howard – London : Bodley Head, 1966

  • The Inner Presence : Recollections of My Spiritual Life / translated by Herma Briffault – Indianapolis : Bobbs-Merrill, 1968

  • Maltaverne / translated by Jean Stewart – London : Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1970


1926: Grand Prix du roman de l’Academie francaise.

1933: member of the Academie francaise.

1952: Nobel Prize in Literature.

1958: Grand Cross of the Legion d’honneur.

Presentation Speech:

Presentation Speech by Anders Osterling, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy.

The student of Francois Mauriac’s works will be struck from the very first by the insistence with which Mauriac devotes himself to describing a precise milieu, a corner of land one can point to on a map of France. The action of his novels nearly always unfolds in the Gironde, the Bordeaux region, that old vine-growing country where chateaux and small farms have taken possession of the earth, or in the Landes, the country of pine trees and sheep pastures where the song of the cicadas vibrates in the lonely spaces, and where the Atlantic sounds its far-off thunder. This is Mauriac’s native country. He considers it his calling to describe this singular region and its people, especially those who own the land; and it can be said that his personal style partakes of the restrained energy which twists the branches of the grape vines and of the pitiless clarity of the light which falls from a torrid sky. In that sense, this writer, who is read the world over, is undeniably and markedly a man of the province, but his provincialism does not exclude the great human problems of universal scope. If one wants to dig deep one must first and always have a ground to thrust one’s pick into.

Mauriac had a more than usually restricted childhood; he grew up in the shelter of a milieu in which the maternal influence made itself strongly felt, an influence which did not cease to act on his adolescent sensitivity. There is reason to believe that he had painful surprises later when he made contact with the outside world. Guided until then by pious advice, he had not suspected that evil dominated reality to such an extent as it appears in all the monotony and indifference of everyday life. Catholic by birth, brought up in a Catholic atmosphere which became his spiritual country, he has, in short, never had to decide for or against the Church. But he has on several occasions re-examined and publicly specified his Christian position, above all in order to question whether the demands a realist’s position made on the writer could be reconciled with the commandments and prohibitions of the Church. Apart from these inevitable and insoluble antinomies, Mauriac, as a writer, uses the novel to expound a particular aspect of human life in which Catholic thought and sensitivity are at the same time background and keystone. Hence, his non-Catholic readers may to a certain extent feel that they are looking at a world foreign to them; but to understand Mauriac, one must remember the one fact without which no account of him can be complete: he does not belong to the group of writers who are converts. He himself is conscious of the force that gives him those roots which permit him to cite a great and stern tradition when he probes souls overwhelmed by the weight of their faults and scrutinizes their secret intentions.

Mauriac has been assured a central position in modern literature for so long and so unquestionably that the denominational barriers have almost lost all importance. Whereas many writers of his generation who had a fleeting glory are almost forgotten today, his profile stands out more and more distinctly with the years. In his case it is not a question of fame achieved at the price of compromise, for his sombre and austere vision of the world is scarcely made to please his contemporaries. He has always aimed high. With all the power and all the consistency of which he is capable, he has tried to continue in his realistic novels the tradition of such great French moralists as Pascal, La Broyere, and Bossuet. To this let us add that he represents a tendency toward religious inspiration which, particularly in France, has always been an extremely important element of spiritual formation. If I may in this context say a few words about Mauriac as a distinguished journalist, we must not forget, in the interest of European thought, his work in that field, his commentaries on daily events, the entire side of his literary activity which deserves public esteem.

But if he is today the laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature, it is obviously above all because of his admirable novels. Suffice it to name a few masterpieces such as Le Desert de l’amour (1925) [The Desert of Love], Therese Desqueyroux (1927) [Therese], and its sequel La Fin de la nuit (1935) [The End of the Night], La Pharisienne (1941) [A Woman of the Pharisees], and Le Noeud de viperes (1932) [The Knot of Vipers], without intending to say how far the artistic qualities of these works place them in a class apart; for everywhere, in the whole series of Mauriac’s novels, are found unforgettable scenes, dialogues, and situations, so mysteriously and so cruelly revealing. The repetition of the same themes could create a certain monotony, but his acute analyses and sure touch awaken the same admiration with each new encounter. Mauriac remains unequalled in conciseness and expressive force of language; his prose can in a few suggestive lines shed light on the most complex and difficult things. His most remarkable works are characterized by a purity of logic and classic economy of expression that recall the tragedies of Racine.

The voiceless anxiety of youth, the abysses of evil and the perpetual menace of their presence, the deceitful temptations of the flesh, the ascendancy of avarice in the life of material goods, the havoc of self-satisfaction and pharisaism – these are the motifs that constantly reappear under Mauriac’s pen. Small wonder that in his wielding of such a palette, he has been accused of blackening his subjects without cause, of writing as a misanthrope. But the response he gives is that, on the contrary, a writer who bases his whole concept of the world on grace and sees man’s supreme recourse in God’s love has the feeling of working in a spirit of hope and confidence. We have no right to doubt the sincerity of this declaration, but it is evident that in practice sin attracts him more than innocence. He detests what is edifying, and while he never grows tired of portraying the soul that persists in evil and is on its way to damnation, he generally prefers to bring down the curtain at the moment when the consciousness of its misery is about to push the soul toward repentance and salvation. This writer limits himself to the role of witness to the negative phase of this evolution, leaving all the positive side to the priest, who does not have to write a novel.

Mauriac himself once said that everyone is free to seek satisfaction in a literature that beautifies life and permits us to escape from reality, but the predilection which most people have for this kind of literature should not make us unjust toward the writers whose vocation is to know man. It is not we who hate life. Those alone hate life who, not being able to bear the sight of it, falsify it. The true lovers of life love it as it is. They have stripped it of its masks, one by one, and have given their hearts to this monster at last laid bare. In one of his controversies with Andre Gide, he returned to the cardinal point of his thought in affirming that the most complete sincerity is the form of honour which is linked to the writer’s craft. Most often Tartuffe is made to appear under the ecclesiastical costume, but Mauriac assures us that this personage is found much more frequently in the midst of those supporting the theory of materialistic progress. It is easy to deride the principles of morality, but Mauriac objects to such derision; as he has stated quite simply, Each of us knows he could become less evil than he is.

This simple phrase is perhaps the key that opens the secret of good in the chapters of Mauriac’s work, the secret of their sombre ardour and their subtle disharmony. His plunges into the midst of man’s weaknesses and vices are more than the effect of a mania pushed to virtuosity. Even when he analyzes reality without pity, Mauriac preserves a last certainty, that there is a charity which passes understanding. He does not lay claim to the absolute; he knows that it does not exist with virtue in the pure state, and he views without indulgence those who call themselves pious. Faithful to the truth which he has made his, he strives to describe his characters in such a way that, seeing themselves as they are, they would be stricken with repentance and the desire to become, if not better, at least a little less evil. His novels can be compared to narrow but deep wells at the bottom of which a mysterious water is seen glistening in the darkness.

Dear Sir and colleague – In the few moments at my disposal I could speak about your work only in a sketchy manner. I know how much it deserves admiration; I also know how difficult it is to do it justice, to make general statements without ignoring the specific characteristics of your work. The Swedish Academy has awarded you this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature for the deep spiritual insight and the artistic intensity with which you have in your novels penetrated the drama of human life.

There remains for me to extend to you the most heartfelt congratulations of the Swedish Academy, this younger sister of your venerable Academie Francaise, and to ask you to receive the Prize from the hands of His Majesty the King.

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