Georges Bernanos

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Georges Bernanos
BornLouis Émile Clément Georges Bernanos
(1888-02-20)20 February 1888
Paris, France
Died5 July 1948(1948-07-05) (aged 60)
Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
Period20th century

Louis Émile Clément Georges Bernanos (French: [ʒɔʁʒ bɛʁnanɔs];[1] 20 February 1888 – 5 July 1948) was a French author, and a soldier in World War I. A Roman Catholic with monarchist leanings,[2] he was critical of elitist thought and was opposed to what he identified as defeatism. He believed this had led to France's defeat and eventual occupation by Germany in 1940 during World War II.[3] Most of his novels have been translated into English and frequently published in both Great Britain and the United States.

Life and career[edit]

Bernanos was born in Paris, into a family of craftsmen. He spent much of his childhood in the village of Fressin, Pas de Calais region, which became a frequent setting for his novels. He served in the First World War as a soldier, where he fought in the battles of the Somme and Verdun. He was wounded several times.

After the war, he worked in insurance before writing Sous le soleil de Satan (1926, Under the Sun of Satan).

A man of Royalist leanings and a member Action Française's youth organization) when he was younger, Bernanos despised Fascism, which he described as "disgustingly monstrous" well before World War II broke out in Europe. He won the Grand Prix du roman de l'Académie française for The Diary of a Country Priest (Journal d'un curé de campagne), published in 1936.

He initially supported the Rebels at the outset of the Spanish Civil War.[4] However, after he observed the conflict in Majorca and saw 'a terrorized people,' he became disgusted with the nacionales and criticized them in the book Diary of My Times (1938). He wrote, "My illusions regarding the enterprise of General Franco did not last long—two or three weeks—but while they lasted I conscientiously endeavoured to overcome the disgust which some of his men and means caused me."[5] Most of his important fictional works were written between 1926 and 1937.

With political tensions rising in Europe, Bernanos emigrated to South America with his family in 1938, settling in Brazil. He remained until 1945 in Barbacena, State of Minas Gerais, where he tried his hand at managing a farm. His three sons returned to France to fight after World War II broke out, while he fulminated at his country's 'spiritual exhaustion,' which he saw as the root of its collapse in 1940. From exile he mocked the 'ridiculous' Vichy regime and became a strong supporter of the nationalist Free French Forces led by the conservative Charles De Gaulle.

After France's Liberation, De Gaulle invited Bernanos to return to his homeland, offering him a post in the government. Bernanos did return but, disappointed to perceive no signs of spiritual renewal, he declined to play an active role in French political life.[6]

Adaptations of selected works[edit]

Works in English translation[edit]

  • The Star of Satan. London: The Bodley Head, 1927 [New York: Macmillan, 1940; H. Fertig, 1975].
    • Under the Sun of Satan. New York: Pantheon, 1949 [University of Nebraska Press, 2001].
  • The Crime. London: Hale, 1936 [New York: E.P. Dutton, 1936].
  • The Diary of a Country Priest. 1936 in Paris, France; London: The Bodley Head, 1937 [New York: Macmillan, 1948, 1962; Carroll & Graf, 1983, 2002].
  • A Diary of My Times. New York: Macmillan, 1938 [London: The Bodley Head, 1945].
  • Plea for Liberty. New York: Pantheon, 1944 [London: Dobson, 1946].
  • The Open Mind. London: The Bodley Head, 1945.
    • Monsieur Ouine. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000.
  • Sanctity Will Out. London and New York: Sheed & Ward, 1947.
  • Joy. New York: Pantheon Books, 1946 [London: The Bodley Head, 1948; Toronto: Thomas Nelson, 1948].
  • Tradition of Freedom. London: Dobson, 1950 [New York: Roy, 1951].
  • The Fearless Heart. Toronto: Thomas Nelson, 1952 [London: The Bodley Head, 1952].
  • Night Is Darkest. London: The Bodley Head, 1953.
  • Mouchette. London: The Bodley Head, 1966 [New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1966; New York Review Books, 2006].
  • The Last Essays of Georges Bernanos. Chicago: Henry Regnery Co., 1955 [Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1968].
  • The Impostor. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999.


  1. ^ "Bernanos", Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary
  2. ^ Allen, W. Gore (1948). "George Bernanos: A Mystic in the World," The Irish Monthly, Vol. 76, No. 903, pp. 414-416.
  3. ^ Tobin, Michael R. (2007). Georges Bernanos: The Theological Source of his Art. McGill-Queen's University Press.
  4. ^ Hellman, John (1990). "Bernanos, Drumont, and the Rise of French Fascism," The Review of Politics, Vol. 52, No. 3, pp. 441-459.
  5. ^ Georges Bernanos. A Diary of My Times, London: Boriswood, 1938, p. 85.
  6. ^ Robert Bergan (2011-08-07). "Claude Laydu obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
  7. ^ Gendre, Claude, 'The Literary Destiny of the Sixteen Carmelite Martyrs of Compiègne and the Role of Emmet Lavery'. Renascence, 48.1, pp 37-60 (Fall 1995).
  8. ^ Gendre, Claude, 'Dialogues des Carmélites: the historical background, literary destiny and genesis of the opera', from Francis Poulenc: Music, Art and Literature (Sidney Buckland and Myriam Chimènes, editors). Ashgate (Aldershot, UK), ISBN 1859284078, p 287 (1999).

Further reading[edit]

  • Blumenthal, Gerda (1965). The Poetic Imagination of Georges Bernanos: An Essay in Interpretation. The Johns Hopkins Press.
  • Braybrooke, Neville (1954). "Georges Bernanos," The Irish Monthly, Vol. 83, No. 969, pp. 174–179.
  • Bush, William (1969). Georges Bernanos. Twayne Publishers.
  • Field, Frank (1975). Three French Writers: Studies in the Rise of Communism and Fascism.
  • Hebblethwaite, Peter (1965). Bernanos, an Introduction. London: Bowes and Bowes.
  • Molnar, Thomas (1960). Bernanos: His Political Thought and Prophecy. New York: Sheed and Ward.
  • Molnar, Thomas (1995). "The Case of Georges Bernanos," Modern Age 38 (1), pp. 61–68.
  • Noth, Ernst Erich (1949). "The Prophetism of Georges Bernanos," Yale French Studies, No. 4, Literature and Ideas, pp. 105–119.
  • O'Malley, Frank (1944). "The Evangelism of Georges Bernanos," The Review of Politics, Vol. 6, No. 4, pp. 403–421.
  • Reck, Rima Drell (1965). "George Bernanos: A Novelist and His Art," The French Review, Vol. 38, No. 5, pp. 619–629.
  • Speaight, Robert (1973). Georges Bernanos: A Study of the Man and the Writer. London: Collins & Harvill Press [New York: Liveright, 1974].

External links[edit]