Jean de La Ville de Mirmont
Jean de La Ville de Mirmont was born into a Protestant Bordeaux family to Henri and Sophie Malan. He was one of six siblings. His father Henri was a professor of literature known for his translation of Cicero as well as an alderman for Bordeaux.
At the age of 22, Jean moved to Paris, where he renewed his childhood friendship with François Mauriac (the latter was to recall the former frequently, most notably in La Rencontre avec Barrès, 1945). Jean held a government post at the prefectory of the Seine where he was responsible for assisting the elderly. In 1914, he was called to the front with the rank of sergeant of the 57th Infantry Regiment. He died buried by a shell explosion on the 28 November of the same year, on Chemin des Dames.
His body was exhumed and reinterred by his family in 1920. It rests in the family tomb H.42 at the Protestant Cemetery of rue Judaïque at Bordeaux.
His main works are:
- Les Dimanches de Jean Dézert (1914), a novel inspired by his career as a civil servant, and building on the 8 short stories of his Contes (1923)
- L'Horizon chimérique (1920), a posthumous poetry collection with woodcuts by Léon Dusouchet (1876-1936). Four of the poems, including the famous "Vaisseaux, nous vous aurons aimés", were set to music by Gabriel Fauré in a song cycle of the same name. More recently its poems were set by Julien Clerc in the album Si j'étais elle.
- Lettres de guerre (1917), war-time letters to his parents and others, published posthumously.
His work developed from a romantic concern with the ocean and sea-voyages - influenced by Baudelaire and Jules Laforgue, and described by himself as "steeped in vague rhetoric/in romanticism" - to sharper, hard-edged views of contemporary Parisian life, as seen in his later contes and in his novel: to a concern above all (in his own words) with the "humdrum routine of human existence".
Les Dimanches was republished in 1994 by Quai Voltaire, with a preface by Dominique Joubert; and in 2008, Grasset Editions reissued both it and L'Horizon chimérique, followed by Contes, in the collection Les Cahiers rouges.
The novel Strangulation (2008) by Mathieu Larnaudie portrays a character mainly based on the life of Jean de La Ville de Mirmont.
- J. Taylor, Paths to Contemporary French Literature (2011) vol 1 p. 33-5
- Orledge (1979), p. 317
- J. Taylor, Paths to Contemporary French Literature (2011) vol 1 p. 34
- J. Taylor, Paths to Contemporary French Literature (2011) vol 1 p. 35
- Sophie Malan, Vie de Jean de la Ville de mirmont (1935)
- Jean de la Ville de Mirmont, voyageur de troisième classe, in Patrice Delbourg, Les désemparés - 53 portraits d'écrivains, Le Castor Astral, 1996
- Le jeune homme éternel, article by Jérôme Garcin, Le Nouvel Observateur of the 26 June 2008, p. 94.