Julien Benda

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Julien Benda (26 December 1867, Paris – 7 June 1956, Fontenay-aux-Roses) was a French philosopher and novelist. He remains famous for his short book, La Trahison des Clercs (The Betrayal of the Intellectuals).

Life[edit]

Born into a Jewish family, Benda became a master of French belles-lettres. Yet he believed that science was superior to literature as a method of inquiry. He disagreed with Henri Bergson, the leading light of French philosophy of his day.

Benda is now best remembered for his short 1927 book La Trahison des Clercs, a work of considerable influence. It was translated in 1928 by Richard Aldington as The Betrayal of the Intellectuals, and was republished in 2006 as The Treason of the Intellectuals with a new introduction by Roger Kimball. This polemical essay argued that European intellectuals in the 19th and 20th century had often lost the ability to reason dispassionately about political and military matters, instead becoming apologists for crass nationalism, warmongering and racism. Benda reserved his harshest criticisms for his fellow Frenchmen Charles Maurras and Maurice Barrès. Benda defended the measured and dispassionate outlook of classical civilization, and the internationalism of traditional Christianity.

Other works by Benda include Belphégor (1918), Uriel's Report (1926), and Exercises of a Man Buried Alive (1947), an attack on the contemporary French celebrities of his time. Most of the titles in the bibliography below were published during the last three decades of Benda's long life; he is emphatically a 20th-century author. Moreover, Benda survived the German occupation of France, 1940–44, and the Vichy regime despite being a Jew and having called the Germans "one of the plagues of the world".

Bibliography[edit]

  • Les sentiments de Critias – 1917
  • Belphégor : essai sur l'esthétique de la présente société française – 1919
  • Les amorandes – 1922
  • La croix de roses ; précédé d'un dialogue d'Eleuthère avec l'auteur – 1923
  • L'ordination – 1926
  • Lettres à Mélisande – 1926
  • La trahison des clercs – 1927
    • English translation,The Betrayal of the Intellectuals, by Richard Aldington:
    • The Treason of the Intellectuals
  • Cléanthis ou du Beau et de l'actuel – 1928
  • Properce, ou, Les amants de Tibur – 1928
  • Appositions – 1930
  • Esquisse d'une histoire des Français dans leur volonté d'être une nation – 1932
  • Discours à la nation européenne – 1933
  • La jeunesse d'un clerc – 1936
  • Précision (1930–1937) – 1937
  • Un régulier dans le siècle – 1937
  • Un Régulier dans le siècle (Paris, Gallimard) 1938
  • La grande épreuve des démocraties : essai sur les principes démocratiques : leur nature, leur histoire, leur valeur philosophique. – 1942
  • Exercice d'un enterré vif, juin 1940-août 1944 – 1945
  • La France Byzantine, ou, Le triomphe de la littérature pure : Mallarmé, Gide, Proust, Valéry, Alain Giraudoux, Suarès, les Surréalistes : essai d'une psychologie originelle du littérateur – 1945
  • Du poétique. Selon l'humanité, non selon les poètes – 1946
  • Non possumus. À propos d'une certaine poésie moderne – 1946
  • Le rapport d'Uriel – 1946
  • Tradition de l'existentialisme, ou, Les philosophies de la vie – 1947
  • Du style d'idées : réflexions sur la pensée, sa nature, ses réalisations, sa valeur morale – 1948
  • Trois idoles romantiques : le dynamisme, l'existentialisme, la dialectique matérialiste – 1948
  • Les cahiers d'un clerc, 1936-1949 – 1949
  • La crise du rationalisme – 1949

Criticism[edit]

  • Nichols, Ray L., 1979. Treason, Tradition and the Intellectual: Julien Benda and Political Discourse. Univ. Press of Kansas.
  • Niess, Robert J., 1956. Julien Benda. Univ. of Michigan Press.